It is widely acknowledged that Michael Jordan is one of the most financially successful athletes in history. However, it is common knowledge that the majority of his billions of dollars in earnings over the past four decades did not originate from his time playing for the Chicago Bulls or the Washington Wizards.
It may surprise some to know that during his 15-year NBA career, Jordan made less than $100 million in on-court earnings — $93,877,500 to be exact. And despite being the best player of his era — well, at least during his days in the Windy City — MJ often wasn’t the highest-paid player in the league.
In fact, up until his final two seasons with the Bulls, Jordan never made more than $4 million. And that was only twice. And one of those occasions was the campaign he took off following Chicago’s first three-peat to pursue a career in baseball. Smartly, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf continued to pay his full salary with the hope MJ would return to basketball, which he did in 1995.
In his first full season back in 1995-96, the year during which the Bulls went 72-10 and won a fourth title in six years, Jordan earned just $3.85 million.
In the two seasons that followed, however, things were much different. During the 1996-97 campaign, Michael Jordan not only became the first player in NBA history to make $20 million in a single season but also the first to make $30 million, raking in $30.14 million.
And during the Bulls’ famed “Last Dance” run in 1997-98, Jordan earned the highest single-season salary of his career, earning $33.14 million. In a distant second that year was MJ’s longtime rival Patrick Ewing, who collected $20.5 million from the New York Knicks. In third, surprisingly, was Jordan’s former teammate Horace Grant, who pocketed more than $14.2 million from the Orlando Magic.
Man, how times have changed.
Back then, it was obviously quite rare for an NBA player to earn $20 million for a single season’s work. Nowadays, however, it’s quite common. At the time of this writing, 74 players are set to earn at least $20 million in base salary for the 2023-24 NBA season. And 106 will make at least $15 million.
So that got us thinking. Where would Michael Jordan’s highest single-season salary rank in today’s NBA?
Michael Jordan’s highest single-season salary wouldn’t even crack the top 35 in today’s NBA
As mentioned, Michael Jordan’s highest single-season salary with the Chicago Bulls was $33.14 million in 1997-98, a year during which he played all 82 regular-season games and averaged 28.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.7 steals en route to winning a fifth NBA MVP trophy.
He was just as strong in the postseason that year in leading the Bulls to their sixth and final title, averaging 32.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 steals in 21 playoff appearances.
So, again, where would Michael Jordan’s base salary from that season rank for the 2023-24 NBA season? He wouldn’t even crack the top 35. Take a look.
2023-24 NBA Salary
Michael Porter Jr.
Salaries courtesy of Spotrac
And it’s here where Michael Jordan and his $33.14 million would place at No. 36, just over half a million dollars above the foursome of De’Aaron Fox, Jayson Tatum, Bam Adebayo, and Donovan Mitchell, each of whom will earn $32,600,060 during the 2023-24 NBA season.
What a difference a generation makes.