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It’s all about “The Benjamins!”

Overpaid Northwest Athletes

It seems more and more that money has no boundaries in the world of sports.  Each season, there is some unrestricted / restricted free agent who sees the $$$ being flashed by potential suitors, inking his name to some astronomical contract that is far more than the worth of a small country combined.

Be it on the ice, turf or court, the yearly income of these individuals is absurd, when you think that for many of us, we pay to play the sport we love.  

In the time that it will take me to write this piece, Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez would make approximately $3500 based on his 2013 contract (his approximate take per inning pitched).

LA Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will be pulling in about $30 million for the 2013-14 season, one in which due to injury, leaves his contribution status unknown.

That means “Bean” would see a $7600 cheque in the time it takes me to type 60 words (based on 48 mins of a 82 game season).  

While “The King” and “Mamba” have proven their worth over their respective careers (based on sports dollars), there have been many players who should be indited on grand larceny, including a number of Northwest athletes.

Vin Baker - Seattle Sonics ($86.7 million / 7 years)

In a trade that saw a disgruntled Shawn Kemp leave Seattle (more on that later), Vin was brought over from Milwaukee to fill in the vacant power forward spot.  A fast rising talent, Baker saw his stock soar after posting back to back 20/10 seasons with the Bucks.

That season Baker was the second highest paid player behind only Gary Payton

That season Baker was the second highest paid player behind only Gary Payton

His first season in the Emerald City finished with an average of 19 points, 8 rebounds and $4 million, not a bad return for both the Sonics and Baker.

Year two could be defined as a wash due to injury, but the following three seasons left many scratching their heads as the Sonics were nearly throwing away money for nothing as Baker collected $9, $10.1 and $11.2 million respectively.

That season Baker was the second highest paid player behind only Gary Payton, but played like a quarter of the player he should have been.

Unfortunately the downfall of a career full of potential was heavily influenced by alcohol, leading to the demise and revolving door Baker would experience for the remainder of his NBA career.

Jim McIlvaine - Seattle Sonics ($33 million / 7 years)

Ok, let’s get this straight, your first or second best player (depending on who is voting) gets paid $3 million for the 1996-97 season, a player who posts 20 points and 12 boards the year prior and helps carry the team to the NBA Finals.

The next season the Sonics brought in Jimmy Mac and offered him a contract that put him in a tax bracket higher than Kemp (among others).

Yes Kemp had signed his own contract, but regardless it was a pimp slap to the face of the Reign Man that for all accounts a seven foot stiff who dropped a stat line of 2 points and 2 rebounds was making more chedda (there is a good chance that many of those who read this piece could post the same numbers that number 22 did).

To be fair to McIlvaine, he admitted that the contact was way over the top, but really, who would turn that kind of money down?

Let's not mention his venture into Hollywood.

Let’s not mention his venture into Hollywood.

Darius Miles – Portland Trail Blazers ($48 million / 6 years)

A poster child for those who had issues with high school players going pro right after prom, Miles was acquired by Rip City from the Cleveland Cavaliers (who had just drafted Lebron James) with hopes that a new setting would change all that was wrong with the athletic 6’9″ forward.

The problem…this would be Miles’ third team by the time he was the ripe old age of 22.  Now had it been a few years earlier, Miles would have fit perfectly with the “Jailblazers” theme that was running the court at the Rose Garden.

Numerous encounters with Coach Maurice Cheeks and front office staff, as well as his inability to provide the team with any sort of chemistry led to three years of never playing more than 63 games in a season and at most 14 points and a shade under 5 rebounds.

Not bad numbers, but certainly not worthy of the $7-9 million that he was taking home each year.  

The fact that even after he was an $18 million thorn in the Blazers pocketbook after he left to play for the Memphis Grizzlies speaks volumes about the burden that signing Miles was on the Oregon team.

Brian Bosworth - Seattle Seahawks ($11 million / 10 years)

When you think about it, an average of $1 million a year isn’t that bad in sports money, but at the time, not only was it the biggest contract in Seahawks history, but it was the most expensive rookie signing in LEAGUE history.

Imagine being paid $8 million to not come to work!

Imagine being paid $8 million to not come to work!

Playing only two seasons, the Boz had to retire in 1989 due to a shoulder injury.

While his persona left a mark on the team and the league, thanks to his trash talking, empty promises and flamboyant lifestyle, Bosworth has long been considered one of the biggest busts in NFL history.

Let’s not mention his venture into Hollywood.

Chone Figgins – Seattle Mariners ($35 million / 4 years)

Imagine being paid $8 million to not come to work!  That is right, the M’s dished out money to Chone Figgins, their supposed lock of a third baseman $8 mil to stay home.  After playing almost the entire season in 2010, Figgins saw his playing time and stats drop dramatically over the next two years.

Playing only 81 and 66 games respectively, Figgins could hardly hit the ball, averaging .184 during that period.  Arguing and picking fights with teammates, coaching staff and media led to the Atlanta native becoming one of the most despised players in Northwest sports.

Hmm, we hate you, we don’t want you, here is $8 mil to go away.  

First world problems.

Roberto Luongo – Vancouver Canucks ($64 million / 12 years)

At the time it seemed to be a decent idea…lock up one of the top goaltenders in the league and with his age, he would be retired before the duration of the contract finished out.

The problem however came back to bite the Canucks and Roberto Luongo in the arse.

When Cory Schneider stepped up during Luongo’s disappointing playoff run to snag what was defined as the starting goalie role, it was all but a given that the Canucks front office would move Luuuuuuu to another team and give him every opportunity to be the starter.

The problem was, nobody wanted to eat the ridiculous contract and therefore the Canucks had one of the most expensive backups in league history.  

The hockey world is well aware of events that have taken place with the goalie situation in Vancouver since draft day and while Luongo will at least be able to earn his keep, chances the mask of happiness that he has been wearing since June may come off sooner than later.

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About Steve Lee

Steve is a 12 year writing vet, and writes for a number of sports sites, offering a unique and abstract look at the games we love. He still hopes the Grizz + Sonics return to the Northwest, and has been a Lakers fan since "Showtime".
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  • J.D. Burke

    Luongo overpaid? With a cap hit of 5.3 mil? Yeah……. right…… no.

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