In the 1997-98 season, the NBA salary cap was roughly $27 million dollars. No player on the Bulls made over $5 million that season, except for Michael Jordan, who earned just north of $33 million.
So, how did Jordan's individual salary surpass the entire salary cap in consecutive seasons, dating back to 1996-97? Talent, of course, and timing.
Like now, teams were allowed to exceed the salary cap to sign their own players. Unlike now, there were no max contracts or a luxury tax in the collective bargaining agreement.
Jordan was a free agent after a 1995-96 season in which he made $3.8 million in the last season of a long-term deal. Jordan then signed a one-year contract for $30.1 million in 1996-97, when the salary cap stood at $24.3 million. And Jordan signed a one-year deal for $33.1 million in 1997-98 when the salary cap stood at $26.9 million.
Jordan's $33.1 million deal was worth more than the average team payroll at the time and represented the highest single-season salary in league history all the way until 2017-18, when LeBron James and Stephen Curry each surpassed it.
The Bulls' team payroll of $61.3 million for the 1997-98 season was the league's largest by $7.4 million over the second-place Knicks.
It was also $32.8 million more than the Utah Jazz's team payroll, the Bulls' eventual counterpart in the 1998 NBA Finals.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.