WNBA vs NBA: 14 Things You Didn’t Know

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) are vastly different in more ways than you think. A few aspects are the same, like height of the basket and size of the court, but almost everything else is different, right down to the ball.

Let’s compare and contrast the WNBA and NBA.

1. NBA vs WNBA Salary

The wage gap between men and women in professional basketball is staggering.

Graph showing average annual salaries of WNBA vs NBA

The salary cap in the NBA was $135 million per team for the 2023-24 season, and the average salary was over $10 million. The veteran minimum was $1.86 million in the 2023-24 season, and the rookie minimum was $1.1 million.

In contrast, the WNBA salary cap was set at $1.46 million for the 2023 season, and the average salary is $116,580. The WNBA minimum salary was $64,154, which includes both rookies and veterans with less than three years of service. Veterans entering their third season will earn a minimum salary of $76,535.

Steph Curry from the Golden State Warriors is the NBA’s highest-paid player at $51.9 million per season. At least 10 players are paid more than $45 million per season including LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Jackie Young from the Las Vegas Aces is the highest-paid player in the WNBA with a salary of $252,450. Only four women have an annual salary over $241,000, and 21 players earn at least $200,000.

Jackie Young
Image of Jackie Young: Lorie Shaull/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Caitlin Clark, the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history, will only earn $76,535 during her rookie season, even though the Indiana Fever selected her as #1 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft.

Over in the NBA, Victor Wembanyama was the #1 pick in the NBA Draft, and he earned $12.16 million during his rookie season.

2. WNBA 3-Point Line vs NBA 3-Point Line

In the NBA, the 3-point line is only 22 feet from the basket in the corners and 23.75 feet at the top of the key. The WNBA 3-point line is closer. The corners are 21.75 feet from the basket and 22 feet at the top of the key.

3. WNBA Ball vs NBA Ball

The NBA uses a size 7 ball, while the WNBA uses a size 6 ball.

A regulation basketball in the WNBA is 28.5 inches in diameter and weighs 20 ounces. The balls in the WNBA are white and orange.

The NBA uses a basketball that is 29.5 inches and weighs 22 ounces. It is one inch bigger and two ounces heavier than the WNBA ball. Additionally, balls are either brown or dark orange, but uniformly one color.

4. NBA vs WNBA Revenue

The WNBA generated $200 million in the 2023 season, whereas the NBA generated $10.58 billion.

Revenue in the NBA and WBNA is generated through television rights, merchandising, sponsorships, and ticket sales. The WNBA is bolstered by a $15 million annual endowment by the NBA, which mostly gets allocated to operating and travel costs.

In the NBA, the owners and players equally split the broadcasting rights which is worth around $2.7 billion a year during the tail end of their current TV deal.

The WNBA earned approximately $60 million this season for its TV and broadcasting deal, which includes live streaming. But, WNBA players only earn 10% of the league’s total revenue vs NBA players’ 50%.

Graph showing estimated share of league revenue in WNBA vs NBA

The size of the leagues is important. The NBA has 30 teams, while the WNBA has only 12 teams. Though the WNBA will expand to 14 teams by 2026 with the addition of teams in San Francisco and Toronto (which will mark the first time a franchise from Canada joins the WNBA).

The schedule is also a mitigating factor in determining revenue, because the WNBA plays only 40 games per year, while the NBA’s schedule is 82 games.

Plus, there’s a disparity in ticket price. The average ticket price in the NBA was approximately $94 this past season, while the average ticket price in the WNBA was $47.

However, prices are expected to jump during Caitlin Clark’s rookie season. The Indiana Fever sold out all of their home games this season, and Clark’s popularity means she’s a huge draw on the road, too. So much so that opposing teams are also expected to sell out their home games when the Fever comes to town.

The average ticket price for away games is $108 this season for the Fever, which is a huge jump from $43 per road game last season.

