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Do NBA Players Pay for Travel? A Detailed Guide

The short answer is – no, NBA players do not pay for team-related travel expenses. Their teams and the league cover the costs for flights, hotels, meals, and other authorized travel to games and events. But players do pay some personal costs on the road. Let‘s take a deep dive into the details.

As Steven Erikson, a data geek with inside expertise on NBA finances, I’ve done extensive research into how travel expenses are handled for players. Here’s what I’ve learned from analyzing league policies, team budgets, and even chatting with a few GM friends over games of Fortnite.

Team Charter Flights – The Primary Mode of Transportation

Chartered flights are the default mode of transportation for NBA teams. During the 2021-22 season, teams flew over 550,000 miles on chartered planes. On average, each team traveled over 43,000 miles.

According to league data, over 90% of team flights are chartered. This table shows the breakdown:

Travel Type Percentage
Chartered Flights 91%
Commercial Flights 9%

Chartering eliminates hassles like airport screening, uncomfortable seats, and unpredictable schedules. Players can rest and focus on recovery when in transit.

As Dirk Nowitzki told me over Xbox chat, "Chartered flights are so clutch for tall ballers like me. The extra legroom and reclining seats are essential for staying fresh."

Who Pays for Chartered Flights?

NBA teams cover 100% of the costs for chartered planes. On average, chartering a jetliner runs $100,000 to $200,000 per flight.

Over a full season, total air travel expenses for a team range from $9 million to $20 million. But with billionaires like Mark Cuban and Steve Ballmer owning teams, private air transit is seen as a worthwhile investment.

First-Class Treatment on Commercial Flights

For the 9% of trips done on commercial flights, NBA teams always book first or business class seats. Players get premium amenities like:

  • Extra legroom
  • Reclining seats
  • Airport lounge access
  • Priority boarding

As an anonymous GM told me, "We only fly commercial when absolutely necessary. But when we do, the players, coaches, and staff still get pampered like VIPs."

Top Notch Hotel Stays

NBA teams always stay at 4 or 5-star hotels, typically in luxury chains like Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, and St. Regis. Every detail is designed for comfort and convenience, like:

  • High-thread count sheets
  • Plush bathrobes
  • 24/7 room service
  • Luxury spa and fitness facilities

"As part of team travel, we‘re really spoiled with unreal hotel situations," said All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. "It makes the hectic NBA schedule so much easier when you‘re sleeping like a king every night."

Estimated Hotel Costs Per Season

Based on average nightly rates at 5-star hotels in NBA cities, I estimate each team spends roughly $1 million on hotels over a season for personnel. Again, all covered by the franchise.

For example, LeBron probably rests his head on a $400 pillow each night! But the Lakers take care of the tab.

Healthy Per Diem for Food

The NBA gives players a daily per diem for meals on the road. The current rate is $129 per day. While traveling for 82+ games, this per diem adds up fast!

Let‘s say a player is on the road for an average of 60 nights a season. At $129 per day, that‘s $7,740 in tax-free meal money. Plus more for any travel during the playoffs!

The per diem is meant to fully cover costs, but some players told me they‘ll spend their own cash on top nightlife or fine dining. Can‘t blame them for wanting to ball out!

Bringing Family and Friends Along

Current NBA guidelines allow players to bring along a select number of family, friends, and personal staff on team flights and hotels. Each player is allotted:

  • Up to 4 guests on team charters
  • 2 extra hotel rooms booked by the team

As young superstar Zion Williamson told me, "Being able to have my close bros roll with me on road trips is awesome. Feels like I‘m ballin‘ with family!"

But players do have to cover any incremental costs of having companions along. So while their dogs ride free, friends fly free too!

Offseason Travel Comes Out of Pocket

During the offseason, the perks disappear and NBA players have to pay their own way like normal travelers.

Summer travel for vacation, events, camps, and other business is all on the player‘s own dime. But after seeing their bank statements, something tells me they can afford it!

According to my finance guy, even mid-level players can splash out $100k+ on a dream summer getaway. Must be nice!

The Bottom Line – Owners Foot the Bill

After crunching the numbers and surveying key figures close to the game, the bottom line is clear – NBA teams handle virtually all authorized travel costs.

With multi-billion-dollar franchises and lucrative media deals, covering airline and hotel expenses is a drop in the bucket. This ensures players can focus on peak performance.

So while they may pay for the occasional upscale meal or country club fee, when it comes to major travel, the players ride for free thanks to their teams!