Michael Jordan burst onto the scene in the league as one of the most electrifying players to have ever stepped foot on NBA hardwood. He won Rookie of the Year honors by averaging over 27 points a game and leading the Chicago Bulls to a Playoff berth against Sidney Moncrief and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Despite missing nearly the entirety of the 1985-86 NBA season, he dragged the Bulls with a losing record to the postseason yet again. It was in this first round series that he truly established himself as one of the top players in the league, going off for 49 points and then 63 points in the Garden in Games 1 and 2 against the Boston Celtics.
When Larry Bird calls you ‘Jesus’ you know you’ve got more than just ‘something’ going for you. By the time Jordan was in his 4th season, he had become a premier MVP candidate. Though, his contract did not reflect this in the slightest.
Michael Jordan earned less than players who were half as good as him
Michael Jordan averaged 32.5 points a game on 53% shooting from the field while grabbing 8 rebounds and dishing out 8 assists a night in the 1987-88 NBA season. He would also rack up 2.9 steals a game and become one of the top defensive guards in the league.
He would go on to win both the MVP and the DPOY this season and rightfully so. However, his efforts on the court were not shown on his salary sheet as he earned a measly $865,000 during this season. This was the highest salary on the Bulls but nowhere close to a top salary across the league.
Jack Sikma, a player who averaged just over 13 points a game in the ‘88 season, earned $1.6 million that same season. Though, it should be noted that Jordan was on the last year of his rookie contract and that he did negotiate one that got him $2 million the very next season.
Michael Jordan would have the highest paying contract by a mile in 1997 and ‘98
Players in the 1990s didn’t earn in 8 figures during a single season. Well, they did but only the best of the best. Though, given just how much Michael Jordan meant to both the world of basketball and of course, the Chicago Bulls, he was an exception.
Jerry Reinsdorf agreed to sign him to two one-year deals in the 1997 and 1998 seasons which paid him $30 million in the former year and $33 million in the latter year. The second highest salary in 1998 was Patrick Ewing’s who earned $20 million.