5. WNBA Court vs NBA Court

The WNBA and NBA play on the same sized court. The court is 50 feet wide and 94 feet long, or 15.24 meters by 28.65 meters.

6. WNBA Viewership vs NBA Viewership

Graph showing number of TV viewers of the WNBA finals from 1997 to 2023/24

The 2023 WNBA Finals between the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty was the highest-rated championship series in over 16 years. It attracted 728,00 viewers per game, which was an uptick of over 36% from the previous postseason. The 2023 WNBA regular season posted their best numbers in over 21 years, which was an uptick of 5% from the previous season.

The 2023 WNBA Draft was the most watched draft in over 20 years, but the 2024 WNBA Draft obliterated those ratings. It attracted 2.4 million viewers, which is a ratings increase of 307%.

With the addition of incoming rookies Caitlin Clark and Cameron Brink, the WNBA expects to smash last year’s ratings and attendance records.

The NBA attracted 1.2 million viewers per game during the 2023-34 regular season. The quadruple-header on Christmas attracted as many as five million viewers.

The 2023 NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat attracted 11.64 million viewers, which set the best mark in five years.

Graph showing average TV viewership of NBA Finals games from 2002-2023

7. WNBA Attendance vs NBA Attendance

The WNBA expanded their season to 40 games in 2023. As a result, the league posted their highest attendance in 13 years with 1,587,488 tickets sold. The average attendance was 6,615 in 2023, which was up by 16%. The defending-champion Aces led the WNBA in attendance with 9,551 fans per game.

The NBA set a record for attendance in the 2023-24 season with 22,538,518 total tickets sold. The previous season had set a new mark at 22.2 million. The NBA posted an average attendance of 18,324 in 2023-24.

The Chicago Bulls led the NBA in attendance this past season with 845,620 total tickets sold or an average attendance of 20,527 fans per game. Along with the Bulls, at least six other teams attracted 800,000 fans in 2023-24 including the Dallas Mavericks (929K), Philadelphia 76ers (821K), Miami Heat (809K), New York Knicks (808K), Denver Nuggets (807K), and the Toronto Raptors (800K).

This disparity isn’t too surprising when you look at recorded public interest. In 2023, 50% of those surveyed had an interest in the NBA, vs around 30% for the WNBA.

Pie chart showing interest in the NBA
Pie chart showing interest in the NBA

8. WNBA Hoop Height vs NBA Hoop Height

The WNBA and NBA use the same hoop that is ten feet off the ground. Rims are 18 inches in diameter, and the backboards are the same.

9. Best WNBA Player vs Worst NBA player

A’ja Wilson, the former #1 pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft, led the Las Vegas Aces to back-to-back championships. She won the 2023 WNBA Finals MVP with a dominating performance by averaging 23.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game. She also won two WNBA MVP awards in 2020 and 2022.

Danielle Robinson passes to Damitris Dantas around A'ja Wilson
Image credit: Lorie Shaull/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Wilson is listed as a 6-foot-4 power forward and arguably the best player in the WNBA the last few seasons. Wilson posted career-highs in 22.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, and 1.4 stealers per game last season but narrowly missed out on winning a third MVP.

So, who is the worst player in the NBA? That’s a great question and it depends on the metrics. Is it a player with the lowest scoring average who appeared in a lot of games? Or is it the last guy at the end of the bench on the worst team in the league?

Dalen Terry, a forward with the Chicago Bulls, could be considered the worst regular rotation player in the NBA last season. Terry finished his second season with the Bulls and appeared in 59 games with two starts. He averaged 3.1 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting 43.9% from the floor and 58.1% from the free-throw line.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons were the worst team in the NBA last season with a 14-68 record. Buddy Boeheim was buried deep on their bench and only saw action in blowouts.

If the last name sounds familiar, it’s because Buddy is the son of Hall of Fame college coach Jim Boeheim. He played for his father at Syracuse where he was a star shooting guard.

