Paper Reveals Salaries of NBA Players; Magic, Moses Tops, Then Bird

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Associated Press

Six-figure salaries are the norm in the National Basketball Assn., but the paychecks of individuals do not necessarily reflect contributions this season, a Detroit newspaper reported Sunday.

Salaries for the current season range from the $60,000 paid Denver Nuggets guard Mike Evans to the $2.5 million paid Los Angeles Lakers guard Magic Johnson, the Detroit Free Press said.

The newspaper said it obtained a list of salaries supplied twice yearly to each team by the NBA Players’ Assn. The list included all players whose contracts were in force at the end of the 1983-84 season.


The newspaper said it supplemented the list by independently verifying salaries of some rookies and players who renegotiated their contracts before the current season. Not all rookies or players with renegotiated contracts were included on the list.

Eleven players are paid more than $1 million per year, the Free Press said. Two of them, Johnson and Philadelphia’s Moses Malone ($2.125 million), are paid more than $2 million.

The others with seven-figure salaries were Boston’s Larry Bird ($1.8 million), the Lakers’ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ($1.5 million), the Los Angeles Clippers’ Bill Walton ($1.35 million), Houston’s Ralph Sampson ($1.3 million), the Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak ($1.15 million), Seattle’s Jack Sikma ($1.1 million), New Jersey’s Otis Birdsong ($1.075 million), Philadelphia’s Julius Erving ($1.05 million) and Boston’s Kevin McHale ($1 million).

NBA salaries were not necessarily linked to players’ output this season, the newspaper noted.

As of Dec. 30, the Lakers’ Johnson led in assists; Malone was the top rebounder; and Bird had the highest three-point field goal percentage.

New York’s Bernard King ($874,000) led the league in scoring; Phoenix’s Alvan Adams ($500,000) had the highest free-throw percentage; New Jersey’s Michael Ray Richardson ($427,000) had the most steals; and the Clippers’ James Donaldson ($427,000) had the top field goal percentage.


But other league leaders are paid much less, including Utah’s Mark Eaton ($133,000), who led the NBA in blocked shots, the newspaper said.

Conversely, some highly-paid players have contributed little this season. The Lakers’ Jamaal Wilkes ($860,000) rides the bench behind journeyman Larry Spriggs ($90,000). The Lakers’ Kupchak averaged just 3.8 points per game.

New York’s Bill Cartwright ($600,000) and Marvin Webster ($450,000) and Phoenix’s Walter Davis ($670,000) were sidelined by injuries.

Other less-productive players were spurned last summer by the free-agent market and found themselves struggling to return to form with their original teams, the Free Press said. Among them were Detroit’s John Long ($330,000), who averaged just 10 points per game in 1984 after returning to the club from a lengthy holdout, and Chicago’s David Greenwood ($550,000), who averaged only four points per game, the newspaper said.

While most NBA rookies were at the bottom of this season’s salary list, some highly-heralded ones were not. The latter group included Houston’s Akeem Olajuwon ($780,000), Portland’s Sam Bowie ($600,000), Chicago’s Michael Jordan ($550,000) and Dallas’ Sam Perkins ($500,000).


The following is a list of the NBA’s highest-paid players, by position. Unless otherwise noted, the salaries for a season come from a list distributed to the teams by the NBA Players’ Assn., and obtained by the Detroit Free Press. The newspaper said the other salaries were independently verified.



Larry Bird (Boston) $1,800,000 Ralph Sampson (Houston) $1,300,000 Mitch Kupchak (Lakers) $1,150,000 Julius Erving (Philadelphia) $1,050,000 Kevin McHale (Boston) $1,000,000 Bob McAdoo (Lakers) $923,000 Marques Johnson (Clippers) $900,000 Bernard King (New York) $874,000 Jamaal Wilkes (Lakers) $860,000 Cedric Maxwell (Boston) $830,000


Moses Malone (Philadelphia) $2,120,000 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lakers) $1,530,000 Bill Walton (Clippers) $1,350,000 Jack Simka (Seattle) $1,140,000 Pat Cummings (New York) $800,000 Akeem Olajuwon (Houston) $780,000 Darryl Dawkins (New Jersey) $768,000 Robert Parish (Boston) $700,000 Tree Rollins (Atlanta) $678,000 Dave Corzine (Chicago) $660,000


Magic Johnson (Lakers) $2,500,000 Otis Birdsong (New Jersey) $1,070,000 Sidney Moncrief (Milwaukee) $884,000 George Gervin (San Antonio) $831,000 Isiah Thomas (Detroit) $750,000 Gus Williams (Washington) $730,000 Larry Drew (Kansas City) $700,000 World B. Free (Cleveland) $675,000 Walter Davis (Phoenix) $670,000 Vinnie Johnson (Detroit) $625,000

NOTE: The salaries of Olajuwon and Johnson were not part of list distributed by the NBA Players’ Assn., but determined independently by the Detroit Free Press.