Walton and Malone Both Had Million Dollar Deals For 1979-80 Season

Published on July 10th, 2024 2:10 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

NBAs First Millionaires Club - Bill Walton was one of the first members. For four straight years, Kareem Adbul-Jabbar was the highest paid player in the NBA, as he made $650,000 per year for the 1974-75, 1975-76, 1976-77 and 1977-78 seasons.

After that, David Thompson of the Denver Nuggets was the highest paid player in the NBA, as he raked in $800,000 for the 1978-79 season.

In 1979-80, the NBA produced its first million dollar players, as both Moses Malone and Bill Walton made $1 million from their NBA contracts.

Moses Malone was worth every penny of his deal for the 1979-80 season.

After all, Malone had just won the MVP award the year before, as he averaged 24.8 points per game and 17.6 rebounds per game.

Malone was a franchise-changing player who was still just 23 years of age, so the Houston Rockets had to pay up to retain his services. Malone would be worth every penny, as he would win the MVP award twice more over the course of his career.

Bill Walton was dominant during his four years with the Portland Trail Blazers, as he won the MVP award once and finished in second place the year before.

After sitting out the 1978-79 season due to a foot injury, Walton signed a deal with the San Diego Clippers, becoming one of the first million dollar players in the NBA.

Walton would have significant injury issues over the rest of his career, as he would play just 102 games for the Clippers over his five-year stay with the franchise.

Walton would see some success with the Boston Celtics near the end of his career, though injuries would derail things once again.


Top players in the NBA now clear over $50 million per year, thanks to the explosion in the value of NBA TV rights.

The first million dollar contracts came during an era when drawing crowds was still an issue. The first million dollar contracts came before the era of multi-billion dollar TV deals. The first million dollar contracts came in an era before big shoe deals, big stadium naming rights deals and big sponsorship deals.

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