Word on the Street

Koncak (kahn’-kak) noun. A derisive term used to describe an exceptionally large free agent contract, usually signed for several years at the maximum allowable salary. Invariably, the player in question fails, sometimes in tragic fashion, to meet the high expectations commensurate with such a titanic paycheck (see Contract Year Phenomenon for details). Furthermore, the contract’s financial burden depletes precious cap space – much like a throbbing alien parasite coldly and remorselessly sucking away your lifeblood – effectively preventing the team from improving for several years.

Usage example:Finally free of Grant Hill’s ginormous Koncak, the Orlando Magic wasted no time in agreeing to a “bigger and better” Koncak with Rashard Lewis.

Word history: In 1989, the Atlanta Hawks signed Jon Koncak – a bench player averaging about 5 points and 6 rebounds per game – to a 6-year, $13 million contract. And yeah, I know that $13 million over six years isn’t a lot of money these days, but in 1989 dollars, Koncak was worth more than Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. Seriously.

The Koncak signing succeeded in financially crippling the Hawks for, well, six years, which made it impossible for the team to improve through the acquisition of quality free agents. It is’t farfetched to say that much of the misfortune Dominique Wilkins has suffered – the playoff disappointments, the trade to the Clippers, getting left of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players list, the Hall of Fame snub – can be attributed to Koncak‘s Koncak.

Many NBA historians have identified the Koncak as the exact moment teams starting going batshit crazy and signing slightly above-average players for ridiculous sums of money. Examples of other famous Koncaks include Travis Knight‘s 7-year, $22 million deal with Boston, Brian Cardinal‘s 6-year, $37 million contract with the Grizzlies, Kenyon Martin‘s 7-year, $91 million contract with the Nuggets, Howard Eisley‘s 7-year, $41 million deal with the Knicks, and now Rashard Lewis‘ 6-year, $110 million contract with the Magic.

The fans speak: A few extra tidbits from alert readers. First, I omitted this because I was tired of typing the word “contract,” but reader john pointed out that Koncak was nicknamed “John Contract” because of his insane deal with the Hawks. An anonymous poster reminded me that part of the reason the Hawks went all-out to resign Koncak was because their bitter rivals, the Detroit Pistons, were also trying to acquire his useless services (I think they were just trying to trick the Hawks into handicapping themselves to resign the big stiff …a strategy that worked to sinister perfection). Max corrected me on Howard Eisley‘s contract: the Knicks didn’t give him the original contract (the Jazz made that terrible mistake), they merely traded for it (but, uh, which is worse?). Finally, Tomas criticized me (justifiably) for neglecting to mention Jim McIlvane‘s 5-year, $35 million contract with the Seattle Supersonics, a deal that some people think ruined Shawn Kemp‘s career.

Breastastic extra: Since I couldn’t find any decent pictures of Koncak, here’s one of Leslie, a member of the Hawk‘s A-Town Dancers. No need to thank me. But you can if you want.

Now her I’d pay $13 million for…


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