Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen was a key focus from the debut of “The Last Dance,” with his contract taking center stage.
According to the ESPN documentary, Scottie Pippen signed a five-year, $18 million contract extension with the Bulls shortly after they won their first NBA title in 1991. The second episode of the documentary focused on Pippen and the outcome of his contract. His contract most certainly changed the way NBA players negotiate their salary.
Scottie Pippen expressed that it was in the best interest of his family while signing his contract. The documentary highlighted how his father suffered a stroke and was in a wheelchair. Pippen’s brother was also in a wheelchair; he was paralyzed in a wrestling match against a classmate. Therefore, the decision to take the money on the table was an easy one and inevitable. It was also an amount that for a young man coming from the suburbs probably did not imagine making at the time.
The organization took advantage of Scottie Pippen’s humble attitude at the time and would not renegotiate his contract. During his play with the Bulls, Pippen was second in the major statistical categories to Jordan. Pippen was considered to be a top 10 player in the league and the second in command to Jordan. In fact, Pippen was able to demonstrate his prowess in the year that Jordan retired. He led the team in all the major statistical categories in Jordan’s absence. Despite this, he was the sixth highest-paid player on the team and 122nd in salary in comparison to the league. The contract he signed was unreasonably low, but due to circumstances, Pippen walked away with one of the worst contracts in NBA history.
NBA salaries today
The NBA salaries today are more in the hands of the players than the owners and GM’s. It is more likely for a team to throw a max deal at a player they wish to stay in their city than to have to negotiate. The players don’t even have to be the focal point of the team, they just have to be well-liked.
For example, in 2016, the Grizzlies signed Mike Conley to a five year $153 million dollar contract. The year before Conley averaged 15 points and six assists per game. The Grizzlies never made it to the Western Conference Finals during his time and let alone the NBA Finals. In hopes of rebuilding the team, the Grizzlies traded Conley to the Utah Jazz during the offseason in 2019. Conley was well respected and liked in the Grizzlies organization so they decided to reward him with an enormous contract in 2016.
Nevertheless, Conley was not nearly as good of a player as Pippen was during his time with the Bulls. This does not mean that Conley should not have gotten paid, this just further proves that Pippen was highly underpaid.
Furthermore, the contracts that are signed in today’s NBA are far more intricate than it was at the time Pippen played. The NBA contracts now have clauses to increase player’s pay. For example, if a player averages more points per game it can allow for more money to be made. The contracts could also include bonuses for making All-Star teams or how far the team makes it in the playoffs. It could also be as simple as winning a certain amount of games during the season. NBA teams now are more willing to throw money towards players to keep them happy. It also keeps ownership happy knowing the revenue they make through this player.
So, the players, in essence, have an easier time negotiating their salaries than Pippen did. Pippen also had other commitments and reasons to take the money offered to him. It also did not help that ownership and management was not making a conscious effort to reward him. Taking advantage of this fact definitely soured the relationship with the Bulls and Pippen wanted out and understandably so. At the time, production was the basis for paying players. Today, potential is the basis for paying players.
Scottie Pippen eventually received a better contract, earning a five-year, $67.2 million contract in a sign and trade to the Houston Rockets. Pippen definitely earned the contract but it seemed to reconcile the previous one and seemed better late than never. Larsa Pippen also had to add that Pippen made more during his NBA career than Jordan did for those concerned.
The Pippen contract demonstrated how a player of his magnitude should be paid accordingly regardless of personal reasons. If Pippen played in today’s era, he would have no problems earning the max deal. This paved the way for future NBA players to negotiate their salaries. Unfortunately, it had to come at the expense of Pippen’s contract for players to understand their worth.