Contract: 1 year, $107,000
Team: UMMC Ekaterinburg
Return on investment: Did not play
Bottom line: After winning a WNBA championship in 2014, Diana Taurasi sat out the entire 2015 WNBA season and got paid to do so. Huh? Taurasi spent her summers playing in the WNBA but her winters playing overseas where the salaries were much higher. She made $107,000 per year with the Phoenix Mercury but made $1.5 million annually for her European team, UMMC Ekaterinburg.
So they decided it would be better for them if Taurasi skipped her WNBA season and UMMC did that by paying her what she would have made with the Phoenix Mercury to instead sit on the sideline.
It was a great deal for UMMC Ekaterinburg as they kept their star player healthy, and it was great for Taurasi who got paid to not work. But it was horrible for the WNBA as it highlighted the pay disparity the league had at the time.
No one expected their salaries to compete with those of the NBA, but Taurasi was getting paid 15 times as much to play in Europe than for her domestic sports league.