Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen is widely considered as one of the most underrated stars ever. During The Last Dance documentary, we all realized one of the reasons behind the scenes: he was extremely underpaid during his time in Chicago.
So much so, that tensions brought about by contract negotiations between Pippen and the team’s front office towards the end of his time with the Bulls became so bad that it turned out to be one of the biggest reasons behind the demise of the Bulls dynasty. This predicated was excellently laid out during The Last Dance‘s second episode. We also recently published a more detailed analysis of how Pippen’s contract disputes with Chicago came about here, so be sure to give that a read as well.
However, what we’d like to look at today is exactly how much Pippen earned throughout his entire NBA career. It’s a known fact that the Bulls did not pay him enough money in his prime, but in truth, the six-time champ was actually a well-compensated star when you look at the big picture.
For starters, Pippen signed his first deal with the Bulls as a rookie in 1987. The 6-foot-8 swingman was selected fifth overall in the draft by the Seattle SuperSonics, but was quickly traded to Chicago on draft day. Not long after, Pippen penned a $5 million deal for six years. At that time, rookie deals usually lasted for no more than four years, so in that sense, Pippen’s deal was already unique on the onset.
By the 1989-90 season, in just his third year in the league, Pippen was named to his first All-Star game. It was clear that he had a bright future ahead, so the following year, both Pip and the Bulls knew that it was time to renegotiate a new deal. This came to the tune of $18 million for five years. Interestingly, though, the new contract stipulated that the five years would only start once his rookie deal had ended. Given that his initial contract still had two years to run out, this new deal actually meant that he was going to be with Chicago for another seven seasons.
This is where it gets interesting. At the time that Pippen put pen to paper on the $18 million deal in 1991, he was one of the most well-paid players in the league. However, seven years on, a significant increase in the league salary cap coupled with inflation made him an extremely underpaid star by the time the 1997-98 season rolled in.
At that time, with the Bulls gunning for their sixth title in seven years, Pippen was earned only $2.8 million for the season — ranked 122nd in the entire league. For good reason, Pippen wanted to be paid an amount hat was commensurate to his status, and given how the Bulls were unwilling to budge, he decided to part ways with the team soon after the Bulls had won their sixth and final title in 1998. Incidentally, this also coincided with Michael Jordan’s second retirement, as well as head coach Phil Jackson’s exit.
Scottie Pippen finally got paid. He signed a massive $67.2 million deal in the summer of 1998 as part of a sign-and-trade deal between the Bulls and the Houston Rockets. He ended up playing in just one season with the Rockets, though, with the team opting to trade him to the Portland Trailblazers by the end of the 1998-99 campaign.
Pippen would see out the remainder of his deal with the Blazers, where he averaged 11.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 0.8 triples per game. During this span, he earned roughly $16.6 million per season for four years. Not bad at all, right?
At the end of Pippen’s career, he ended up patching things up with the Bulls. Once he became a free agent in 2003, he agreed to a $10 million, two-year deal with the Bulls to end his career in Chicago. He played in just one season, though, retiring at the conclusion of the 2003-04 campaign at the age of 38. Obviously, he still pocketed the remainder of his $10 million despite not being able to play in the second year of the deal.
According to spotrac, Scottie Pippen earned a whopping $110 million in salaries throughout his 17-year career. Interestingly, however, he earned around 70% of that in five years, during his brief stints in Houston and Portland. Note that these earnings do not include his income from endorsement deals, which surely earned him quite a lot as well. All in all, Pippen did pretty well for himself.