Pistons, Bulls and Rockets: NBA Championship-Caliber Contracts 1990-94

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NBA (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images)

The NBA Finals come down to championship-caliber contracts. These are the players who well outplayed their salary for the NBA champions from 1990 to 1994.

The NBA’s introduction of a salary-cap in the 1984-85 season would forever alter the trajectory of the league. Tied to league-wide revenue, the salary cap has seen steady growth as the NBA has grown into one of the largest sports leagues in the world. While the cap can be exceeded to a degree through exceptions, the salary cap places a limit on how much teams can spend and players can earn. One of the most consequential ramifications is that a player’s contract is now almost as important as their production.

Since 1985 every NBA Champion has had a championship-caliber contract or contracts. These contracts, so unrepresentative of a player’s production, are how championship teams balance the books, win games and build dynasties. NBA superstars receive most of the glory as they lift the Larry O’Brien trophy but their and the team’s success is many times owed to a less-heralded player making far less than they deserve.

1990 to 1994

The 90s started with a championship repeat for the Detroit Pistons. Their time at the top would be ended by one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history. The Chicago Bulls won three consecutive championships behind Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Horace Grant. The Bulls’ run at the top ended abruptly when Michael Jordan decided to step away from basketball in pursuit of a professional baseball career. The Houston Rockets, behind Hakeem Olajuwon, capitalized by winning the franchise’s first championship in 1994. As it was in the 80s, title teams don’t just have stars, they have Championship-caliber contracts.

What makes a championship-caliber contract?

Methodology: Each player’s salary will be represented as a percentage of the salary cap with smaller percentages being better. The player’s value to his team will be their regular season and playoff Win Shares combined. Each Win Share, on average, costs 2.4 percent of the salary cap. Why? An average team will win 41 games or be expected to have 41 Win Shares and an average team will be at the salary cap or 100 percent of the salary cap. Meaning a Win Share should cost 1/41st of the salary cap. Finally, the player’s contract will be subtracted from their value to show their surplus-value. Multiple players are eligible for every championship team.

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