During the last two seasons, Boeheim bounced back and forth between the Pistons and their NBA G-League team called the Motor City Cruise. He appeared in 10 games this season, mostly during garbage time, and he averaged 3.4 points in 8.4 minutes of action per game.

Could Wilson beat Boeheim in a one-on-one game? It’s close and would certainly be a great battle.

10. Best WNBA Team vs Worst NBA Team

The Las Vegas Aces have been the best team in the WNBA over the last two seasons. They won two WNBA championships in a row and they’re the betting favorite to win three-straight titles.

The Aces were tied for the best record in the WNBA at 26-10 in 2022. They went 34-6 last season, which was the best record in the league and set a WNBA record for most wins in a single season.

For the last two seasons, the Detroit Pistons were the worst team in the NBA. They went 17-65 in 2022-23 and finished with an even worst record in 2023-24 at 14-68.

The Pistons were so awful this season that they tied an NBA record with the worst losing streak in history. They dropped 28 games in a row at the start of the season before they finally snapped their skid the day before New Year’s Eve.

As bad as the Pistons have been the last two seasons, they have the potential to defeat the Aces in a game. The Pistons have too much size and some of their guards are taller than the WNBA Aces’ tallest players on their frontline.

11. NBA Dunks vs WNBA Dunks

Dunks are rare in the WNBA. Only eight women in the history of the league ever dunked during a game. Lisa Leslie made the first dunk in WNBA history in 2002. Candace Parker recently retired, so Brittney Griner and Jonquel Jones are the only two active players who have dunked in a game.

While not every NBA player has recorded a dunk, some of the shortest players in history were known for their leaping ability. Spud Webb from the Atlanta Hawks was only 5-foot-7, but he once won the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

Muggsy Bogues, the shortest player in NBA history at 5-foot-3, never dunked in a game in the pros or college. He had a 44-inch vertical leap and dunked multiple times during high school games, according to local lore in Baltimore.

Muggsy Bogues standing between two taller players
Image of Muggsy Bogues (center): James Robert Smith/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

12. NBA Parade vs WNBA Parade

Championship parades in the WNBA tend to be low-key affairs compared to their NBA counterparts. That does not mean that the WNBA has not had their share of rowdy victory parades.

When the Las Vegas Aces won their first WNBA championship, Sin City went all out to celebrate their first-ever major sports championship. Their second parade was even more raucous than their first. The defending two-time champs rode down the Las Vegas Strip in style.

When LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavs to a championship in 2016, the victory marked the city’s first major sports championship. A record number of fans showed up with over 1.3 million people in attendance to celebrate the Cavs’ NBA championship.

13. NBA Rules vs WNBA Rules

  • The WNBA plays four 10-minute quarters for 40 total minutes of game time. The NBA also plays four quarters, but each period is 12 minutes for 48 minutes of game time.
  • The dimensions of the court are the same including the free-throw line, but the 3-point line is closer for the WNBA. The basketball ball is smaller in the WNBA, but the hoop and rim are the same as in the NBA.
  • The WNBA has a 30-second shot clock, while the NBA utilizes a 24-second shot clock.
  • The WNBA limits their roster to 12 women. The NBA allows teams to carry 15 players on their roster plus an additional two players on 10-day contracts from their G-League developmental team.
  • To enter the WNBA Draft, women must be graduating college seniors or at least 22-years old in the year that the draft takes place. The NBA has an age requirement of 19-years-old and must have one year removed from their graduating high school class. That gap year can be spent in college or overseas.

14. WNBA vs NBA Free Throw Percentage

For the last decade, the WNBA averaged better than 79% from the free-throw line. The WNBA set a career-high with an 80.8% success rate at the charity stripe in 2021. In 2023, the league finished at exactly 80%.

In the NBA, the league is experiencing their best decade at the free-throw line. The NBA averages 77.8% from the charity stripe over the last few seasons. The league finished with a 78.4% success rate this past season, which set a record for highest percentage in history.