Blame Jon Koncak
If you’re looking for someone to blame for the current NBA labor issues or about half of the trades that occurred before the trade deadline, blame Jon Koncak. But if you’re an NBA player, the first words out of your kid’s mouth when they learn to speak should be “Thank you Jon Koncak.”
In 1989 the Atlanta Hawks signed Koncak to a six year, $13.1 million dollar contract. In today’s NBA, a contract like that would be considered an insult but the dollar amount was unheard of at the time; the NBA league minimum salary was just $110,000 compared to $473,000 in 2011. To put it into perspective the contract paid him more than Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird at the time.
When news of the contract came out, everyone just laughed and thought it was a joke. But when Sportscenter reported it that night, the laughs stopped and disbelief settled over the land. Koncak was coming off of his fourth NBA season, a season where he averaged just 4.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.3 bpg and played just 20.7 mpg. And it wasn’t just one bad year he was having; he had never averaged double figures in any statistical category prior to or after receiving the contract. When he was asked about it, Koncak didn’t deny the ridiculousness of it, or of the potential ramifications.
“Hey, I can’t justify what they offered me. But what was I supposed to do? Say no? The league is changing. I think maybe this is just the start.”
The reason it’s all Jon Koncak’s fault is very simple; his contract screwed up the NBA’s pay scale; if Jon Koncak was worth that much, how much were studs like Jordan and Bird worth? The owners shuddered at the thought, then over the next couple years tired to outbid each other not just for the studs, but for the mid level to average players in the league. It was the beginning of the golden era in terms of revenue for the league which led directly to non studs signing incredibly lucrative deals because the league was making a lot of money. The salary cap went from $3.6 million in 1983 when it began, to $9.8 million in 1989 the year Jon “Contract” was born. Mediocre players like Sedale Threatt and Jim Petersen got multimillion dollar deals. Studs like Dominique Wilkins got renegotiated deals ($14 million over five years) strictly because of what Koncak got and pretty soon every team in the league had to follow suit.
Fast forward to 1997; the Seattle Supersonics sign former Washington Bullet center Jim McIlvaine to an amazing seven year, $33.6 million deal. A “defensive specialist”, McIlvaine blocked over two shots per game, but averaged less than three points and three rebounds a game. Call it the “Koncak Effect” because if it weren’t for Jon Koncak, the deal would’ve never existed. McIlvaine’s contract ultimately had the same ill effects on everyone else but him, leading to the dismantling of Western Conference champs over the next two years.
Koncak opened the door, McIlvaine blew it open and from there into the present day a lot of mediocre players made A LOT of guaranteed money; Travis Knight $22 million, Bryant Reeves $61.8 million, Brian Grant $86 million, Austin Croshere $51 million, Brian Cardinal $45 million, Raef LaFrentz $70 million, Allan Houston $100 million, Jerome Williams $51 million, Howard Eisley $41 million, Eddy Curry $60 million, and that’s just the short list!
The trend has continued to the present day; with guys like Rashard Lewis ($20.5 million this year) and Michael Redd ($18.3 million this year) who are two of the top five highest paid players in the NBA barely even stepping on the floor but still getting paid in full; thanks Jon Koncak!
Now, the money isn’t rolling in like it was in the 90’s and the bubble has popped; the league simply can’t support these ridiculous contracts, hence the lockout.
So while the fans and owners may blame Jon Koncak, the players can only thank him.