They are 15 of the greatest players in the NBA.  Some are future Hall of Famers, others will be forgotten.  All of them earn more than most CEOs in the business world today.  From Kobe to Shaq, Iverson to the Big Ticket, these champions of the hardwood command some serious salaries that are at the top of the sports world.  Here they are, the 15 highest paid players in the NBA.

15. Michael Redd (Milwaukee) $15,780,000

One of the league’s top shooting guards, Milwaukee Bucks’ Michael Redd is a perennial top 10 scorer and a deadly three-point threat.  Selected 43rd in the 2000 NBA draft by the Bucks, Redd has established himself as the face of a franchise– which earned him a $91 million contract over 6 years after the 2004-05 NBA season.  While his ability to score is unquestionable, many feel that Redd was overpaid.  As shooting guard is the NBA’s most numerous position, Redd has not established himself as an elite guard amongst names like Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson and others.

14. Rashard Lewis (Orlando) $16,447,871

One of the top 3-point shooters in the game, Rashard Lewis owns the now-defunct Seattle Supersonics franchise records for 3-pointers made when he scored his 918th three on March 13th, 2007.  It was Lewis’s skill set as a sharpshooter and his ability to rebound and defend that made him the top free agent signing after the 2006-07 NBA Season.  The Orlando Magic saw Lewis as the final piece that would make them championship contenders– and paid Lewis a whopping $118 million in a seven year deal.  Did it work?  The Orlando Magic lost once again to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA playoffs, with Lewis failing to put the Magic over the top.  Since the signing, the deal has been seen as a flop- locking Orlando into a touch financial situation for years to come.

13. Shawn Marion (Miami) $17,810,000

Shawn Marion, the Matrix, is one of the most versatile forwards in the game of basketball today.  He is among the league’s best on defense, with high career numbers in both steals and blocks.  On the offensive end, Marion can hit the three from the wing and play in the post.  His versatility was shown in the 2005-06 season, where Marion put up career high averages of 22 points per game, 12 rebounds per game, 2 steals, 2 blocks and a three pointer.  Marion began the 2003-04 season with a new $80 million contract that expires this year, earning him the 13th slot on this top list.

12. Paul Pierce (Boston) $18,077,903

This 6-time NBA All Star has led the Boston Celtics to two conference finals appearances and one NBA title– with two completely different supporting casts.  Paul Pierce, nicknamed “The Truth”, is a tough, powerful small forward that can be nearly impossible to stop when driving to the basket.  In the 2008 NBA Playoffs, Lebron James nearly eliminated the Celtics by scoring 45 points in game 7 of the Conference Semi-finals.  Pierce answered back with 41 points to lead the Celtics to a 97-92 victory that won the series.  It is performances like that which earned Pierce a three-year, $60 million contract in 2006.

11. Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas) $18,077,904

This 7-foot German Wonder is a 7-time NBA All Star and the first European-born league MVP.  Like Shawn Marion, Dirk is a versatile power forward able to defend, shoot threes and bang in the post.  His skill set spreads defenses and opens up room for his teammates to excel, also making Dirk one of the top assisting big men in the league.  While just inches away from a championship in 2006, Dirk Nowitzki remains the face of the Mavericks franchise– which earned him a $90 million contract of Mark Cuban’s monies.

10. Ray Allen (Boston) $18,388,430

Ray Allen, aka Jesus Shuttlesworth himself, was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1996 before being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.  In his 12 year career, Ray Allen has established himself as one of the top shooting guards in the game, a player so brilliant with the basketball that many in the sports media consider his shot the “prettiest in the game”.  His talents helped push the Boston Celtics to an NBA title in 2008, having also earned him 8 appearances as an NBA All Star.  His $80 million contract makes him the 10th highest paid player of this 2008-09 NBA season.

9. Tracy McGrady (Houston) $20,370,437

Tracy McGrady’s NBA career is one of conflict.  McGrady is a man of extraordinary talent– but also an extraordinary weakness.  In his 11-year career, McGrady has never succeeded past the first round of the playoffs, but his greatest pain is his fragile state that has led to countless season-halting injuries.  As I type, McGrady is three weeks away from returning to the court with a sore left knee.  The last few years, back spasms have sidelined this other-worldly talent.  Want to know why McGrady is earning over $20 million this season?  Take a look at that 7 minute video above (it begins at 1:18).  Trust me, it is worth your time.

