While admitting the escalation of salaries "boggles my mind," Jazz owner Larry H. Miller staged a press conference Tuesday afternoon to announced new multi-year agreements with star players Karl Malone and John Stockton.
Although exact terms of the contracts were not disclosed, Malone's contract is an eight-year deal worth an estimated $24 million while Stockton's is a six-year contract, and it is believed to be worth as much as $14 million.Among point guards, Stockton was previously ranked seventh in the NBA in one published report. L.A.'s Magic Johnson is tops at $3.1 million per year, and Isiah Thomas second at $2.7 million. Houston's Sleepy Floyd and Portland's Terry Porter check in at $2 million per year.
Malone is now second or third among power forwards in the league, making $3 million per season. Miller said both players are now being paid commensurate with other players of their ability.
"They have demonstrated they are among the premier players at their positions in the league," said Miller. "We're certainly not embarrassed at what we are paying them. I will go so far as to say he (Stockton) won't show up on the bargain list anymore."
Miller said the new agreements - Stockton was beginning the third year of an eight-year contract and Malone was beginning the third of a 10-year deal - were initiated by him, not by either player. He met with Malone, who has no agent, about four times, the first time being a session lasting several hours. But in the initial meeting contracts weren't even discussed.
"I left not knowing why we met," said Malone. But in subsequent interviews, Miller informed Malone he was willing to give him a raise.
Meanwhile, Miller said he talked with Stockton twice personally as well as by telephone, and also talked with his agent before the deal was struck.
"Some people think I'm not a man of my word," said Malone, "but I'm here to play basketball and I'll be here for the next eight years."
In reference to the new contract, he added, "My dream when I was drafted was that any team that I was drafted by, that was the team I would finish with."
Stockton, who was home in Spokane, Wash., issued this statement: "This contract is far beyond my wildest dreams. If you go back to when I first started playing, I could have never imagined that it would come to this. I know that I am fortunate to be playing in the league at this time.
"For me, the timing has been good, but I also feel very lucky to be playing in Utah. We have a good team with tremendous players who like to win. We also have a tremendously fair owner. Larry didn't have to do this. I was under contract, but it means a lot when the owner steps forward and wants to do this. I love to play and I appreciate the opportunity to be part of a good organization."
Miller said the only contract plans remaining are to extend those of Mike Brown and Jeff Malone, both of whom have one year remaining on their current agreements.
Asked if he will play better now that he is approximately $1.4 million per year richer, Malone said, "I have no expectations. I just go out and play. There was no pressure to produce last year and there's none now. I just go out and try to do my best."
Stockton said in a telephone interview that although he doesn't have a timetable as to when he will retire from basketball, he plans to spend the rest of his career with the Jazz. "That's the way I felt from the get-go - that I wanted to spend my career there," said Stockton. "The new contract was a boost, but not the reason I always wanted to play in Utah. There great coaches, I love my teammates, and when you have an owner like Larry, why would you want to play anywhere else?"
Miller said television money and rising attendance have caused salaries to escalate dramatically in recent years. But now that the NBA's arenas are over 90 percent sold out, the 53 percent share of revenues that players get (via the collective bargaining agreement) won't raise as rapidly in future years.
"It (salaries) boggles my mind, but I got over having any brain cells left to fry a long time ago," said Miller.
Player Team '90-91 pay
1. John Williams Cleveland $5,000,000
2. Sam Perkins LA Lakers $3,166,666
3. Karl Malone Utah $3,000,000*
4. L. Thompson Indiana $2,000,000
5. Tom Chambers Phoenix $1,975,000
Player Team 90-91 pay
1. Magic Johnson L A Lakers $3,142,860
2. Isiah Thomas Detroit $2,700,000
3. Mark Price Cleveland $2,500,000
4. John Stockton Utah $2,300,000*
5. Sleepy Floyd Houston $2,000,000