News flash: Professional athletes do it for the money


This weekend is NBA All-Star Weekend 2007, because just having a game isn't enough; you need to make it a weekend-long festival.

Tyrus Thomas, invited to paricipate in the slam dunk contest, which comes with a top prize of $35,000, was quoted as saying

I'm just going to go out there, get my check and call it a day. ... I'm just into the free money. That's it. I'll just do whatever when I get out there.

And yet, there was a huge uproar over the shocking revelation that (news flash!) professional athletes are in it for the money. Thomas was fined $10,000 by his team for his remarks—rather ironic that the way to teach him that it's not about the money is to impose a monetary penalty—and issued an apology some days later:

I truly feel honored to be invited to participate in this year's slam dunk contest during next week's NBA All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas. The opportunity to represent the Bulls and the city of Chicago on a global stage is a privilege that I do not take lightly. I regret the extent to which my comments indicate otherwise.

He explained that "it was a miscommunication and understanding of words." Huh? Under what possible rules of interpretation was "I'm just into the free money" intended to be understood as "The opportunity to appear on a global stage is a privilege that I do not take lightly"?

Only a Game's Bill Littlefield took up the matter in his Weekly Warm-up podcast.

Comments (33)
  1. "The opportunity to represent the Bulls and the city of Chicago on a global stage is a privilege that I do not take lightly.

    Calling the NBA All-Star Weekend a global stage is a little over the top I’d say. It is not an event that is covered over here in .nl

  2. person says:

    Please stick to a software development related posts. The problem with NBA players is much more deeper than just with money, and just because you listen to NPR podcasts doesn’t make you an expert in all of this. Thanks

  3. Randolpho says:

    In other news:

    water is wet.

  4. AnotherPerson says:

    person wrote:

    "Please stick to a software development related posts. The problem with NBA players is much more deeper than just with money, and just because you listen to NPR podcasts doesn’t make you an expert in all of this. Thanks"

    Please STFU. TYVM.

  5. James Schend says:

    I agree with "Person." What makes you a true expert in all things NBA payscale related is posting comments on someone else’s blog telling them what to write.

  6. kbiel says:

    >He explained that "it was a miscommunication and understanding of words." Huh? Under what possible rules of interpretation was "I’m just into the free money" intended to be understood as "The opportunity to appear on a global stage is a privilege that I do not take lightly"?

    When you realize that the apology is really about money, it makes a little more sense.  Well, OK, it doesn’t make any more sense, but you can interpret it properly as "I was in it just for the money, until I realized that I could lose money.  So please pretend I am not in it just for the money so that I can make more money."

  7. richard says:

    If people had memories like elephants, this sort of thing would be laughable. As it is, most people have memories like goldfish and the original comments are completely forgotten.

  8. OtherPerson says:

    AnotherPerson beat me to it but I’ll say it anyway.

    Person, STFU and GTFA. If you don’t like what Raymond writes then too bad for you, the rest of us come here because we DO like it.

  9. @Andres Sikkema: it’s quite interesting how Americans perceive their sports as being of "global" interest. This also manifests in basketball players being elected as "World-Athlete of the Century" in an exclusively American magazine ;-)

  10. cK says:

    BB players are way over pay!  So are other professional athletes!

  11. Steve says:

    @cK: How do you figure? The thing that determines what you’re worth is how much people will pay you. If they weren’t worth what they get paid, they wouldn’t get paid that much. The only places I can think of that this rule doesn’t apply is the cases of unions and politics. Unions hold the employer hostage by their sheer numbers and politicians approve their own pay rate.

  12. YetAnotherPerson says:

    Please don’t listen to Person, Raymond!  I like the occasional non-software blog entries.

  13. J says:

    Martin:  All non-Americans need to lighten up and not take things so literally.

  14. Cody says:

    From what I gather, in Europe it’s poor practice (just for an example) for an exclusively British magazine to say something about a national league’s athlete to be the best athlete in the world and not consider the athletes of other nations (probably European nations) because in Europe, again, from what I gather, it’s much more normal to interact with people from other countries.  I’d guess this has something to do with Great Britain being about the same size as Kansas, a middling-sized US state.

    In the US, however, we don’t interact much with people of other countries unless we living on a border state or are a part of international business.  Thus, it’s much more natural for us to see "the world" as the US.

    In other words, how would you like it if you had a magazine that was distributed around Europe exclusively and had no connection to the US at all talking about a US athlete?  You don’t know who he is.  He isn’t on television.  He isn’t in the news.  Why would you care and want to read an article about him?  It’s the same thing here.  We don’t see international soccer on television (excepting the World Cup, which the US participated in).  We don’t read about it in magazines.  It’s not in our news.  So why would it be in an exclusively US magazine?

