Michael Jordan had a sensational season. He led the league in points, win shares, and averaged 30.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists during the season. The world of professional sports is a wild one sometimes. Despite being named the MVP of the season, Jordan was not one of the top 10 highest-paid players for the season. He was actually nowhere close, ranked 32nd with his $3.85 million salary.
Other great players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Alonzo Mourning, and Mitch Richmond did not make the cut either and these players were featured in the top-10 of the scoring race. The player that won the scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, and blocks titles were not paid like top players. When looking back at these contracts, these players needed to thank their agents because the output did not meet the value of how much they were getting paid.
Check out the list from 35th to 11th highest-paid players in the 1995-96 NBA season, according to HoopsHype.
35. Vin Baker $3,765,000
34. Glenn Robinson $3,770,000
33. Chris Dudley $3,800,000
32. Michael Jordan $3,850,000
31. Kenny Anderson $3,898,000
30. Christian Laettner $3,910,000
29. Sam Perkins $3,967,000
28. Benoit Benjamin $3,975,000
26. Grant Hill $4,050,000
26. Dale Davis $4,050,000
25. John Williams $4,151,000
24. Brian Shaw $4,250,000
23. Larry Johnson $4,295,000
22. Shawn Bradley $4,320,000
20. Tom Gugliotta $4,500,000
20. Clarence Weatherspoon $4,500,000
19. Alonzo Mourning $4,560,000
18. Danny Ferry $4,643,000
16. Charles Barkley $4,760,000
15. Sam Bowie $4,800,000
14. Detlef Schrempf $5,000,000
13. James Worthy $5,150,000
12. Anfernee Hardaway $5,230,000
11. Hakeem Olajuwon $5,305,000
Now it's time to check who are the top 10 highest-paid players for the 1995-96 NBA season.
10. Sean Elliott - $5.33 Million
Breaking into the top-10 was the high-volume scoring artist with the San Antonio Spurs. Elliott broke into the top 20 by finishing 20th in the scoring race with 20.0 points per game. His outside shooting is what helped get him there. He finished with 161 made three-point field goals, which was 12th in the league. For the season, these were the only two stat categories where Elliott had his name pop up.
Elliott was a key piece of the offensive core, but he was one of two players of the Spurs that finished in the top-10 for salary. With that said, the Spurs owned the second-best record as a team with 59 wins but were unable to make the NBA Finals.
9. Derrick Coleman - $5.47 Million
This was not the type of season you wanted from a top salary in the league. Coleman did not make an appearance on any of the stat leaderboards because he hardly played. He played 11 games and was lost for the season due to injury. Coleman averaged 11.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and shot 40.7% from the field when he played.
The 76ers got a better season from Coleman the following year when he averaged 18.1 points and 10.1 rebounds. The loss of Coleman was one of the reasons the 76ers were so horrendous this season. The team finished last in the conference standings with 18 wins, but it led to the eventual draft selection of Allen Iverson.
8. Shaquille O’Neal - $5.70 Million
We finally got to a contract that did meet the market value at price. O’Neal gave the Orlando Magic a great season by averaging 26.6 points per game, finishing third in the scoring race. He nearly finished as the league runner-up but was 0.3 points per game short of Hakeem Olajuwon. O’Neal also cracked the top-3 in field-goal percentage with 57.3%, while he was ninth in the league with 2.1 blocks per game.
O’Neal finished with the third-highest player efficiency rating and finished second among all players in usage rate. O’Neal was used 32.8% of the time on offense and was still one of the best players in the league. For $5.7 million, the Magic got the best they could get in what would be O’Neal’s final season with the team.
7. A.C. Green - $6.47 Million
Sometimes, you just have to live with the consequences of a bad contract. Green was one of seven players in the entire NBA that made over $6 million for the season. While it was great that Green played in all 82 games, the stat line was not what you would have wanted from a top-paid player.
