When Michael Jordan played baseball in 1994, Chicago Bulls majority governor Jerry Reinsdorf still paid him his basketball contract. MJ made a lot of money for a lot of people, and Reinsdorf felt he owed it to him to continue to pay him his NBA contract.
Reinsdorf wasn’t the only person in the NBA who felt indebted to Jordan. In fact, when MJ retired in 1993, team owners were devastated since they knew they would lose money.
Michael Jordan generated an additional $1.3 million in ticket sales
According to Hall of Fame Bulls writer Sam Smith (h/t Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein), Jordan generated an additional $1.3 million in ticket sales in 1989. Whenever the Bulls played on the road, arenas were packed since Superman was the biggest star in sports.
The Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, and Sacramento Kings were the only three teams to sell out every home game in 1989. When Jordan and the Bulls came to different cities, attendance jumped. As Indiana Pacers general manager Donnie Walsh said: “When he signed his contract, I said jokingly that we all ought to pay him.”
Take the Washington Bullets, for example. They had an average attendance of 9,814 in 1989. That number went up to 17,578 when Jordan and the Bulls came to town. His Airness was the biggest attraction in the NBA, and it wasn’t even close.
Michael Jordan was out of this world even before he was a champion
Even though it took Jordan seven years to win his first championship, he was still out of this world during his first six campaigns. From 1984-85 to 1989-90, Black Jesus averaged 32.8 points. He won four scoring titles, one Defensive Player of the Year Award, and one MVP.
Whether it was scoring 63 points in a playoff game or dunking over centers, Jordan was doing things that basketball fans couldn’t fathom. He not only turned the Bulls around, but he also helped other teams make money. In the NBA, each team keeps all the money from its home games, and Jordan played a significant role in organizations not named the Bulls secure more money.
Jordan was undoubtedly underpaid for the majority of his career. Fortunately for him, he made tons of money through endorsement deals, and he finally got the salary he deserved from the Bulls starting in 1996.
MJ made more than $30 million from the Bulls in 1996-97 and 1997-98
After leading the Bulls to the 1996 championship, Jordan signed a one-year, $30.1 million deal for the 1996-97 season. Before that contract, the most he had made in a season was $4 million.
Jordan signed a one-year, $33.1 million deal with Chicago in October 1997. According to Spotrac, the six-time champion made nearly $92 million during his time with the Bulls. That figure should have been higher since Jordan was the best player in the NBA and helped the league make more money.
Luckily for the UNC product, he made a lot of money off the court and has an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion in 2021. In 2010, Jordan used part of that net worth to buy the Charlotte Hornets, becoming the first former player to buy a team.