Former Chicago Bulls center and three-time NBA champion Luc Longley only averaged double digits once in his 10 seasons in the NBA. Charles Barkley did it 16 years in a row. Amazingly though, Longley made more money in the NBA than the Hall of Famer. How is that even possible?
Luc Longley was an average NBA player throughout his career
Longley was an integral piece of the “Last Dance” Bulls during the 1997-98 season. The 7-foot-2 center averaged a career-high 11.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game that season. He was fourth on the team in scoring and second in rebounding. He also led the Bulls with 1.1 blocks per game in 1997-98.
Longley was a crucial rim-protector and rebounder for the “Last Dance” Bulls championship team, but that season was the peak of his NBA career. He failed to score more than 10 points per game in every other year of his career.
Along with his five years with the Bulls, Longley spent time with the Timberwolves, Suns, and Knicks. He was drafted seventh overall by Minnesota in the 1991 NBA draft, but he never averaged more than seven points with the Timberwolves.
Longley had his best years in Chicago, but it’s hard not to succeed with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in the same uniform. The Australian finished his NBA career with two decent seasons in Phoenix before flaming out in New York for his final year as a pro. Longley retired in 2001 with three championship rings and no All-Star appearances.
Charles Barkley was one of the best NBA players for over a decade
Luc Longley and Charles Barkley may have played in the NBA at the same time, but they weren’t in the same league in terms of their skill. Barkley was a world-class scorer and rebounder throughout the 1980s and 1990s, while Longley was a complementary piece to a historically great team.
Barkley was drafted No. 5 overall by the 76ers in 1984. It didn’t take him long to make his mark on the league. After his rookie season, Barkley went 11 straight years averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. He made the NBA All-Star Team in all 11 seasons.
Barkley won the NBA MVP award in 1992-93. He averaged 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game for the Suns and led the team to an NBA Finals appearance. Ironically, Barkley and the Suns lost to the Bulls in six games.
Longley still made more money in the NBA than Barkley
Although he played six fewer seasons and made 11 fewer All-Star appearances than Barkley, Longley made more money in the NBA. Longley made over $42 million from NBA salaries, while Barkley netted just over $40 million.
Obviously, the salary cap has increased seemingly every year since the NBA began, so that explains why Longley made more coming into the league. Barkley made less than $500,000 in his rookie season. Six years later, Longley made $1.6 million in his rookie year despite being drafted two spots after Barkley.
The salary cap expansion explains some of why Longley was paid more, but that doesn’t change the fact that Barkley was criminally underpaid as an NBA player. Barkley didn’t even make more than $5 million per year until his final season in the league. Longley made over $5 million in four straight seasons.
Barkley is comfortable now with his Turner Sports gig and many endorsements, but he has to feel disrespected seeing some of the players who earned more than him in the NBA.