Michael Jordan may have become the first billionaire athlete, but he didn’t start out making great money. In fact, his rookie salary looks laughable. But thanks to smart business deals, the Chicago Bulls legend built an incredible net worth and has become a global icon.
As arguably the most popular and recognizable athlete of all time, it’s no surprise that fans open up their wallets to purchase pieces of MJ history. Most recently, one of Michael Jordan’s game-used Bulls uniforms got auctioned off for a record-setting price that looks just silly when compared to his rookie salary.
Michael Jordan turned into an instant star in Chicago
Though he didn’t go No. 1 overall in the 1984 NBA draft, Michael Jordan wasted no time proving he should have. As a rookie, the former University of North Carolina star averaged 28.2 points while suiting up for every game. After missing most of his second season due to a broken foot, he returned for the 1986-87 season and went on an unprecedented run.
For the next seven seasons, Jordan led the NBA in scoring. In an era where teams still cared about playing defense, the high-flying dunker managed to average better than 30 points per game every year. Of course, his individual brilliance never overshadowed his deep desire to win.
And boy did the Bulls do just that. Before he retired to play baseball, His Airness led Chicago to three consecutive NBA titles. He certainly got plenty of help from Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, but at the end of the day, Jordan drove the team to new heights.
His game-worn Bulls uniform recently sold for a ridiculous price
Chicago famously pulled off two three-peats during Jordan’s career. The Bulls’ fifth championship came during the 1996-97 season in which Jordan once again led the league in scoring while finishing second to Karl Malone in the MVP voting. That magical season turned out to be Jordan’s penultimate year in Chicago.
The sports memorabilia industry certainly can thank His Airness for his contributions. After all, fans have been willing to pay ungodly sums of money to get their hands on anything related to MJ. In May, one fan took that to a record-setting level.
Through Goldin Auctions, one of Michael Jordan’s game-used Bulls uniform from that ’96-’97 season sold for $288,000, which represented the largest amount anyone has ever paid for one of his game-used uniforms. The listing provided some interesting details on the rare piece of NBA history.
This may be one of the best Jordan game-used set ever offered as it is the only 1996-97 Jordan game-used and photo matched uniform to be offered for public sale and is the only Jordan 1996-97 black uniform to be offered for public sale with a Bulls’ letter.
That $288,000 price surely stands out, but when you consider how little Jordan made as a rookie, it’s even more ridiculous.
Jordan earned just $550,000 as a rookie
According to Spotrac, Michael Jordan made just $550,000 in salary in his rookie season. He actually didn’t even break the $1 million mark until his fifth year. After making just $845,000 in 1987-88, Jordan more than doubled his salary to a flat $2 million. He actually never surpassed $4 million in annual salary until much later in his career.
In fact, the greatest player in NBA history only broke the bank in his final two years with the Bulls. During that stretch, Jordan pulled in $63 million, which represented about 67 percent of his career earnings.
Of course, the NBA superstar didn’t need to rely on his playing salary. Jordan famously partnered with Nike and transformed the shoe industry. His Air Jordan line still generates hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
Ultimately, it’s crazy to think a fan paid just over half of Jordan’s rookie year salary for a uniform he wore in a basketball game. But at the end of the day, can you really put a price on history?