8. Tim Duncan (San Antonio) $20,598,704

Many consider San Antonio’s Tim Duncan to be one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game.  This 4-time NBA champion, 3-time NBA MVP has averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds and 2.4 blocks over his 12 year career.  His status as a Hall of Fame player is guaranteed, having carried the San Antonio Spurs legacy on his back for the last decade.  His $20.5 million salary this year is well warranted, and his quiet humility makes his riches hard to hate.

6. tie Stephon Marbury (New York Knicks Bench) $20,840,625

Every list has its joker, although such a title would be a bit too friendly to be levied upon this player.  The New York Knicks’ Stephon Marbury is currently undergoing a high-profile fight to be bought out of a mammoth contract earning him nearly $21 million this year.  The quibble?  $2 million dollars more than the Knicks are offering.  In his heyday, Marbury put up an unstoppable 24 points per game along with an un-selfish 8 assists.  While we may not properly understand the enigma that is Starbury, its hard to see that those selfless tendencies have remained…

6. tie Allen Iverson (Detroit) $20,840,625

Early in Allen Iverson’s career, his killer crossover nearly broke Michael Jordan’s knee caps.  Since then, “The Answer” has become the league’s leading active scorer with more points than anyone, 3rd best in history behind Wilt Chamberlain and MJ himself.  In a sport dominated by size and strength, Iverson has a different skill set.  He’s small, he’s fast, and he has more heart for the game (not the practice) than most of the players he blows by on the daily.  Having been traded to the Detroit Pistons this season, Iverson has a difficult task to earn his $21 million this season– to put the superstar status behind him and become a role player in a tough, proven, unselfish team.

5. Shaquille O’Neal  (Phoenix) $21,000,000

The Big Fella is known for a personality as big as his 7’1″, 325lb. frame.  On the court, he is one of the most dominant players to ever play the game.  With career averages of 25 points and 11 rebounds, O’Neal will casually walk himself into the Hall of Fame when he retires, paint the interior in the color of his choice, then rename the place to the “Hall of Shaq”.  This 4-time NBA champion has said he will retire at the end of the 2009-2010 season, after which he will take on a career in law enforcement in Florida.  I’d hate to be pulled over by this guy for speeding…

4. Kobe Bryant  (LA Lakers) $21,262,500

This future Hall of Famer has several healthy seasons ahead of him in which to break some records.  On any given night, Kobe Bryant can decide to “go off” and put up 40 points, 50 points, even 81 points to bury the competition.  As the greatest shooting guard in the game today, Kobe has earned himself three NBA championships, an Olympic Gold Medal– and $21 million this season.  In spite of a scar on his past that ended in his proven innocense, Bryant will join others like Shaq, Iverson and Duncan in the Hall of Fame.

2. tie Jermaine O’Neal (Toronto) $21,372,000

While his career began with a slow start, then benched behind Rasheed Wallace on the Portland Trail Blazers, Jermaine O’Neal has carved out an impressive career for himself with stifling defense, strong rebounding and dominant post play.  He led the Indiana Pacers to six playoff runs, but never pulled out of the Eastern Conference.  His $21 million salary was traded along with him to the Toronto Raptors, where he now resides as the 2nd highest paid player in the NBA.

2. tie Jason Kidd (Dallas) $21,372,000

This 9-time NBA All Star may have not earned himself a championship, but his versatile play and leadership has earned him $21 million this season.  Mr. Triple Double, Jason Kidd, has more than 100 regular season triple doubles and is one of two players in history to average a triple double in a playoff series– and he did it twice, sharing the honors with none other than Magic Johnson.  Aging fast but with plenty of spark remaining, this 35-year-old point guard is hoping for his first ever NBA championship as he plays with the Dallas Mavericks this season.

1.  Kevin Garnett (Boston) $24,751,934

Kevin Garnett.  “The Big Ticket”.  “Gahh-Nett” in Beantown.  One of the NBA’s most passionate players and a decimating low post threat, Mr. Garnett finally had his greatest dream come true when he led the Boston Celtics to his first NBA championship.  Anyone who has watched him play knows that he earns every cent of that $25 million salary.  After 12 years of dissappointment in Minnesota, we’re happy that KG has finally met his destiny.  With a 20-11 career average, 11 NBA All Star appearances, an NBA MVP award, and an NBA defensive player of the year award, Kevin Garnett will be proudly displayed in the NBA Hall of Fame for as long as the building stands.

Thanks for reading, StyleCravers, Diggers, Stumblers and otherwise.  Let us know what you thought about the article.  Do we reward athletes enough?  Are they rewarded too much?  Which athletes do you feel deserve a place on this list?  Let us know, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.  In the mean time, please share this with your friends and vote it up on your favorite social media site.  Happy hooping!