The Chicago Bulls valued Michael Jordan more than probably any professional team sports athlete by his parent franchise.
Even in the two seasons that MJ left to play baseball, the Bulls honored his contract and paid him in full. Jordan did, after all, play for Jerry Reinsdorf’s Chicago White Sox and was about to sign a minor league contract.
The reasons are obvious – the NBA couldn’t risk Michael Jordan turning his back on them for too long. Even at the time of MJ’s first retirement, there was a palpable sense that it was aking to a rapper’s retirement.
People knew that MJ couldn’t stay away from the game he loved for too long. The Bulls decided to take the punt and allow him to fulfil his whims and fancies.
Michael Jordan earned more than entire teams for 2 seasons
Jordan signed a long-term contract in 1990 that would tie him to the Bulls for 6 seasons. This was before he’d won a single championship and become a truly global phenomenon.
By the end of his contract, everyone in the world knew that the guard was underpaid. Michael Jordan was the single most popular sportsperson on the face of the earth, including the likes of Diego Maradona.
The NBA were making billions off of his back for the first time in their history. Onlookers began to wonder how they’d compensate their first global superstar fairly. This was made easy by the existing CBA rules of the time between the NBPA and NBA governors.
The Bulls paid Michael Jordan $33 million in his final season (1997-98 season).
At an inflation adjusted $52 million, it’s still the most an NBA player has gotten paid in a single season.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 20, 2020
The Bulls ended up signing Michael Jordan for a one-year $30.1 million contract for the 1996-97 season. They increased that amount to $33 million for the 1997-98 – his final one in Chicago.
One could argue that according to Jordan’s true worth to the NBA and basketball in general, he was still grossly underpaid. Nevertheless, his team did put in the effort to make him the highest-paid player of the time. Patrick Mahomes signed a contract worth over $500 million this year, making it the first time a pro athlete has approached his inflation-adjusted salary over the course of an entire deal.