Green averaged 7.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 25.8 minutes per game for the Phoenix Suns. This was not the return you would have hoped for in a top-paid player. The Suns were also an average team this season by going 41-4 but made the playoffs as the No. 7 seed.
6. Danny Manning - $6.83 Million
Like Green, Manning was a non-factor in the leaderboards. He had a productive season, but not one that would be considered superstar status. Manning averaged 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.7 blocks. Manning also shot 45.9% from the field, but this was all in 33 games.
The Suns had two of the top-7 paid players in the league but got a .500 record in return. On top of that, they had an injured player that played less than half of the season. This is an example of a poor investment, but that happens all of the time in sports. For this season, the Suns were the main victims.
5. Joe Dumars - $6.88 Million
By this time, Dumars was in the latter stages of his career. For this contract, fans might have been more understanding. Dumars was a former Finals MVP that helped the Pistons rise to stardom. That included winning back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990. For those efforts, sometimes older veterans are rewarded for their efforts with contracts that pay salaries into their later years.
For Dumars, he averaged 11.8 points and 4.0 assists in 67 appearances, while shooting 40.6% from three-point range. For a top-5 paid player, you would expect a little bit more than a top shooting guard. With that said, his percentage was not in the top-20 for three-point field goal shooting.
4. Chris Webber - $7.00 Million
Webber was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1993 NBA Draft, so he was still playing on the rookie-scale contract that paid him like a top-tier player. Webber was one of four players that were paid over $7 million. The Wizards were not able to get much back on their investment as Webber played in just 15 games during the season.
In those games, Webber averaged 23.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.8 steals. Webber had a successful season the following year, so the Wizards had to just bite the bullet on this one. This was a sunk cost for Washington this season, but his overall tenure with the Wizards was not.
3. David Robinson - $7.70 Million
Robinson was the third highest-paid player in the league and he made his investment count. Robinson scored the third-highest points in the league and was fifth in the scoring race. He nearly won the rebounding title but led the league in total rebounds. He was the only player that included beaten-out rebounding winner Dennis Rodman, with 1,000 rebounds on the season. Robinson won the defensive rebounding title while finishing third in offensive rebounds.
Robinson had a great defensive season as well finishing third in total blocks and blocks per game. His 51.6% shooting from the field made the top-20, while he led the league in made free throws and free throw attempts. Altogether, Robinson finished with the highest player efficiency rating and finished second to Jordan in offensive win shares and total win shares, while winning the crown for defensive win shares.
2. Clyde Drexler - $9.81 Million
Drexler was coming off a season where he helped the Houston Rockets win an NBA championship. He was also coming off a big contract that he signed with the Portland Trail Blazers. With Portland, Drexler was one of the top guards in the league. When he came over to Houston, he assumed a different role, one that did not require him to be the top man on the team since Hakeem Olajuwon led the Rockets.
Drexler averaged 19.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.0 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game. He played 52 games and averaged 38.4 minutes per game. Drexler might have been slightly overpaid, especially since the best player on the team was nowhere near this salary. With that said, Drexler earned this contract while playing like an All-Star earlier in his career.
1. Patrick Ewing - $18.72 Million
The highest-paid player for the season was the man in the middle in New York. Ewing not only led the league in salary, but he doubled the runner-up Drexler’s salary. Ewing was paid like he was the best player in the league. Then again, when you play in a market as big as New York, sometimes there is extra money to throw around. Also, Ewing did not have a bad season either, but for $18 million in this period, you would have expected Jordan’s numbers.
Jordan led his team to 72 wins, which was an NBA record. Ewing led the Knicks to 47 wins and the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. Ewing was ninth in total points and points per game. That included finishing seventh in the rebounding race, while he was third in defensive rebounds. He was also seventh in blocks per game. Defensively, he finished with the third-best defensive win share count and had the fourth-highest usage rate on offense. With that said, while his usage rate was high, he was 17th in player efficiency rating. You could make a good argument that there were other players on this list that deserved this high salary.