Drew Brees

Magic Johnson & Drew Brees Remind Us How Much Sports Economics Has Changed


Drew Brees cashed in today by agreeing to a five-year contract worth $100 million and indirectly proved just how much times have changed in sports.

Brees’s deal reportedly includes a $37 million signing bonus and $60 million in guaranteed money through the contract’s first three years.

This is far cry from what happened on July 13, 1981 in the National Basketball Association.

Today marks the 31st anniversary of Magic Johnson’s 25-year, $25 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, which in retrospect may seem like a deal drawn up by aliens.

Johnson led the Lakers to an NBA title in 1980 in his rookie season after putting on one of the great individual displays in league history during a series-clinching Game 6 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Despite losing in the first round of the 1981 NBA Playoffs to the 40-42 Houston Rockets and Johnson throwing up an airball late in the decisive Game 3, Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss figured it was time to decisively commit to his star with a lifetime contract.

Johnson inked the most lucrative deal in sports history and continued to build his legend as one of game’s iconic figures.

During the contract’s first year in the 1981-’82 season, Lakers head coach Paul Westhead became disenchanted with Johnson’s play. The Lakers star eventually demanded a trade as a result. However, Buss intervened and fired Westhead (LA stumbled across some guy named Pat Riley as a replacement).

Four NBA titles and eight trips to the NBA Finals later following the contract, it became clear that Buss’s gamble paid off in the long run.

At that time in sports, million dollar athletes were a rare breed.

NBA star Moses Malone and baseball’s Nolan Ryan were a part of the club. Meanwhile, the NFL didn’t have their first million dollar player until 1983.

Houston Oiler offensive lineman Bruce Matthews became the first NFL player to make $1 million in base salary after being drafted in 1983.

Nineteen years later, Brees broke the bank with a record-setting $60 million guaranteed.

We’ve come a long way since the pre-internet days of 1981 with Ric Flair winning his first world title, Sheena Easton singing about morning trains, and Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off of a dove at a record label meeting.

These days pop culture runs on the Kardashians, supermodels, bad pop music, and reality television.

While 1981 wins that battle, we have the internet and much more money to blow.

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