It’s not uncommon in the NBA these days to see someone sign a $ 100 million deal. Some of the best players in the league are earning that figure in just a few years. In 2019 alone, 18 contracts worth $ 100 million or more were signed.
But at some point, signing such an important deal was certainly not commonplace. Some of the best NBA players in history have never signed a $ 100 million deal. But as the league continued to grow in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, salaries grew along with it. So who was the first player to sign that record deal? Michael Jordan? No. Shaquille O’Neal? No.
Chances are it’s safe to say that not too many people would guess the answer even if you gave them multiple tries, so we’ll go ahead and give you the answer. At our best 30 by 30 voice: What if we told you that Juwan Howard was the first player in NBA history to sign a $ 100 million deal?
Juwan Howard’s career with the Michigan “Fab Five”
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Before Juwan Howard signed a big NBA contract, he was a member of the most famous recruiting class in college basketball history. Of course, we’re talking about the Michigan Wolverines Fab Five which included Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson.
While Howard rarely received the most attention, he was a key element in leading the Wolverines to two consecutive games for the NCAA title. And even after Webber left for the pros after his sophomore year, Howard and Rose still took Michigan to the Elite Eight in their junior season, earning regional MVP honors even after losing to the eventual champion of the ‘ Arkansas.
In three years at Michigan, Juwan Howard has played 100 games, averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds.
Juwan Howard was the first NBA player in history to sign a $ 100 million contract
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Juwan Howard was picked up with the fifth overall pick in the 1994 NBA draft by the Washington Bullets, who did not become the Wizards until Howard’s fourth year in the league. He had a great rookie season, averaging 17 points per game, and was even better in the second year, increasing his score to what would have been a maximum of 22.1 points per game, which earned him the only All-Star selection of his career, also earning the honors of the NBA’s third team.
Due to a safeguard clause in his contract, Howard became a free agent after his second year in the NBA. Washington offered him a deal worth $ 89 million, but the Miami Heat overcame them and signed him a seven-year / $ 100 million deal, making him the first player in history to sign a $ 100 million deal (yes , his came before Alonzo Mourning). However, Miami had miscalculated the money they had available under the salary cap, at least according to the NBA, and the deal was canceled, leading to a nasty legal battle that the Heat eventually lost.
Knowing they had to up the ante, Washington signed a seven-year / $ 105 million deal with Juwan Howard. Howard would eventually end up in Miami towards the end of his career, signing in South Beach in 2010 for the veteran minimum. He became the only member of the Fab Five to win an NBA championship, coming off the bench for LeBron James’ first title with the Heat in 2012. He also earned a ring the following season, serving as both a player and assistant manager, which led to his next career.
As a player, Juwan Howard played 1,208 games for a total of eight teams over the course of 19 seasons, averaging 13.4 points and 6.1 rebounds.
He became a very successful coach
With his playing days behind him, Juwan Howard went straight to his coaching career. He announced his retirement from Miami as a player in 2013 and remained with the team as a full-time assistant manager, a role he held until 2019.
His name was constantly raised as NBA head coach positions became available and he interviewed for several jobs, including the Lakers job that ultimately went to Frank Vogel. But do not worry. Juwan Howard’s basketball life returned to square one when he accepted the position of head coach at none other than the University of Michigan ahead of the 2019-2020 season. He led the Wolverines to some huge wins earlier in the year and was 19-12 in his first season at Ann Arbor before college basketball season was over.
First 100 million dollar man. First and only member of the Fab Five to win an NBA title. Perhaps Juwan Howard may be the first member of the Fab Five to even win that elusive NCAA title.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference