Saturday , Jun , 30 , 2007 Oly Sandor

Buyer Beware: The Worst Free Agent Contracts In NBA History

Free agency is nearly upon on us … Fans are waiting to see what their favorite players and teams will do … But is free agency all it’s cracked up to be? … Signings can backfire, decimating franchises for decades … Don’t believe me? … Check out some of the worst free agent contracts in NBA history …

When the clock hits midnight on June 30th, NBA GMs and agents will engage in hi-stakes poker, negotiating multi-million dollar player contracts.

They’ll barter over the dollar amount. They’ll argue over escape clauses.  And they’ll haggle over the length of the contract.

Fans will log-on to the internet and hit re-fresh constantly, hoping their team signed the best players for the cheapest price. After all, fans know the salary cap-even if some GMs don’t.
 
But free agents don’t always improve teams. In fact, they often do the exact opposite.

Entire franchises have been destroyed by one bad contract. So with free agency just a day away, I thought it would be appropriate to re-visit some of the worst summertime contracts in NBA history.

GMs should read this list and consider themselves warned.  After all, free agency is a buyer beware situation.

1) The Player: Jon Koncak, Atlanta Hawks.

The Damage: six years, 13 million dollars.

The Legacy: Believe it or not, haven’t always been the NBA’s biggest joke. There was a time when Atlanta didn’t have to throw free Hammer concerts to draw fans. And there was a time when Atlanta’s owners didn’t interfere with trades or draft picks.

In the late eighties, nobody could touch Dominique Wilkins, Moses Malone, Doc Rivers and the hi-flying Hawks. 

Their downfall began with one transaction: the Jon Koncak signing. In 1989, the Celtics had started to fade, and the Hawks and Pistons were dueling for Eastern Conference supremacy. Koncak, a back-up center with Atlanta, was close to signing with Detroit as a free agent. The Hawks panicked and gave him a six-year deal worth 13 million dollars.

Koncak found himself making more money than NBA greats like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. This was a huge mistake. Atlanta struggled for several seasons because Jon "Contract" took up a large portion of their salary cap. On the other hand, the rival Pistons had the financial flexibility to build a deep bench, which helped them capture two consecutive NBA titles.

The Hawks are still recovering from the legacy of Jon Koncak.

2) The Player: Bryant Reeves, Vancouver Grizzlies.

The Damage: six years, 66 million dollars.

The Legacy: Good teams make smart decisions, while bad teams make terrible decisions. For example, the Vancouver Grizzlies, the worst team in NBA history, gave Bryant Reeves a 66 million dollar contract extension.

After signing his new contract, Reeves went on to lead the NBA in two categories: cheeseburgers devoured and all you can eat buffets. His 66 million dollar deal took up a large portion of the Grizzlies’ salary cap. This made it difficult for the team to bring in talented players. Eventually, Michael "I am committed to keeping the team in Vancouver" Heisley bought the Grizzlies and moved the organization to Memphis.

Point blank: this contract killed NBA basketball in Vancouver. 

3) The Player: Jim McIlvaine

The Damage: 5 years, 35 million dollars.

The Legacy: Jim McIlvaine destroyed the . Who? Jim McIlvaine! His contract set off events that destroyed the great Sonic teams of the 1990’s.

In 1995-1996, McIlvaine averaged a measly 2.3 points per game for Washington. For some reason, Seattle gave the center a five-year, 35 million dollar contract. Sonic fans were outraged. And so was Shawn Kemp. After leading the club to the NBA finals, he expected a lucrative contract. Seattle was right to turn down Kemp’s request for a new deal, but there was no reason to fork out superstar money for McIlvaine.

Kemp was so frustrated with McIlvaine’s contract that he skipped the team’s training camp in October of 1996. The "Reign Man" poisoned the Sonics with his bad attitude and off the court issues. Kemp was soon traded to as part of a three-way trade. Seattle got back another infamous power forward: Vin Baker.

All in a day’s work for Jim!

Honorable, or not-so honorable, Mention:

Juwan Howard: 108 million dollars

hasn’t done much since scoring a huge deal with the Bullets/Wizards in 1996. There’s always Michigan.

Keith Van Horn: "Max Contract
 "

He was the NBA’s version of Where is Waldo? Van Horn did time in Philadelphia, Milwaukee, New York, New Jersey and Dallas. He’s now out of the NBA.

Raef LaFrentz: 63 million dollars

Dan Issel tortured him in Denver. Of course, Dallas gave 63 million dollars even though he didn’t fit in with former Mavs’ Coach Don Nelson. He’s apparently in Portland, but I didn’t see him last year.

Anfernee Hardaway: 87 million dollars

Phoenix gave him a monster deal based on his years in Orlando. Penny did nothing in the desert before ending up in New York. Whatever happened to those Lil Penny commercials?

Yogi Stewart: 24 million dollars

After a solid rookie year with the Kings, Stewart landed a massive contract with the Raptors. Yogi went MIA in Toronto. The man never played-ever. Now he’s out of the NBA, chilling in a gated community close to Miami. The NBA sure is good work if you can get it.

Erick Dampier: 63 million dollars

‘Damp’ had some decent years in Golden State. Dallas gave him 63 million dollars. The Mavs and Mark Cuban should ask for a refund.

Allan Houston: 100 million dollars

After inking a mega-deal with the Knicks, Houston injured his knee. The fan favorite was never the same and retired a few years ago. Apparently, the former sharp-shooter is scheming on a comeback.

Brian Cardinal: 37 million dollars

He makes nice money for a 12th man. Cardinal’s contract wasn’t one of Jerry West’s finer moments. Even The Logo makes mistakes-just don’t tell Kobe Bryant!

Howard Eisley: 41 million dollars

A career back-up, Eisley struck gold on the open-market. However, nobody told Eisley that a raise in pay means a raise in play. After inking this deal, Eisley bounced around the league before retiring somewhere warm. Again, the NBA is nice work if you can get it.

As always, HoopsVibe wants your feedback. Get at us in the comment box below with your worst free agent contract.

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Parts of this article has appeared in hoopsvibe before. However, the article was updated and modified for the reader.