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It’s a common misconception that Michael Jordan was always the highest-paid player in the NBA during his days with the Chicago Bulls. That did end up becoming the case, but that didn’t happen until his final two seasons in the Windy City.

For years, Jordan was drastically underpaid, having to stick to the terms of an eight-year deal he signed ahead of the 1988-1989 NBA season worth around $25 million as Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf wasn’t the type to restructure contracts.

It’s true that MJ was making way more money than anyone else off the court, which is one of the reasons he’s worth more than $2 billion today. However, it’s interesting to go back and look at some of the guys that made more money than His Airness back in the day.

For instance, during the Bulls’ record-breaking 1995-96 season, in which they went 72-10 in the regular season and 87-13 overall en route to winning their fourth NBA title in six years, more than 30 players pocketed more than Michael Jordan did, which is astounding.

Michael Jordan was ranked No. 32 in NBA salary in 1995-1996

In 1995-1996, Michael Jordan won his fourth NBA MVP and led the Chicago Bulls to a 72-10 record, at the time the best regular-season mark in NBA history. The team then went 15-3 in the playoffs and beat the Seattle Supersonics in the NBA Finals, giving the Bulls an 87-13 overall record for the year and a fourth NBA crown.

Jordan, of course, had yet another brilliant season, winning an eighth scoring title with 30.4 points per game while also adding 6.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists. And he did all of this while earning just $3.85 million on the court, good for 32nd in the NBA in salary.

Here’s a quick look at the list of 31 players who made more money than Michael Jordan that year.

RankPlayer1995-96 NBA Salary
1Patrick Ewing$18,724,000
2Clyde Drexler$9,810,000
3David Robinson$7,700,000
4Chris Webber$7,000,000
5Joe Dumars$6,881,000
6Danny Manning$6,833,000
7A.C. Green$6,473,000
8Shaquille O’Neal$5,700,000
9Derrick Coleman$5,476,000
10Sean Elliott$5,333,000
11Hakeem Olajuwon$5,305,000
12Anfernee Hardaway$5,230,000
13James Worthy$5,150,000
14Detlef Schrempf$5,000,000
15Sam Bowie$4,800,000
16Charles Barkley$4,760,000
17Brad Daugherty$4,700,000
18Danny Ferry$4,643,000
19Alonzo Mourning$4,560,000
T20Clarence Weatherspoon$4,500,000
T20Tom Gugliotta$4,500,000
22Shawn Bradley$4,320,000
23Larry Johnson$4,295,000
24Brian Shaw$4,250,000
25John Williams$4,151,000
T26Dale Davis$4,050,000
T26Grant Hill$4,050,000
28Benoit Benjamin$3,975,000
29Sam Perkins$3,967,000
30Christian Laettner$3,910,000
31Kenny Anderson$3,898,000
Salaries courtesy of Spotrac

And then you have Michael Jordan in the No. 32 spot at $3,850,000, which was actually just $50,000 ahead of No. 33 on the list, Chris Dudley, which is just laughable.

It’s wild to think Sam Bowie made more money than Michael Jordan in 1995-1996

Trust me, I could write 31 different articles taking issue with every name on that list above. At least some were actually worth what they were getting, and you can’t fault anyone there for getting paid.

But Shawn Bradley? Benoit Benjamin? Danny Ferry? Clarence Weatherspoon? Sam Perkins? Come on now. But there’s one name on that list that stands out more than the rest at No. 15, Sam Bowie. Yes, the same Sam Bowie that was taken right before Michael Jordan in the famed 1984 NBA draft.

Actually, both players taken ahead of Jordan appear on this list. Hakeem Olajuwon, who was taken No. 1 overall in 1984, was 11th on the list at $5.305 million, which still seems low for a two-time NBA champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, and the 1994 NBA MVP.

But Sam Bowie at No. 15? Are you kidding me? And you want to know the wildest part of that?

Bowie had already retired after yet another injury-plagued season in 1994-1995 for the Los Angeles Lakers. Such is the beauty of guaranteed contracts. But just think about that. Sam Bowie, who didn’t play a single minute in 1995-1996, made close to a million bucks more that season than Michael Jordan.

MJ finally got his due from 1996-1998

While Michael Jordan was No. 32 on the NBA salary list in 1995-1996, he finally reached the No. 1 spot in 1996-1997 by a wide margin. His longtime agent, David Falk, put together a deal that almost saw Jordan sign with the New York Knicks, which essentially forced Jerry Reinsdorf and the Chicago Bulls to pay up.

MJ made $30.14 million that season and $33.14 during “The Last Dance” season of 1997-1998.

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