What is a working guy worth if free throws cost millions?

Consider This ...

July 20, 1996|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

The headline du jour: O'Neal joins Lakers for $120 million.

Around the water cooler this week, folks are mumbling the unreal numbers and shaking their heads. Every day, another NBA player closes a deal to make more money per jump-shot than the rest of us will earn in our life and afterlife. The salaries almost defy commentary. And the headlines keep coming:

Guard Anderson gets $50M from Blazers. Heat gets Howard for $98 million. $105M Mourning ends Heat spree. Sonics' Payton gets $85 Million.

"The one question I have is why they paying so much money when the rest of us can't get a job? We go to work at the concessions and bring people to the stadiums and they want to pay us $5 an hour," Andre's double says.

The man is a dead ringer for Andre Agassi, minus Brooke and a backhand. He and five others hover in line at the cashier's window at the Social Security office in downtown Baltimore. The room is about 5 by 20 feet. You could bake cookies in here. A cheery sign by the window reads: "Thanks Dad for your love and child support!"

We are gathered here today to pay up. No names, please. This random batch of folks has at least one thing in common -- they owe child support. They also unanimously agree that no one is worth $30 million a year, even the great Michael Jordan.

"How can you spend all that money before you die?" says a man in a "Mike Tyson: He's Back" T-shirt. He gives the woman at the cashier's window his $75 in child support. "All this money for playing a game."

"Then you got people who are homeless," another guy says.

"I think they ought to pay teachers more money."

"It gets hot sitting here," says another man, changing the subject but making an excellent point.

Subject returns to money, money, money. "Mourning is going to make 100 and half mill," says an ardent basketball fan, who makes $20,000 as a driver. You couldn't get Shaq to warm up for 20 grand.

And it's not like you can play that fantasy game where you itemize what you could do with a million dollars. Buy cigarette boat, quit job, yes we know. Now, what would you do with $120 million? It's too much money to even play around with -- too much to dream on.

Huge Salaries 'Unfathomable' to many people, says another headline.

So we hear.

Pub Date: 7/20/96

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