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MILLIONS FROM HEAVEN
Rick Telander
November 06, 1989
The Atlanta Hawks' Jon Koncak was a center of little renown—averaging 6.2 points and 6.1 rebounds, career—until he signed a six-year contract worth $13 million. Now other lesser NBA players should find gold at the end of the rainbow
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November 06, 1989

Millions From Heaven

The Atlanta Hawks' Jon Koncak was a center of little renown—averaging 6.2 points and 6.1 rebounds, career—until he signed a six-year contract worth $13 million. Now other lesser NBA players should find gold at the end of the rainbow

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John Salley, the Pistons' power forward and center, would eventually like a big-money deal, too. He says he has laminated and framed the newspaper article describing Koncak's contract. "When I go into Jack McCloskey's office at the end of the season, I'm going to walk in and lay it down on his desk," says Salley, who must decide whether to play out his option next year; he is in the fourth year of a five-year contract for $2 million.

A world-weary Kasten shrugs as he explains how the NBA has rocketed into the global village, how the sun never sets on a general manager's search for that one big stud who can quickly turn a franchise around.

"You look at every freaking body you can over six-ten," he says. "Sometimes you do dumb things. God knows, I have. But in 20 to 30 years we'll have five seven-footers on the floor on one team. Somebody will. Look at this." He points to a photo on the wall of his office: It shows him standing next to somebody who looks like a giant Baby Huey.

"I'm not a midget," says Kasten. "That sucker is huge!"

Who is it? It's a prospect, one Jorge Gonzalez from Argentina—7'6�", 403 pounds. Kasten had him tested. Gonzales is not a pituitary giant; he's just huge.

"Can he jump?" asks Kasten. "No. Why should he? He can dunk standing."

On a blackboard Kasten has the names of other prospects, big men mostly, from nine countries. An NBA team will do a lot to find, hire and keep a big man.

"We spent more than we should have for Jon," says Kasten. "That's as far as I'll go. I had to confront the options. And what it comes down to is, the roster is always more important than the payroll. We want to win."

So does Koncak, and as he thinks now about his future earnings and his current good fortune, he states firmly that there is some real responsibility that comes with big money, above and beyond elbowing for position in the lane. "When my career is over, I may work for a charity or with the community somehow," he says. "I have a responsibility to give back, and I will do that. I have to."

It is always nice to have thoughtful people reaping the benefits of a system, no matter how strange that system may be. Certainly, Jon Koncak will use his money wisely. But that can't change an observer's gut feeling of despair at not having gotten a chunk of that system. As Seattle's Xavier McDaniel says of himself and his playmates, "Let's face it, we're all overpaid." But it's great work if you can find it.

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