His Airness Michael Jordan is the owner of some pretty impressive NBA records, but this one has to go down as one of the most outrageous.

Back in 1998, even though the NBA was a popular league thanks to Michael Jordan’s dominance, it was nowhere near the money-maker that it is today, with the salary cap set at a ridiculously low $26.9 million compared to today’s salary cap, which is currently set at a bit over $90 million. Some players today are earning almost $5 million more a season than 1998’s salary cap to put it in perspective.

To also put into perspective Jordan‘s greatness and value to the Chicago Bulls franchise, while the salary cap was set at almost $27 million, Jordan himself was earning over $33 million for the season alone. To make things even crazier, Jordan’s $33.1 million salary that year exceeded the combined salary of every other Bulls player that season — and yes, that includes Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.

  • Chicago Bulls ($61,330,670)
  • Michael Jordan …….. $33,140,000
  • Ron Harper ………… 4,560,000
  • Toni Kukoc ………… 4,560,000
  • Dennis Rodman ……… 4,500,000 [rumored, new salary wasn’t listed]
  • Luc Longley ……….. 3,184,900
  • Scottie Pippen …….. 2,775,000
  • Bill Wennington ……. 1,800,000
  • Scott Burrell ……… 1,430,000
  • Randy Brown ……….. 1,260,000
  • Robert Parish ……… 1,150,000 [retired]
  • Jason Caffey ………. 850,920
  • Steve Kerr ………… 750,000
  • Keith Booth ……….. 597,600
  • Jud Buechler ………. 500,000
  • Joe Kleine ………… 272,250

How’s that possible you may be asking? Well, through a very obscure loophole at the time, MJ used the Knicks as leverage for the Bulls to sign Jordan to a larger contract, with the Knicks offering Jordan $12 million a year on top of a $15 million endorsement contract to be the spokesman for the Sheraton hotel chain, which was owned by the same ownership group — ITT — that owned the Knicks at the time. If the Bulls wanted to match the Knicks’ offer to keep Jordan, not only would they have to pay Jordan at least $12 million a year, but the added $15 million a year as well.

ITT owned the Sheraton hotel chain, and the plan hatched by Jordan’s agent, David Falk, was to get Jordan the Knicks’ $12 million in salary-cap money and perhaps another $15 million for being a spokesman for such ITT companies as Sheraton.

The NBA usually regards such outside arrangements as salary-cap avoidance, and any money paid in that manner counts against a team’s cap–unless it can be shown that the player’s market value as a spokesman is that high.

Because Jordan is such a huge commercial presence, his status was considered unique, and the NBA was prepared to allow the separate deal without the money counting against the Knicks’ cap.

The fact that Jordan was being paid more than the salary cap just by himself, as well as more than all of his teammates combined, goes to show you just how valuable he was to the Bulls and the NBA as a whole.