7 years, $40 million: O'Neal's Magic words

August 07, 1992|By Tim Povtak | Tim Povtak,Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Orlando Magic will announce today the signing of No. 1 draft pick Shaquille O'Neal, capping a furious two weeks of negotiations accelerated by the desire to retain free-agent center Stanley Roberts.

O'Neal's contract is estimated at $40 million over seven seasons.

The Magic also will announce they are retaining the rights to Roberts -- another 7-footer -- by matching the five-year, $15 million offer sheet extended last month by the Dallas Mavericks.

Both players, once teammates at LSU, will be at a news conference today.

Today's announcement will mark the earliest signing for a No. 1 NBA draft pick since the salary cap was instituted in 1983. The last time a No. 1 pick signed this quickly was 1981 when Mark Aguirre signed with Dallas the week after the draft.

The urgency with O'Neal was based upon the NBA rule that allows teams to exceed the $14 million salary cap to sign their free agents but not to sign their draft picks. It forced the Magic to sign O'Neal if they wanted to retain Roberts. The deadline for matching the offer sheet is 6 p.m. tonight.

Although Magic general manager Pat Williams refused to confirm the announcement, numerous sources around the league and within the Magic organization said the deal was done.

A copy of O'Neal's contract was faxed to the NBA office yesterday for approval. While his attorney and Magic officials spent the day completing details in the contract, O'Neal spent much of yesterday looking at prospective homes in the area. He also took the Magic's physical exam, a standard practice before contracts are signed.

The contract easily will make O'Neal the highest-paid rookie in NBA history. Last season's No. 1 pick, Larry Johnson of Charlotte, signed a six-year deal worth an average of $3.2 million with a first-year salary of $1.9 million. O'Neal will start at an estimated $3 million.

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