Charles Barkley has made a lot of news for his recent decision not to participate in the LIV Golf Tour. Barkley likely could have been paid a boatload of money, but he decided to stay with the TNT crew and continue to be an analyst for the NBA. Had Barkley left, it would have been a shame, but to some around the league, it would have been understandable had he decided to chase the money.
Compared to the stars around today’s game, Barkley was not paid like these players. Barkley’s highest salary came on his final contract, and he never once topped 10 million dollars. Given that he was once an MVP in the league, you would have expected that he would have been the league’s highest-paid player one time.
1984-85 NBA Season - $307,000 Salary
Stats: 14.0 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Barkley’s first season saw him join a veteran squad that featured Julius Erving, Moses Malone, and Maurice Cheeks. The 76ers finished 58-24 for the season but finished five games behind the Celtics for the division title. Barkley entered the league on a rookie contract that saw him perform like a top player. He made the All-Rookie First Team and the 76ers made the Conference Finals.
1985-86 NBA Season - $437,500 NBA Salary
Stats: 20.0 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 3.9 APG, 2.2 SPG, 1.6 BPG
Barkley was playing like a top-tier player but received just over $400,000 for his play. The 76ers would finish 54-28 in what would be Malone’s final season with the team. Barkley led the team in rebounds and was the second-leading scorer. He made the All-NBA Second Team and the 76ers qualified for the playoffs but were defeated in the second round in seven games.
1986-87 NBA Season - $600,000 NBA Salary (Estimated)
Stats: 23.0 PPG, 14.6 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.5 BPG
There is no official record of Barkley’s salary from this season. Barkley took another step in his development and became the face of the franchise with Malone’s departure. The team also traded away key pieces from their team and the team would regress to a 45-37 record. Barkley would shine individually by making the All-NBA Second Team. His season included recording the first triple-double of his career and he would make the All-Star team for the first of 11 straight seasons.
1987-88 NBA Season - $822,500 NBA Salary
Stats: 28.3 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.3 BPG
Barkley’s rebounding was not as high as compared in years past but it was enough to lead the league in rebounding. It was a perfect time for Barkley to have a breakout season because he was in the final season of his entry-level rookie-scale contract. Barkley made an All-NBA First Team appearance as well. However, despite his success, the 76ers failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1975.
1988-89 NBA Season - $1,536,000 NBA Salary
Stats: 25.8 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Barkley agreed to a five-year contract extension that made him a millionaire. He repaid the favor by making an All-Star and All-NBA First Team appearance for the second year in a row. He led the 76ers back to the playoffs, but the team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Knicks. That included blowing significant leads, which led to questions about how the team was effectively building around Barkley.
1989-90 NBA Season - $3,000,000 NBA Salary
Stats: 25.2 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Barkley continued to play like a top player in the league. This time, he finished second in the MVP voting. Despite finishing with the most first-place ballots, Barkley lost out on the MVP Award to Magic Johnson. It remains the only time in NBA history that a player with the most first-place ballots lost out on the MVP Award. Barkley led the 76ers to an Atlantic Division title and shot 60% from the field. Their season would end in the second round of the playoffs.
1990-91 NBA Season - $2,900,000 NBA Salary
Stats: 27.6 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.5 BPG
According to online documents, this is the first year that we can find where the NBA has an archive of players’ salaries. Barkley was the fourth-highest paid salary, trailing Patrick Ewing, Hot Rod Williams, and Hakeem Olajuwon. Barkley and Hersey Hawkins led the 76ers to a successful regular season. Barkley won the All-Star Game MVP, which included 22 rebounds, which was the most rebounds in the ASG since Wilt Chamberlain in 1967.
1991-92 NBA Season - $3,200,000 NBA Salary
Stats: 23.1 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Despite making a jump in salary, others around the league saw an increase as well, including Larry Bird’s salary going to $7 million. Barkley’s salary was ranked seventh in the league. This would be the final season for Barkley in Philadelphia. The team ended the year 37-45 and Barkley and the team’s management saw their relationship deteriorate. Ultimately, Barkley demanded a trade with one year left on his contract.
