TALL MEN, TALL PRICES
Less than 24 hours after Jack Dolph, American Basketball Association commissioner, had announced that his league would once again hold an early "secret" draft of top college players, the selections were made in Greensboro, N.C., where the ABA was putting on its All-Star Game. As usual, the secret choices were immediately leaked.
More interesting than the ABA draft choices was the list of players the league did not draft in the first round. Among the omissions: Notre Dame's Austin Carr, UCLA's Sidney Wicks, South Carolina's John Roche, Marquette's Dean Meminger and others who would have been among the highest choices if the ABA and the National Basketball Association were not in a talent war. The omissions, indeed, implied which college stars have already indicated a preference for the NBA. Most of them, most likely, are already under contract to the NBA—just as many of the players picked in early rounds by the ABA have already signed with the younger league.
A typical case is Villanova's Howard Porter, a 6'8" frontcourt man who probably would have been a second-round choice in normal years. Porter was first choice of the Pittsburgh Condors—and the third player chosen in the whole draft—mainly because he signed a $350,000, three-year contract with the ABA on Dec. 16.
Since the contracts are technically personal service, not playing agreements with the leagues, and also in good part because they are kept secret, some players may have been led, mistakenly, to think that there was no violation of their present amateur status. The same players will sign actual playing contracts after the close of the college season.
Under these conditions it was not surprising that Porter ended up ahead of Gilmore in the draft. After the league signs the college players, the contracts are then made available to the teams that can pay the tabs—and for whom the individual players are willing to perform. Porter's $350,000 price tag was within reach of ailing Pittsburgh, but it was not until after eight choices had been made that one of the successful ABA teams, Kentucky, came up with the resources to meet Gilmore's price, which is understood to be in excess of $2 million.
THE REAL WINNER
When Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier split $5 million on the day after their confrontation in Madison Square Garden, the real fight will begin. Opponent: the Internal Revenue Service. At issue: how much of their $2.5 million apiece the fighters will be permitted to keep under the income-tax laws.
It's quite a bit more than it would have been before Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote a book and the law was changed to acknowledge that a bonanza is a special form of income. There are several options open to the two fighters, depending on how they file their income report and how they elect to pay tax on it.
Under an "income averaging" provision, if their income for 1971 exceeds by 30% their average income of the preceding four years, they can spread it over the past five years. To the joy of accountants and tax lawyers, there are more than 20 methods of filing under this provision of averaging, and a lot of technical IRS gobbledygook is involved. But the size of the purses makes it quite clear that both fighters will have a most unusual year and surely will exceed by 30% their average of the past four.