While Jordan made $30.1 million in 1996-97 and $33.1 million in 1997-98, the most he earned in a season with the Bulls before 1996-97 was $4 million. Meanwhile, Pippen’s highest salary with Chicago was $3.4 million in 1992-93. He was grossly underpaid his entire Bulls tenure, and that didn’t sit well with Jordan.
Michael Jordan on Scottie Pippen: He’s totally underpaid
Before the 1995-96 season, Jordan told legendary Bulls reporter Cheryl Raye-Stout that Pippen was underpaid. His Airness, who made millions of dollars through his endorsements off the court, revealed to Stout that he wished there was a way he could legally give his partner in crime more money.
“I wish there was some way legally that I could give him some of the money that he totally deserves as a player,” Jordan said. “He’s totally underpaid. For years, I was underpaid, but I played it out, and I think he’s going to play it out too. At the end of three years, I hope they reward him with a just and fair contract.”
In July 1991, Pippen signed a seven-year, $18 million contract with the Bulls. If he had played it right, he could have made a lot more money in Chicago, but the small forward couldn’t risk passing up $18 million since he had to take care of his family, who didn’t have much money.
Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Jerry Krause could have re-negotiated Pippen’s contract after the do-it-all swingman outplayed his deal and became a superstar. However, they never did, and that tarnished Pippen’s relationship with both men, especially Krause.
Scottie Pippen berated Jerry Krause in front of the team several times
Once Pippen found out that Krause tried to trade him before the 1997-98 season, he began to berate the general manager in front of the team on the bus. The Hall of Famer also underwent surgery on his injured ankle during the 1997-98 season instead of the previous summer as his way of thumbing his nose at Krause.
In November 1997, Pippen publicly demanded a trade from the Bulls and said he wouldn’t come off the injured list until he was moved. The All-Star was upset that Krause wouldn’t pay him and knew the team would be broken up after the season since Phil Jackson wasn’t coming back and Jordan was a free agent.
The Bulls wound up not trading Pippen, who admitted that he knew that would be the case in Episode 2 of The Last Dance docuseries. The seven-time All-Star made his 1997-98 debut on January 10, 1998, against the Golden State Warriors. With Jordan, Pippen, and Dennis Rodman back together, the Bulls were once again primed to win a championship despite all the turmoil taking place behind the scenes.
Michael Jordan guided Bulls to sixth championship, team was broken up afterward
The Bulls won 62 games in 1997-98 and defeated the Utah Jazz in the ’98 NBA Finals to capture their sixth championship. Jordan won his sixth Finals MVP by averaging 33.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in the six-game series.
Pippen, who played through a painful back injury in Game 6 against the Jazz, was traded to the Houston Rockets after Jackson and Jordan retired in the summer of 1998. As part of the sign-and-trade deal, the Arkansas native signed a five-year, $67.2 million contract, finally getting the money he deserved.
Per Spotrac, Pippen made around $109 million in NBA money. Jordan only earned roughly $93 million, but he’s racked up a net worth of $1.6 billion thanks to his Jordan brand and other endorsements.
It’s certainly a shame how the Bulls’ dynasty ended. Although the team won the 1998 title, they could have gone for a seventh championship in 1998-99 if Krause didn’t force Jackson to retire and mistreat Jordan and Pippen.
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