Michael Jordan is going to be a central focus in every episode of ESPN's The Last Documentary detailing the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s, but Scottie Pippen was a major storyline in the second installment April 19.
Sunday figures to be Dennis Rodman's turn.
The Hall of Famer is widely known for his eccentric personality, different hair colors and off-court headlines, but he was a game-changer on the court as well. He started as part of the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons, who rivaled Jordan's Bulls with physical play and provided a natural foil for him to overcome before ascending to his position as the GOAT.
It was not until Chicago finally dispatched the Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals that Jordan won the first of what would become six championships.
Rodman eventually went from rival to teammate and was a defensive enforcer who was comfortable playing his role while Jordan and Pippen generated much of the offense. He played three seasons in Chicago and averaged 5.2 points and 15.3 rebounds per game.
While he was not paid in line with the NBA stars of today's game, Rodman did make more than Pippen in two of his three seasons with the Bulls. Pippen's contract paid him $2.9 million in 1995-96, $2.25 million in 1996-97 and $2.8 million in 1997-98, while Rodman's per-season salary throughout his career is below, per Spotrac:
- 1987-88 (Detroit Pistons): $160,000
- 1988-89 (Detroit Pistons): $550,000
- 1990-91 (Detroit Pistons): $880,000
- 1991-92 (Detroit Pistons): $1.075 million
- 1992-93 (Detroit Pistons): $2.35 million
- 1993-94 (San Antonio Spurs): $2.45 million
- 1994-95 (San Antonio Spurs): $2.5 million
- 1995-96 (Chicago Bulls): $2.5 million
- 1996-97 (Chicago Bulls): $9 million
- 1997-98 (Chicago Bulls): $4.6 million
- 1998-99 (Los Angeles Lakers): $1 million
- 1999-2000 (Dallas Mavericks): $441,176
(Rodman's 1989-90 salary on the Detroit Pistons is unavailable.)
The tension surrounding Pippen's contract heading into the 1997-98 campaign was a key feature of the documentary's second episode last Sunday. He put off surgery so he didn't miss his summer and ended up missing a significant portion of the season, demanded a trade and was quite public about his disdain for general manager Jerry Krause.
Despite Pippen's status as a Hall of Fame player who was a seven-time All-NBA selection, 10-time All-Defensive selection and seven-time All-Star during his career, he was the sixth-highest-paid player on the Bulls and 122nd-highest-paid player in the league at the time.
As for Rodman, he made just north of $27.5 million in career salary, not including 1989-90.
According to Spotrac, 26 players are making more than that in salary in the 2019-20 season alone, including Stephen Curry at a league-high $40.2 million. The difference underscores how much inflation and television contracts have impacted player pay, although Jordan's contract that paid him more than $30 million in each of his final two seasons with the Bulls was something of a tipping point.
Rodman more than earned his money as a Hall of Fame player with a resume that included five championships (three on the Bulls and two on the Pistons), two Defensive Player of the Year Awards, eight All-Defensive selections, two All-NBA selections and two All-Star nods.
He also led the league in rebounding seven different times, including all three seasons he suited up for the Bulls.