NBA

Michael Jordan Made $550,000 as a Rookie and Could Be a $10 Million Rookie in 2020

Michael Jordan’s financial earnings have been the talk of the sports world after The Last Dance‘s debut on ESPN. Jordan famously made $33.1 million in 1997-98, nearly $30 million more than teammate Ron Harper’s second-place $4.5 million salary.

The NBA legend retired after the 2002-03 season with over $86 million to his name. Michael Jordan‘s deep bank account began with a strong rookie base salary in 1984.

But if Michael Jordan played today, he would come close to making twenty times as much as he made as a rookie. In fact, Michael Jordan would have made a case to be the NBA’s first $10 million rookie.

Michael Jordan cashed in as a rookie

Michael Jordan debuted in the NBA with a $550,000 base salary. For comparison, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Magic Johnson’s $2.5 million salary earned him the title of the highest-paid player.

The Houston Rockets paid Hakeem Olajuwon, the No. 1 overall pick, a $780,000 base salary in 1984. Sam Bowie, the No. 2 overall pick, made $400,000 as a rookie in Portland.

For comparison, the NBA’s rookie minimum salary in 2018-19 was $582,180, according to Basketball Insiders. The NBA’s rookie minimum salary has been at least $500,000 every year since the 2014-15 season.

According to the Inflation Calculator, Jordan would, in theory, make $1.36 million as a rookie in 2020. Although that is nearly double what the rookie minimum salary is today, such a salary does not take into account the NBA’s salary cap.

Current NBA rookies get paid much more than Jordan did

Bulls legend Michael Jordan cashed in as a rookie in 1984. Jordan would have made twenty times as much if he played today.
Bulls legend Michael Jordan cashed in as a rookie in 1984. Jordan would have made twenty times as much if he played today. | Sporting News/Getty Images

While Michael Jordan made significant money as a rookie in 1984, that is chump change compared to what rookies make now. New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson , the No. 1 overall pick last summer, made $9.75 million this season.

Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant, the 2nd overall pick and presumptive Rookie of the Year winner, made $8.73 million this year.

Rookies have the NBA salary cap’s changes and expansion to thank. However, it is unlikely the incoming class of rookies will approach the $10 million mark. The NBA salary cap is expected to take a hit because of the coronavirus pandemic and the NBA’s controversy with China last year.

The NBA has not announced the projected rookie salaries for 2020 draftees.

How much would Michael Jordan make as a rookie today?

WIth the coronavirus pandemic’s salary cap effects not factored in, it is interesting to think how much Michael Jordan could make as a rookie in 2020. Jordan left North Carolina as a polished shooting guard who made an immediate impact as a rookie.

Jordan’s skillset and two-way play would have made him the consensus top pick in this year’s draft. The NBA has not had many surefire, can’t-miss No. 1 overall prospects in recent years.

Zion Williamson was an all-world talent with injury issues. Anthony Bennett and Markelle Fultz were risky top selections. Andrew Wiggins and Ben Simmons had the athleticism and talent, but they had other issues that have lingered into the NBA.

LeBron James was a hit prospect in the 2003 NBA draft and made just over $4 million that season. Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis was arguably the NBA’s last ‘can’t-miss’ prospect in 2012. Davis earned $5.1 million as a rookie.

Could Michael Jordan have been the NBA’s first $10 million rookie? He would certainly have made a case, even if slotted draft rules applied.