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When They're 64
Steve Rushin
December 10, 2001
Will we still need them—and will we still feed them—when our heroes are over the hill?
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December 10, 2001

When They're 64

Will we still need them—and will we still feed them—when our heroes are over the hill?

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Allen Iverson last week signed a lifetime contract with Reebok, which will still be paying the 76ers guard when his only dribbling is into a bib, he's "breaking ankles" stepping out of the tub and he's no longer def but is, alas, deaf. Likewise, Mike Krzyzewski signed in November to coach Duke for the rest of his working life—through age 65, when he'll spend less time preparing for Wake than he does preparing for wakes.

Good for them. Every coach and athlete ought to have the limitless riches and unending attention that a lifetime contract assures. Why shouldn't, say, Bucks forward Anthony Mason still be venerated—and remunerated—well into his 80s, when all his hos wear support hose?

If our favorite sports personalities are to continue leading, to the lip of the grave, the opulent lifestyles to which they're accustomed, they'll require an annual, lottery-sized payout for life. Because they'll need all that money they blow in strip joints for hip joints.

Thank goodness, then, that Iverson will forever advertise his signature shoe (the orthopedic Answer?) and be paid handsomely for doing so. Decades from now—when the sometime rapper is using the Clapper, when his head is bare but his feet are corn-rowed, when the only pump he requires has nothing to do with his Reeboks—AI's life will be every bit as large as his prostate. And more power to him.

But let's go further and lock up for the long haul all those athletes who will require an eight-figure salary in their 80s. With Evander Holyfield's expenses—including maintenance on his 160-room mansion—he'll need a yearly $30 million paycheck just to make his monthly nut. Surely he deserves to be happy in his golden years: puttering down some Florida freeway in a Lamborghini Diablo, left turn signal winking all the way, a long-faded bumper sticker boasting PROUD FATHER OF NINE HONOR STUDENTS BY SIX WOMEN.

Someone should pay pro wrestler Steve Austin until he really is stone cold. The Rock, too, deserves a rich endorsement deal in his dotage. (I can smell what the Rock is cookin': Gerber's strained peas.) Surely the Yankees should sign Jason Giambi to a lifetime deal, for the free-agent slugger will be every bit as marketable in his late 70s as he is now, at 30. (He already looks, in his wraparound shades, as if he had cataract surgery.)

The point is, we mustn't neglect our senior citizens. So how about it, Trail Blazers? Will you still pay Rasheed Wallace when he's hosting teas instead of collecting T's? And whaddya say, Texas Tech: When he stops coaching diaper dandies—and starts keeping diapers handy—will you still love Bob Knight?

Right now, for Shaquille O'Neal, it's all about the Benjamins. However, one day in the distant future, when he needs Benjamins and vitamins, he will long for the security of a lifetime contract. Will the Lakers be there for him? Likewise, for Terrell Owens, life is all long balls and booty calls—for now. What happens, though, in 2050, when his most treasured piece of ice is a $400,000, diamond-studded, platinum MedicAlert bracelet? Will the 49ers still support him? Sure, life looks rosy at the moment for Monday Night Football announcer Dennis Miller. But let's talk to him in three decades, when Miller cares less about his deadpan delivery than about his bedpan delivery. Will you take care of him then, ABC?

Here's hoping that the lifetime contract becomes what it ought to be: a basic right of every professional athlete. Soon, too. By the time Antoine Walker's on a walker, Martin Gramatica has crippling sciatica and A-Rod needs a rod inserted in his spine—it will be too late.