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These days, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley are two of the biggest NBA names around. His Airness’ star status speaks for itself, and thanks to his media work, Sir Charles is known to an entirely new generation of fans. There was a time, however, when both men were playing basketball and being underpaid for their services.

While it would be easy to imagine that reality rubbing MJ the wrong way — he was more than capable of taking things personally — it seems like that wasn’t the case. According to Barkley, Jordan said they had to buckle down and honor their respective contracts. They, after all, were the ones who put pen to paper.

Charles Barkley remembers how Michael Jordan wasn’t going to let his contract affect his performance

Charles Barkley (L) and Michael Jordan (R) talk during an NBA game.
Charles Barkley (L) and Michael Jordan (R) talk during an NBA game. | Brian Bahr/AFP via Getty Images

When Scottie Pippen was promoting his book, he made plenty of eyebrow-raising comments. As one of the leading players who has transitioned into the media, Charles Barkley ended up addressing some of them, especially on the financial side of things. In the Round Mound of Rebound’s estimation, Pip had no right to be angry at Jordan, at least on the contractual side of things.

“I actually got caught in the exact same situation as Scottie,” Chuck explained during a SiriusXM interview that’s preserved on Youtube. “I probably got cheated out of probably $100 million. So, if I remember The Last Dance correctly, me and Scottie were probably in the exact situation. So, my first agent was a crook, so he stole all my money. So, after four years, I was broke … So, I went to the Sixers, and this was before anybody started making a lot of money. You know, in the NBA, you could only get incremental raises every year. So, obviously, I had no idea salaries were going to explode. So, I ended up signing a 10-year deal, so I would at least have some money going forward the rest of my life.”

Before long, though, NBA TV revenues exploded, pushing salaries higher than ever before. Those who had prioritized stability were locked in at the old going rate.

As Sir Charles suggested, his situation wasn’t unusual. Scottie Pippen signed a seven-year deal for just under $20 million, and Michael Jordan didn’t make massive sums until he returned from minor league baseball.

MJ was aware of that reality but didn’t seem too concerned, at least if we go by what he told Barkley.

“Michael, at the time, was probably my best friend,” Chuck continued. “And we both talked about it. …So I was in the exact same situation, but you know what? Me and Michael said, ‘Hey, guy.’ He said, ‘Hey, Charles. We signed the deal. Shut the f–k up.'”

Needless to say, both men saw out their contracts.

Both Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley have made up for their lack of NBA earnings

These days, the idea of a big-time NBA star making around $3 million per season sounds unbelievable. As Sir Charles said, though, that was simply the reality of pro basketball in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

With that being said, though, both men have since made up for lost time.

Jordan, as mentioned above, did get to reap the rewards of a changing financial landscape after returning from the baseball diamond. He signed two contracts, one in 1996 and another in 1997, both of which paid more than $30 million for a season of work.

Beyond that, His Airness is also a commercial juggernaut. He parlayed his on-court success into plenty of big-name endorsements, with the Jordan brand sitting as the crown jewel. That, in turn, has allowed the living NBA legend to buy the Charlotte Hornets and build up a $1.7 billion net worth.


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As for Barkley, he might not have that amount of financial clout, but he’s not exactly scrounging for pennies in the couch cushions. The forward made about $40 million during his playing career, and while there have been some gambling losses along the way, his work with TNT pays well. According to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, his latest “life-altering deal” is worth at least $100 million over 10 years and could approach $200 million in total.

While we don’t know, it’s safe to assume Michael Jordan won’t have to talk Chuck into honoring that contract.

Contract information courtesy of Spotrac.