Basketball hosted one of its most exciting nights, the NBA draft. Each year, prospects from around the world wait in anticipation, hoping their hard work on the collegiate level or in semi-professional leagues will earn them one of the most coveted spots in the world’s most revered basketball league.
Year after year, new talent emerges, and the idea of who will be the NBA’s next big star enters sports chats. With all of the hype around this pivotal night, another focus is the deals and payouts draftees receive due to their newfound success.
Young superstars of today benefit from rising costs due to inflation, the advancement of endorsement deals, and the ability to leverage highlight reels and salary caps to move the needle for their large rookie contracts.
By comparison, some of the league’s best players in history commanded top-dollar salaries. For example, Ervin “Magic” Johnson signed an estimated $2.3 million contract over five years as part of his 1979 rookie contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. In 1984, the proverbial GOAT of basketball, Michael Jordan, signed a $6.3 million contract over five years with $1 million guaranteed with the Chicago Bulls.
Showing how rookie contracts evolved over time, Lebron James signed his rookie contract in 2003 for $18.8 million over four years with the Cleveland Cavaliers. And in 2009, the current NBA champion Steph Curry signed a four-year $12.7 million contract with the Golden State Warriors.
One thing is for sure: all NBA contracts are not created equal, but time shows the financial impacts of the league’s newest stars.
Top three NBA draft picks from the last four years.
Which first-round pick has made the biggest impact? 👀 pic.twitter.com/lnP8cOPtOA
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 22, 2022
Sportico released a report of this year’s top draftee’s salary numbers, but for context, let’s look at the NBA’s top picks over the last three years based on the value of their rookie contract.
Editorial Note: All contract numbers are based on research and data from Spotrac.