Shaquille O’Neal is one of the greatest big men to ever play in the NBA. But he might have chosen a different path in if not for a contract many deemed the worst ever in sports.
In high school, Shaq was already 7-feet tall as a senior and considered one of the best basketball prospects in the country. He was also a tight end on the school’s football team.
O’Neal was a guest on “The Dan Patrick Show” and explained what he loved about playing football and why he quit.
“I actually started out playing football,” O’Neal told Patrick. “I was a hell of a tight end. As you know, I have wonderful hands, my hands are impeccable, and I like to punish people. But then a guy your size, hit me in my knee one day, I was all bummed out, and my dream came true. I was sitting on the couch and Jon Koncak signs for $15 million for three years. I was thinking, ‘If I can make $5 million doing the basketball thing, I think I am going to switch up now … true story.”
O’Neal is a little off on the exact numbers, and there might be a problem with the timing.
The contract he is referring to is the 6-year, $13 million deal the Atlanta Hawks gave to Koncak, a back-up center who averaged 4.7 points per game the year before. It was 1989, and it was before the internet, during a time when most fans only knew the contracts of the highest-paid players.
The Hawks caused a stir with the deal when it was featured in Sports Illustrated’s “NBA Preview” issue, with a column by Rick Telander titled, “Millions from Heaven.”
At the time, few people outside of Atlanta even knew who Koncak was, and yet here was this unknown player signing a $13 MILLION CONTRACT, earning him the nickname “Jon Contract.” People were floored, and now it is regularly brought up as one of the worst contracts ever.
The problem is that O’Neal started his college career at LSU in the fall of 1989, shortly after Koncak signed his contract. It would seem that Shaq had already given up football at that point.
It is possible that there were reports about what Koncak would earn the year before or maybe O’Neal is thinking about a different player. Either way, it sounds like Shaq the basketball player almost never happened.
You can hear O’Neal tell the story at the beginning of this video.
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