AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The New York Knicks made Patrick Ewing the highest-paid player in professional team sports yesterday, giving him a contract extension that will pay him $33 million over the next six years.
Ewing's average annual salary of $5.5 million for those six years places him above the highest-salaried stars in the other major sports -- the Boston Red Sox's Roger Clemens in baseball ($5.3 million), the Miami Dolphins' Dan Marino in football (about $5 million) and the Los Angeles Kings' Wayne Gretzky in hockey ($3.1 million). However, it is possible Ewing will soon be eclipsed by Bobby Bonilla, the Pittsburgh Pirates free agent who is being pursued by the New York Mets and other teams, and who could command a contract worth up to $6 million a year.
Ewing, a 29-year-old center, received a two-year extension on his current contract, which still has four seasons remaining, including the current campaign. He will earn $3.3 million this season and next, $3.55 million in 1993-94 and $4.05 million in 1994-95. Then, in each of the final two years of his contract, Ewing will earn $9.4 million.
The club didn't release the salary figures, but confirmed their accuracy to New York beat reporters.
In addition, the Knicks extended the contract of Charles Oakley, their starting power forward. The 27-year-old Oakley, who is earning $1.05 million this season, was given a five-year, $10 million extension that will begin after next season, when his current contract expires.
Ewing declined to comment on the contract before last night's game against the Detroit Pistons.
The offer Ewing accepted was the same one he turned down last spring. Instead, he took the Knicks to salary arbitration in June, contending that a clause in his contract made him a restricted free agent.
Ewing lost the case, but his actions indicated that he was uncertain whether he wanted to remain with the Knicks, with whom he had played since being picked first in the 1985 NBA draft.
But this contract extension makes it extremely likely that Ewing will spend the next six seasons in New York. With a contract like this one, other teams will hesitate to pursue Ewing, even if the Knicks want to trade him in the future.
Neither extension announced yesterday will affect the Knicks' salary-cap situation this season. New York is still $331,000 under the league salary cap of $12.5 million.
"After the arbitration case, we told Patrick that he needed to get ready for the season, but that we would see what other offers might be out there," president Dave Checketts said. "Even under the old contract, there really weren't any serious offers.
"Now we've extended the contract, and Patrick agreed to do it in a way that doesn't strangle us under the cap. The money is really back-loaded. It gives us four years to make player moves. Assuming the salary cap continues to go up at a pretty good pace over the next four years, we'll still have room to be creative."