How Much Does a NBA Mascot Make?

Jimmy Remland
By Jimmy Remland 8 Min Read
8 Min Read

NBA mascots are the unsung heroes of the basketball court. They entertain fans, engage in acrobatics, and create an electric atmosphere during games. But have you ever wondered how much these quirky, masked professionals earn? Let’s dive into the economics of NBA mascots and demystify their salaries.

1. The Average Salary: A Good Number for a Quirky Job

According to reports, the average salary of an NBA mascot hovers around $60,000 per year. Considering the perks of the job—such as being part of the game-day excitement, interacting with fans, and performing jaw-dropping stunts—that’s a decent figure. But let’s peel back the banana (or should we say, mascot head?) and explore further.

2. The High Flyers: Mascots Earning Six Figures

While the average salary provides a baseline, some mascots soar higher. More experienced and in-demand mascots can earn well over six figures. However, this isn’t solely from their fixed salary paid by the NBA team. It’s a combination of their base pay and additional income from in-costume appearances at various events.

Let’s spotlight a few of these high-flying mascots:

a. Hugo the Hornet (Charlotte Hornets)

  • Salary: $100,000
  • Fun Fact: Hugo’s costume was designed by Cheryl Henson, daughter of cartoonist and actor Jim Henson. It was unveiled in 1988, a year before Hurricane Hugo hit the Carolinas. Hugo is a four-time winner of the NBA Mascot Slam Dunk Championship and a two-time recipient of the NBA Best Mascot Award by NBA Inside Stuff.

b. Go the Gorilla (Phoenix Suns)

  • Salary: $200,000
  • Gorilla Origins: The Suns played without a mascot for the first 11 years of their franchise history. In 1980, a singing telegram named Henry Rojas attended Suns games in a gorilla costume. Security told him to stay away, but he persisted. Thus, “Go the Gorilla” was born.

c. Benny the Bull (Chicago Bulls)

  • Salary: $400,000
  • Benny’s Legacy: Benny has been the Bulls’ mascot for over 50 years. His popularity and acrobatic skills contribute to his hefty paycheck. He’s almost as famous as Michael Jordan, and his antics include dancing, dunk tricks, half-court shots, and drumming.

d. Harry the Hawk (Atlanta Hawks)

  • Salary: $600,000
  • Debut: Harry made his official debut in 1986. His soaring salary reflects his impact on the Hawks’ fan experience.

3. The Unmasked Clubs: No Mascots Allowed

Interestingly, four NBA teams have not embraced mascots:

  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • New York Knicks

4. The Perks Beyond Paychecks

a. Travel Adventures

NBA mascots are globetrotters. They accompany their teams on away games, spreading cheer across cities. From chilly Boston to sunny Miami, these masked marvels rack up frequent flyer miles. Imagine the gorilla from Phoenix Suns sipping a coconut on a Hawaiian beach—well, maybe not in costume!

b. Celebrity Encounters

Mascots hobnob with stars. They’ve shared the court with LeBron James, danced alongside Beyoncé, and photobombed Drake. These encounters are priceless, even if they don’t add to their bank accounts.

c. Costume Confidential

Ever wondered what’s under the mascot’s oversized head? It’s a well-guarded secret. Some mascots have their own dressing rooms, complete with mirrors, hairbrushes, and a stash of bananas (just kidding). But the mystery remains: Who’s inside that furry suit?

5. The Art of Crowd Control

Mascots are crowd whisperers. They know when to pump up the volume, lead chants, or execute a perfectly timed dance move. Their energy is contagious, turning a quiet arena into a roaring jungle. And when the team is down, they rally the fans like generals leading an army.

6. The Mascot Hierarchy

Not all mascots are created equal. Some are superstars, while others play second fiddle. Here’s the pecking order:

a. Team Mascots

These are the official mascots representing NBA teams. They’re the face of the franchise, beloved by fans, and often have their own merchandise. Think Benny the Bull (Chicago Bulls) or Rocky (Denver Nuggets).

b. Corporate Mascots

Some mascots wear double hats. They represent both the team and a sponsor. For example, the GEICO Gecko moonlights as the Phoenix Suns’ mascot.

c. College Mascots

College basketball has its own mascot game. From the Duke Blue Devil to the Syracuse Orange, these mascots bring college spirit to life.

7. The Mascot Hall of Fame

Yes, it exists! The Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Indiana, celebrates these unsung heroes. Inductees include Mr. Met (New York Mets), the Phillie Phanatic (Philadelphia Phillies), and—you guessed it—Go the Gorilla (Phoenix Suns).

8. The Future of Mascots

As sports evolve, so do mascots. Virtual mascots, holograms, and AI-driven characters might join the ranks. Imagine a pixelated gorilla doing the moonwalk during halftime!

9. The Pre-Game Dance-Off

Before the arena lights up, mascots engage in a pre-game dance-off. Picture Benny the Bull breakdancing against Rocky the Mountain Lion. These dance battles are epic, and fans cheer as if it’s the NBA Finals. The winner? Well, it’s all about style, flair, and a dash of moonwalk.

10. The Mascot Mishaps

Mascots are human (or at least, they pretend to be). And humans trip, stumble, and occasionally lose their heads—literally. Imagine Go the Gorilla attempting a somersault and accidentally launching his head into the crowd. It happens! But the show must go on. Mascots quickly reassemble and keep the energy high.

11. The Dunking Dilemma

Can mascots dunk? It’s the million-dollar question. Some can, some can’t. Benny the Bull? Absolutely! He’s got springs in those hooves. But Harry the Hawk? Well, he’s more of a mid-air twirler. And the GEICO Gecko? Let’s just say he’s better at saving you money than slam-dunking.

12. The Mascot Code of Conduct

Believe it or not, mascots have a code of conduct. Here are the unwritten rules:

a. No Trash Talk

Mascots don’t taunt opponents. They’re all about positive vibes. So, no trash talk, no pointing fingers, and definitely no technical fouls.

b. Safety First

Mascots perform daring stunts, but safety is paramount. They practice flips, jumps, and dives to perfection. Helmets and padding are their best friends.

c. Respect the Rivalry

When the Lakers face the Celtics, mascots play their part. But they respect the historic rivalry. No gorilla pranks during crucial free throws.

13. The Mascot Hall of Shame

Yes, it exists too! The Mascot Hall of Shame celebrates mascot blunders. From tripping on the court to accidentally knocking over a kid’s popcorn, these moments are immortalized. Remember the time Slamson (Sacramento Kings) got stuck in the hoop? Classic!

14. The Future: Holograms and Beyond

As technology advances, mascots might evolve. Imagine holographic mascots high-fiving fans or AI-driven mascots predicting game outcomes. The future is as unpredictable as a mascot’s dance routine.

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