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Unmasking NBA Mascot Salaries: How Much Do NBA Mascots Get Paid?

The NBA is one of the richest sports leagues in the world, with players, head coaches, and general managers all earning big bucks. This even goes as far as the team mascot – the highest earning of which rakes in a whopping $625,000 a year. However, the average NBA mascot salary plumets to “just” $60,000. So, who are the highest earners, and why is there such a disparity?

The Top 5 Highest Paid NBA Mascots

1. Rocky the Mountain Lion (Denver Nuggets): $625,000 annual salary

Rocky the Mountain Lion is the highest paid NBA mascot and one of the most recognizable across the league. His dancing, acrobatics, and all-round entertainment skills have become an eagerly anticipated part of any Denver Nuggets home game – and he gets paid accordingly. He’s even known for nailing some amazing trick shots, including this no-look bank while standing at the top of two ladders.


Fun facts: Rocky has been the Nuggets mascot since 1990, and has a tail that’s 3 feet long.

2. Harry the Hawk (Atlanta Hawks): $600,000 annual salary

Harry the Hawk can be found at every Atlanta Hawks home game, where he catches the eye with some incredible dance moves. He makes a reported $600,000 annually, the second highest salary for an NBA mascot, and over 10 times the average in the US.

A U.S. Army soldier takes a selfie with Atlanta mascot Harry the Hawk

Like all NBA mascots, Harry doesn’t just earn his money by entertaining fans on game day. He also appears at several Hawks’ community events every year, where he poses for photos and gives fans a day they’ll never forget.

Fun facts: Harry ‘hatched’ in 1986, and has 18k followers on Instagram.

3. Benny the Bull (Chicago Bulls): $400,000 annual salary

Benny the Bull is one of the most recognizable sports mascots ever. In 2013, Forbes Magazine named him ‘the most popular mascot in sports’. He’s had several viral moments that have secured his popularity, like the one shown below.

A few years ago, Benny took aim at musical royalty, when he performed Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” dance right in front of her husband, Jay Z. Jay didn’t look amused, but the rest of the audience was.


Fun facts: Benny features in the video game NBA Jam Tournament Edition as a secret character and was ejected from a game in 1974 for interfering with the on-court action.

4. Go the Gorilla (Phoenix Suns): $200,000 annual salary

A member of the Mascot Hall of Fame (yes, that’s actually a thing), Go the Gorilla is one of the most entertaining and original mascots in the NBA. Although he doesn’t earn anywhere near as much as the top 3 NBA mascots, Go still takes home an impressive $200,000 every year.

His creation was an accident when a fan ordered a singing telegram during a 1980 game, and the performer arrived in a Gorilla suit. He was asked to entertain fans by the security and was eventually invited to be the Suns official mascot. He’s enjoyed roaring success ever since.

Fun facts: Go the Gorilla graduated from “Hairy Truman” High School in “Mon-Key West”, Florida.

5. Hugo the Hornet (Charlotte Hornets): $100,000 annual salary

Hugo the Hornet is our fifth and final highest paid NBA mascot, taking home a reported annual salary of  $100,000. He’s known for his dunking ability, and he regularly performs dangerous, acrobatic dunks at the Spectrum Center during Hornets home games.

Hugo’s prowess as a mascot has been acknowledged through several awards, including being named a two-time NBA Best Mascot Award by NBA Inside Stuff and winning the NBA Mascot Slam Dunk Championship four times.

Fun facts: Hugo was born on November 4, 1988, and his full hornet costume was designed by Cheryl Henson, daughter of Jim Henson (creator of the Muppets).

Average NBA Mascot Salary

Those are five seriously impressive paychecks, but how much do NBA mascots make a year on average? Unfortunately, they don’t earn anywhere near as much. An average NBA mascot salary is just $60,000 – 10x less than Rocky the Mountain Lion’s paycheck.

Like many other roles in the NBA, a mascot’s salary is partly decided by their skill level and reputation. Not every team has a mascot that’s considered an essential part of the game-day experience for fans, and this is reflected in their pay.

However, the highest-earning mascots listed above are seen as talented entertainers who bring a lot of value to fans and the franchise that they are a part of. This is why NBA mascot pay fluctuates so wildly.

Mascot Salaries vs WNBA Player Salaries

As we have discussed in this article, several NBA mascot salaries are way above what the average American earns.

What is perhaps even more surprising, is that the highest paid NBA mascots also earn considerably more than WNBA players.

In 2023, the top 10 highest earning WNBA players had an annual salary ranging from $212,000 to $242,000. This is around $400,000 less than Rocky the Mountain Lion earns, and over $10 million dollars less than the average NBA player salary.

This comparison highlights the difference in earning potential for male and female athletes, and even those working in non-playing roles in the two leagues. Although the NBA has much higher revenue than the WNBA, female players get paid a much smaller percentage of overall league revenue (around 20%, compared to 50%) and don’t enjoy the same perks as their male counterparts.

NBA mascot salaries highlight that there’s still a long way to go to achieve fair pay for elite female athletes.

The Role Of A Mascot

The primary role of an NBA mascot is to entertain the crowd when there is no action taking place on the court. Fans primarily flock to arenas around the US to enjoy the skills of the players, but while they’re taking a break, plenty of people turn their attention to mascots. NBA mascots usually entertain fans in the following ways:

  • Dancing
  • Dunking
  • Interacting with fans through competitions, giveaways or photos
  • Comedy skits (often using props)
  • Trick shots

Mascots also boost team pride and fan morale, and encourage fans to support the team at crucial moments in games.

A mascot’s role extends beyond gameday, too. They are required to appear at charity and community events organized by their franchise. For example, Hugo the Hornet takes part in a school program in Charlotte, where he performs and educates children on topics like anti-bullying and test preparation.

The Perks Of Being An NBA Mascot

Aside from the considerable base salaries for NBA mascots, there are lots of other perks that come with the role. Firstly, if you are an entertainer, the opportunity to perform in front of 20,000 people every week is a huge draw. You also get the chance to be part of some pretty special moments, such as the one pictured below.

Chicago Sky team mascot presenting a plaque to U.S. Army Reserve Master
Image of WNBA’s Chicago Sky team mascot presenting a plaque to U.S. Army Reserve Master Sgt. Ebony Evans in front of thousands of spectators, honoring her service.

Mascots also have the satisfaction of being loved by fans, especially kids, and being able to make the NBA experience special for the people they interact with. This perk would be multiplied if the mascot is from the area, or was a fan of the team growing up.

Everyone wants to be on the court, but not everyone can be a player. Mascots get as close to the action as possible and contribute to the game-day experience, without needing player credentials.

NBA mascots also have the potential to earn money outside their base salary by appearing or performing at private events. For example, appearance fees for Sir CC, the mascot of the Cleveland Cavaliers, start at $300 per hour.

Summary

As we have detailed in this article, being an NBA mascot has a high earning potential. The top-performing mascots earn serious money, and enrich the experience of fans across the league. So, if you want to make it in the NBA, but don’t have what it takes as a player, you always have a backup plan!

For similar NBA articles, check out the NBA’s wealthiest players, the players with the most NBA rings, and average NBA player height.

Lead image credit: Wikipedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0

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