Imagine it: the year is 1984, and between the bright neon color tracksuits and massive brick cell phones, Prince had the number one song on the charts with “Doves Cry.”
And while this seems like a wild time, it was all in line with the eccentric characteristics of the era. Technology was evolving, perspectives were shifting, and money was being made.
The year 1984 was also the start of a 25-year contract for NBA legend Magic Johnson.
According to a digitized version of a 1981 article from The New York Times, Magic Johnson signed a $25 million contract. The deal would pay out $1 million per year starting in 1984 and spanning until 2009.
At the time of the deal, Johnson was making $500,000 per season. However, the Times reported that at the signing of the 1984 contract, the former NBA superstar became only the third $1 million-per-year player in the league, joining the ranks of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Moses Malone.
The contract foretells Johnson’s future as the team’s former owner, Jerry Buss, indicated that it was unclear how long Magic Johnson would be an active player. Moreover, he would transition into a management role with the team.
“He may even be my coach,'” Buss said to The New York Times in a previous article. “Or a general manager. Or maybe he’ll run the team, and I’ll just sit back and watch. Magic is a bright kid, and I plan to make him my protege, teach him the business aspect of sports. I realize this is a very unusual contract because we’re talking about a kid whose college class just graduated. But what it comes down to is that Magic is part of the family.”
Johnson would become the coach of the LA Lakers for a brief period in 1994. He would return to the franchise in 2017 as the President of Basketball Operations, according to the NBA, before abruptly stepping down in 2019.
While Johnson’s commitment to the Lakers franchise seemed to work for all involved, the 1984 contract allegedly paid homage to the legend he would undoubtedly become.
“I know that $1 million a year past basketball sounds exorbitant. But consider this: 14 years from now, the average secretary – not good ones, mind you, but average ones – will be making $60,000 a year. So Magic’s services, as coach or GM or whichever direction we mutually choose to take, are worth $1 million a year to me,” Buss explained at the time, according to the outlet.