A $1.2 Million Plate of Ribs

We have been talking about players being signed to contracts merely for the purposes of making a trade work under the collective bargaining agreement. It just happened to Aaron McKie.

Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News writes about several such cases of the "magic envelope" of cash coming to NBA players. One of my favorite stories is about Joe Kleine:

... Then there was the $1.2 million retirement gift Joe Kleine got in 2000, just $35,000 less than the top seasonal salary of his 15-year career.

"I've never officially retired," quipped Kleine, 46. "I'm hoping it can happen again."

Kleine had played his last NBA game when he got a call from his agent, Jeff Austin, that he was in line for a windfall.

"I was like, 'Yeah, right,' " Kleine said.

But it was real. In order to make the dollars work, Portland signed Kleine, who had scored 11 points in seven games the previous season, and packaged him with Jermaine O'Neal for Indiana's Dale Davis.

"It shows what's good about the NBA in that it's the greatest job in the world," said Kleine, soon waived by the Pacers. "But it shows what's bad in that teams will pay someone that much not to play. . . . But Paul Allen (Portland's billionaire owner) can afford it."

Don't think, though, Kleine didn't show his gratitude. As co-owner of Corky's Ribs & BBQ, in Little Rock, Ark., he sent Portland a large care package of ribs.