1992-93 NBA Season - $2,420,000 NBA Salary
Stats: 25.6 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.0 BPG
The Suns took a chance and traded Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang, and Tim Perry for Barkley. It was a perfect scenario for the Suns. He finished the season as the league MVP, where he led the Suns to a 62-20 record. It was the first time a player won an MVP in his first season since being traded. Barkley’s salary was also very affordable for a player that won the MVP. Barkley owned the 31st highest salary among NBA players.
1993-94 NBA Season - $3,250,000 NBA Salary
Stats: 21.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Barkley hinted that this season would be his last in the league as he battled with back pain, but he would end up playing for many more years. He played through an injury and secured his eighth straight All-Star appearance. The Suns won 56 games in the regular season but were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. Barkley somewhat rose through the ranks in the salary leaderboard but was still a cost-effective player as his salary was ranked tied for 17th.
1994-95 NBA Season - $4,030,000 NBA Salary
Stats: 23.0 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG
This would mark the first time that Barkley’s salary topped $4 million. This had him with the 14th highest salary in the league, which feels lowballed when you look at how Danny Ferry, Dale Davis, Sam Perkins, and Derrick Coleman all received more money than him. Meanwhile, Barkley was having an All-Star season that included another appearance on the All-NBA Second Team. While Detlef Schrempf was a solid player, his $5 million salary was top-5 in the league and one million more dollars than Barkley.
1995-96 NBA Season - $4,760,000 NBA Salary
Stats: 23.2 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG
It had to be difficult to look around the league and see that Patrick Ewing was making $18 million, while A. C. Green was making over $6 million. Barkley was leading the Suns in scoring, rebounding, steals, and shooting 50% from the field. Barkley had the 16th highest salary in the league as Sam Bowie, Sean Elliott, and Derrick Coleman all made more money. The Suns made the playoffs, but it was under the worst record with Barkley on the team. The team lost to the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. He was then traded to the Rockets in the offseason.
1996-97 NBA Season - $4,695,000 NBA Salary
Stats: 19.2 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.5 BPG
The Rockets took on Barkley’s contract in exchange for Sam Cassell, Robert Horry, Mark Bryant, and Chucky Brown. This would be the final year of seeing Barkley make the All-Star Game. The duo of Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon were seen as a pair that could make a run to the NBA Finals. Barkley played in 53 games due to multiple injuries. The Rockets went 57-25 and made the Conference Finals. The second-highest salary of Barkley’s career was ranked 33rrd among players in the league.
1997-98 NBA Season - $2,250,000 NBA Salary
Stats: 15.2 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Injuries began to take over as Barkley settled into his later years in his career. With Barkley in and out of the lineup, the Rockets were 41-41 for the season. The Rockets were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in what was the worst playoff performance of Barkley’s career. Barkley was no longer an All-Star either, but was capable of averaging a double-double. Still, having his salary range 147th in the league seems like a pretty low number.
1998-99 NBA Season - $1,000,000 NBA Salary
Stats: 16.1 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG
The season was cut short due to the lockout, but it was a bounce-back season for Barkley. Despite averaging 16.1 points and 12.3 rebounds, he was not selected for the All-Star Game. He has numerous achievements, such as becoming the second player in league history to amass 23,000 points, 12,000 rebounds, and 4,000 assists. The Rockets finished 31-19 and made the playoffs but were eliminated in the first round. The $1,000,000 salary was a steal for his production as his salary was ranked 260th in the league.
1999-00 NBA Season - $9,000,000 NBA Salary
Stats: 14.4 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Barkley’s final season saw him get the money he likely deserved all along. The only issue was that many other players in the league saw their salaries inflated as well, so his salary was ranked 25th among league players. It was a successful season for Barkley as he averaged a double-double, but he didn’t get to have the sunset ending. He sustained a torn left quad that forced him to retire at age 36 years old.
Career Earnings - $43,608,000 Earning (Estimated)
Career Stats: 22.1 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Barkley finished his career as a Hall of Famer for good reason. He remains one of the best players to ever win a championship. What sticks out the most is how much Barkley made during this time. The best comparison to Barkley was Karl Malone. In Malone’s career, he made an estimated $104 million. That included contracts that paid him a combined $54 million between 1999 to 2003. When you look at the production and what he gave to his teams, one could say that Barkley was vastly underpaid.