Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

When Will Sports Salary Escallation End?

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

When Will Sports Salary Escallation End?

Article excerpt

What's this? Michael Jordan wants $18 million a year?

Absurd!

Yeah, with super unleaded at $1.63 and headed for the deuce, it hurts when he fills up his fleet of cars. But the guy has made $170 million in the 1990s. So, what's he going to do with another measly $9 million after taxes?

When I say his demand for a raise is absurd, I mean absurdly low. That's right. Low. Shaquille O'Neal likely will get $20 million or more on his next contract. And he's not the greatest basketball player ever. He's not the greatest anything ever, dunker, rapper, or what have you.

Writer Randall Lane of Forbes magazine compiles an annual list of what athletes earn. Of Jordan's $169.9 million from 1990 to `95, only $16.7 million was in basketball salary. The rest, Forbes determined, came in endorsements.

Based on these findings, Jordan is selling out low. He ought to ask a minimum of $25 million a year. Heck, go for $50 million. During the past decade, think of how much the Bulls have made off him in tickets, luxury boxes, marketing and all the other revenue streams that required a new building, the United Center, to exploit.

It is Jordan's great good fortune -- literally -- to be at the peak of his earnings potential in the waning years of the 20th century. Until the 1980s, athletes really didn't cash in. For the most part, the century's best-known and most influential stars were grossly underpaid and undermarketed.

Babe Ruth. Muhammad Ali. Jackie Robinson. Jim Thorpe. Jesse Owens. Jack Dempsey. Red Grange. Carl Lewis. Wilt Chamberlain. Names like these belong on any list of the century's most talented and dominant jocks. Many of them made good money for their time.

But that's a heck of a qualifier, because there were no Nike shoe deals to enrich most of those guys.

In his prime, Ruth's top salary was $80,000. He got off a one- liner about making more than the president because he had a better year than the president.

These days, as the Forbes' man says, the NBA minimum is in line with what the president draws. …

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