Ridiculous contracts of Jordan’s Bulls
No player on their own can win an NBA championship. Even if their name is Michael Jordan or LeBron James. What it takes is an entire roster to be the final team standing on the podium hoisting the trophy.
Jordan was the biggest showpiece in the NBA throughout the 90s, he was the big drawcard that every kid growing up tried to emulate in their backyard. But as dominant as he could be, without his teammates he wouldn’t have six titles to his name.
Scottie Pippen was the perfect right hand man for Jordan. A lethal defender who helped form one of the most devastating duos the NBA has ever seen.
READ: ‘Offensive’ insult killed Jordan empire
But as Pippen’s star continued to rise alongside Jordan’s, the superstar found himself in a very different category to his more heralded teammate.
As the team entered the 1997/98 season, aiming for their sixth title, the contracts of the roster painted a stark image.
Jordan was the best player in the game, nobody was disputing that, and his salary reflected his standing. Jordan earned a stunning $33,140,000 in his final season in Chicago.
That’s when things take a wild turn. The entire salary of the Chicago Bulls 15-man roster in their final championship season came in at $61,330,670.
Once you remove Jordan’s salary, that leaves only $28,190,670 which was spent on the remaining 14 players on the squad.
Even Ron Harper (right) earned more than Pippen.Source:Getty Images
Every team in the NBA has rosters with players earning bloated salaries while others come in on the lower end of the scale. But the disparity among the Bulls throughout the final season stood out like a sore thumb and Pippen was the one who took the most issue with it.
The superstar number two on the Bulls only earned $2,775,000 in the Bulls’ final championship run.
“Pippen is as underpaid as underpaid gets, only the 122nd highest paid player in the league,” Stuart Scott said in a SportsCenter clip.
He was a superstar in the NBA and, despite only playing 44 games throughout the season, finished tenth in the MVP voting in 1997/98.
On the Bulls alone, throughout their championship run, Pippen ranked second in scoring, rebounding and minutes played. He also led the team in assists and steals.
But his value on the books saw him as the sixth ranked player in terms of salary.
Pippen was entering the final season of a seven-year, $18 million deal he inked all the way back in 1991. A contract even owner Jerry Reinsdorf labelled as a mistake and told Pippen as much.
“‘If I were you, I wouldn’t sign this contract. You may be selling yourself too short. It’s too long a contract you’re locking yourself in for,’” Reinsdorf recalled on The Last Dance.
But Pippen had his reasons for putting pen to paper on the deal and it all came back to ensuring his family was taken care of.
“I felt like I couldn’t afford to gamble myself getting injured and not being able to provide,” Pippen says on The Last Dance.
“I needed to make sure that people in my corner were taken care of.”
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DID YOU KNOW: Michael Jordan was not only the highest paid player in the NBA during the 1997-98 season – he made more than the rest of the entire Chicago Bulls team COMBINED: pic.twitter.com/nteTdPWIY2
His frustration with his contract boiled over entering the 1997/98 season as Pippen elected to have surgery that would sideline him and not see him take the court until January and without him in the line-up, the Bulls struggled in the early going of the season.
During the championship ring ceremony ahead of the opening game of the season, Pippen delivered a heartfelt address to the Chicago crowd that sounded like he was about to retire from the game.
“Thank you for all the wonderful moments that the fans here in this city have shown me and my teammates for ten long season,” he said.
“I’ve had a wonderful career here, and if I never have the opportunity to say this again; thank you.”
Pippen’s anger stemmed from comments made by General Manager Jerry Krause before the season began when he stated this would be the last season for coach Phil Jackson.
“Scottie Pippen was the underrated, under-appreciated Robin to Michael’s Batman,” journalist Michael Wilbon says in The Last Dance.
Phil Jackson added: “his value was immense”.
Pippen did it all for the Bulls.Source:Getty Images
“He was so low paid, he was not even the 100th highest-paid player in the NBA,” Chicago Sun-Times sports writer Rick Telander says in The Last Dance.
“If he played it right, he could have made nine times that amount, ten times.”
With a lowly contract and knowing his time in Chicago was coming to an end, Pippen often took out his frustrations on Krause who actively tried to trade the superstar away.
“Scottie had problems with Jerry and it came out on several occasions,” former Chicago Bulls player Steve Kerr says on The Last Dance.
The Jordan Rules author Sam Smith adds: “Pippen started abusing Krause openly, cursing him out on the bus.”
Of course, Pippen remained in Chicago and helped capture a sixth championship for the Bulls before he left the famous franchise and took his talents to Houston and Portland before finishing his career back in Chicago for two final seasons.
The first two episodes of the 10-part documentary The Last Dance will air on Netflix Australia on April 20 with two episodes to be released every following week.
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