Shaq Talks Magic’s “Worst” Contract

September 11, 2023

We talk a lot about “best of” stuff here on the ShaqFu Radio blog. Greatest players, best lineups of all time, etc, etc. Now the big man is out with what he considers the biggest “low-light” (not “highlight,” get it…?) of professional hoops, at least money-wise.

With a recent post on the ‘Gram, O’Neal had a hot take on something that happened more than 40 years ago. The subject? The contract Los Angeles Lakers superstar Magic Johnson signed with the team, years ago. 

At the time, Magic signed off on a 25-year contract extension. Wow… a quarter century contract! Needless to say, that’s kinda, sorta unheard-of in the modern world of sports. Not just the NBA, but all sports. Some NFL star quarterbacks are signed up for long-term contracts, and it’s usually with big (really big!) salary numbers. 

Shaq minced no words in offering some heavy criticism of the Lakers decision to offer Johnson such a long-term extension, saying “How was that even legal?” Shaq called the deal the “worst ever in NBA history.”

For those that know their NBA history, you know that Magic spent his entire 13-year career with the Lakers. In that time, he earned a total of around $40 million. Of course that’s nothing in today’s NBA. For example, last year Lakers star LeBron James earned about $41 million dollars in a single year… and LeBron is only the 5th-highest paid player in the league. 

So yes, it was a lot of money back in the 1980’s, but a very small amount in today’s terms. For example, Shaq himself had a seven-year, $120 million deal with the Lakers back in 1996, which means he earned around $17 million per year between 1996 and 2004.

Johnson earned between $1 and $3 million per year during his time in Los Angeles, but in 1981 would sign an unheard-of long-term contract with the Lakers. Terms of the deal would run from 1984 through 2009. Button-line, total amount: $25 million. Yup, just $1 million per year. At the time it was – and still is – the longest contract extension in NBA history.

On the Jimmy Kimmel late-night talk show a while back, Magic talked about the deal, saying, “I have to be paid what the other top players are being paid. If I’m paid like they are, I’ll be happy and everything will be fine. I don’t want to renegotiate now; all I want to do is win the championship. But I do want to be paid what I think I deserve.”

Watch the Kimmel interview – click here. 

Again, Magic with Kimmel: “It was great because, you know, I grew up poor my whole life. So to get a million dollars a year was outstanding but it changed the dynamic of the team. They thought that now, I was part of management instead of being just a Laker player.”

With the Lakers, Magic Johnson won the NBA championship five times. He was the NBA Finals MVP three times and the NBA MVP three times as well. He’s still a major player, management-wise, in the Lakers organization. In the late 2010s, he became president of basketball operations for the team. 

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