Completing the three-peat was never easy, nor was it cheap. The Chicago Bulls certainly paid the premium for winning a third straight title. Two of their star players were paid two of the top 10 highest-paid salaries for the league this season. It all was worth it as the Bulls were able to defy the odds and complete the three-peat with their 1993 championship.
As for individuals, Charles Barkley was the league MVP and was outside of the top 30 highest-paid players in the league. Barkley’s salary came in at 31st overall, which is pretty cheap for having the best player in the league on your team. It’s been 30 years since this season and the salaries have ballooned to $40 million more for the highest-paid players. Back then, a double-digit salary was scarce. If it was today’s game, many of these players would be getting a massive pay increase.
It’s time to check out the top 10 highest-paid players for the 1992-93 NBA season.
10. Patrick Ewing - $3,300,000
With a top 10 salary, Ewing managed to rank in the top 10 in multiple statistical categories. That included scoring the fifth-most points. He was just off of scoring 2,000 points for the season after he finished with 1,959 points. His 24.2 points per game average were sixth-best, as well as his 980 rebounds. Ewing did lead the league with 789 total defensive rebounds, while his 12.1 rebounds per game average were seventh in the league.
Ewing had a superb defensive season as well. His 161 total blocks were eighth and his 2.0 blocks per game were 10th. That helped Ewing lead the league in defensive win shares with 8.1, which narrowly beat out Hakeem Olajuwon’s 8.0. Ewing ranked ninth in total win shares and was 14th in player efficiency rating (PER).
9. Reggie Lewis - $3,320,000
Lewis was a key player for the Boston Celtics this season. He managed to find his way into a handful of statistical categories. Lewis averaged 20.8 points per game and scored 1,666 points. That ranked 16th and 13th respectively in the league. His best attribute from the season was his 86.7% shooting at the free throw line ranked 10th. With that said, his 39.3 minutes per game ranked seventh, proving that Lewis was an ultra-durable player.
Lewis played just six years in the league and the 1992-93 season was his last. During an off-season practice, Lewis suffered a sudden cardiac death on the basketball court, which caused him to die at 27 years old. His death was due to a structural heart defect. He averaged 20.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.0 blocks. It was the best season of his career.
8. Scottie Pippen - $3,425,000
It sounds like a broken record, but Pippen was the perfect complementary piece for the Bulls. Pippen was paid like a top-10 player because he was a top-10 player in this league. He never got the light shown on him exclusively because his teammate was one of the best. It does not take away from what Pippen did during this All-Star season.
Pippen ranked 18th in assists, 10th in blocks and seventh in steals. Pippen didn’t have to be the dominant scoring force for the team, but he still added 18.6 points per game. His 38.6 minutes per game was just off of the top 10, as well as his 4.8 defensive win shares that ranked 11th in the league.
6T. Dominique Wilkins - $3,500,000
This was a great season for the longtime Hawks All-Star. Wilkins competed with Michael Jordan for the scoring title but finished as the league runner-up with 29.9 points per game. Wilkins was one of four players to score at least 2,000 points for the season. Two of those other players in Hakeem Olajuwon and Karl Malone, who finished third and fourth above Wilkins, are not even featured in this top-10 list.
As for Wilkins, he was also one of four players to make at least 500 free throws in a season with 519. His three-point shot was also on display, as his 120 three-point field goals were eighth. Wilkins finished the year with a top-5 PER, as well as a top-5 finish in offensive win shares. Between Jordan and Wilkins, they were the only two players in the league to be used more than 30% of the time.
6T. Kevin McHale - $3,500,000
For McHale, this was a contract that was given to a player for his efforts in prior years. McHale was playing out his final year in the league. He had spent many seasons during the 80s helping the Celtics make a run to the NBA Finals. This contract was not meant to be given to a top player in the league as he was entering the later stages of his life.
McHale wasn’t a wasted contract at least. He played in 71 games and averaged 10.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 0.8 blocks. These were all down from his career average of 17.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.7 blocks. With that said, the Celtics won multiple championships with McHale serving as a key piece. Sometimes, it’s just all about business.
5. Robert Parish - $3,415,000
With no disrespect to McHale or Parish, it comes as a surprise that the Celtics were as successful as they were. Given that two of these longtime players were in the later stages of their careers, you would not expect the team to be as competitive. Instead, it was quite the opposite. The Celtics won 48 games and had the fourth-most wins in the conference.
Despite being older, Parish kept his name among those playing at their best. Parish had 740 rebounds, which was 19th in the league. His 9.4 rebounds just made the top. Parish finished 19th in blocks as well with 107. His best stat from the season was shooting 53.5% from the field to finish 12th.
4. Vlade Divac - $3,633,000
This might have been a stretch for the Lakers. The team was paying the fourth-highest salary for a player that barely made his way into the top categories. Divac finished with the 20th most total rebounds and was not even in the top 20 for rebounds per game. If you believe defense is worth a top salary, then Divac produced. His 1.7 blocks per game were 16th in the league, while his 140 total blocks were 13th.
Even with that, Divac was barely an upper-tier defensive player. His 4.1 defensive win shares just cracked the top 20. For the season, Divac averaged 12.8 points and shot 48.5%. The Lakers were average as a whole and finished the year 39-43. All in all, the production was not worth the total cost.
3. Hot Rod Williams - $3,786,000
Speaking of defense at a premium, Hot Rod Williams owned the third-best contract in the league this season and his main contribution was his shot-blocking. Williams finished with 105 total blocks and was 20th, while his 1.6 blocks per game were 19th. All in all, it wasn’t the return you would have expected if you were the Cavaliers.
For the season, Williams averaged 11.0 points, and 6.2 rebounds, and shot 47.0% from the field. The Cavaliers played well, which overshadowed the cost. The team finished with 57 wins, which was the second-most win in the conference. That included an exceptional 35-6 record at home.
2. Michael Jordan - $4,000,000
With the second-highest contract, Jordan played like an MVP candidate. By the end of the year, that is all he was. Jordan missed out on winning the MVP Award after Charles Barkley claimed the prize. Jordan led the league in total points (2,541) and won the scoring title with 32.6 points per game. Jordan also led the league in total steals (221) and steals per game at 2.8.
Jordan also led other categories as well, which included made field goals, field goal attempts, two-point field goals, and two-point field goal attempts. He missed a league-leading 1,011 shots but led the league in win shares, offensive win shares, PER, box plus/minus, and offensive box plus/minus. The Bulls ended the season with the 1993 championship, where Jordan won his third straight Finals MVP Award.
1. David Robinson - $5,720,000
Did Robinson deserve to be the highest-paid player in the league? One could make a valiant argument that his resume was solid enough to earn that title. Did he deserve $1.7 million more than Michael Jordan, who was leading the league in scoring titles and coming off of back-to-back championships? That is a tad questionable; however, Robinson had a successful season to back up his strong contract.
Robinson finished with the seventh-most points and rebounds. His 23.4 points per game were ninth in the league, as well as his 11.7 rebounds per game. Robinson was strong in the middle where he was fifth in total blocks, as well as 3.2 blocks per game. Robinson made the second-most free throws with 561 too. As far as advanced stats, he was 13th in offensive win shares, sixth in PER, fifth in win shares, and third in defensive win shares. The Spurs had plenty of production in return for the money they gave out.
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