  15. cK says:

    @Steve,

    You think that athlete deserve to get paid that much is what you think.  I think the should and that’s what I think.  Getting pay 50 million for 5 years of playing basketball is ridiculous, especially most of them is dumb as a rock who blow off those money on drugs and etc.  But it is true in our society that if you’re well known people are willing to give you money to have your name on their product and such.  It’s sad actually.  As a matter of fact I don’t watch sport on TV or go to sporting events.  So yes I don’t support their outrageous salaries.  People who watch sport are contribute to the madness.  Who cares if so or so won or which team won?  Does the sport fan gain anything?  Not really.  I can understand if someone was into sports and actually participate in playing, even if it’s just for the enjoyment.  But rooting for a sport team or player is just stupid.  That’s just my opinion.  You can have your own.

  16. Andrew Feldstein says:

    I agree with the person who told "person" to STFU.

    Next thing you know the "person" will complain about Swedish, English, bicycling, email, Seattle, traffic, and the many other wide-ranging topic Raymond blogs on.

  17. Cooney says:

    [He explained that "it was a miscommunication and understanding of words." Huh? Under what possible rules of interpretation was "I’m just into the free money" intended to be understood as "The opportunity to appear on a global stage is a privilege that I do not take lightly"?]

    It’s simple – he didn’t expect people to get all pissy about him acknowledging that he likes to get paid, so he’s going to deny that he ever said it.

  18. Steve says:

    @cK: Says you.

  19. Professional athletics is show business.  Tyrus screwed up royally.  He’s lucky to have his job.

    The monetary penalty is very appropriate – it’s hitting him where it hurts.

  20. John says:

    @cK

    You could say the same thing about movies (actors), music (rock stars), and to a much lesser extent books (authors).  I agree that the majority of their salaries are ridiculous, but their employers are willing to pay it and it’s not like the money is coming out of your pocket.  Besides, it’s all about entertainment.  For some reason you don’t find it entertaining; that’s fine, to each his own.  But many people do find it entertaining and are willing to spend money on it.  If you’re making a lot of money for a group of people (sports franchise, movie company, whatever), shouldn’t you be appropriately compensated for it?  If the leage was making billions of dollars and these guys had salaries of just $50,000 that would not be fair.  The bottom line is that if you’re very good at what you do people will be willing to pay more to get you; this is true of any profession.

    On a related matter, I am an American and I really can’t stand it when we refer to our league championships as "World Championships".  This is especially true of (American) football, but it happens in basketball and baseball as well.  I really don’t understand why we do it, and frankly I am a little embarassed about it.  Unfortunately there’s not much I can do.  I am truly sorry.

  21. John says:

    About Thomas, he is just saying what everyone else already knows.  The NBA dunk contest used to be great and it was a privilege to be invited.  However, it has been a joke for a while now, especially the past couple of years.  It’s just like the NFL Pro Bowl: everyone wants to get invited but nobody wants to go.  Of course what he said was idiotic considering he is an active member of the league, but everyone outside the leage has been saying the same thing for quite some time.  You also have to take into consideration that the NBA is the most invasive / controlling of the major sports leagues in America (perhaps the world), and they are VERY conscious of their public image.  If you simply look at a referee the wrong way David Stern will kill your entire family.  I am not joking.

  22. ChrisMcB says:

    "Professional athletics is show business.  Tyrus screwed up royally.  He’s lucky to have his job."

    This doesn’t make sense. If Professional athletics is show business, how did someone screw up by saying he is in it for the money?

    I’m a professional programmer. I like what I do, I do it in my spare time for free. But guess what, I’m in it for the money! And yes I am lucky I have a job making money doing what I like to do. But I am still in it for the money.

  23. If Professional athletics is show business, how did someone screw up by saying he is in it for the money?

    It messes with the suspension of disbelief.

  24. Mihai says:

    <<This doesn’t make sense. If Professional athletics is show business, how did someone screw up by saying he is in it for the money?>>

    It does make sense.

    Imagine you call a sex line, or go to a "special house" :-)

    You would not like to have "the girl" being "in your face" that she does it just for the money, do you?

    :-D

    Ok, way off topic :-)

    Raymond, if you want to filter this out, please feel free, is your blog after all :-)

  25. Mihai says:

    Non-sensitive version:

    <<And yes I am lucky I have a job making money doing what I like to do. But I am still in it for the money.>>

    But in the performance appraisal, or annual reviews, or whatever is called in your company, you still write down that you are very excited about the great opportunity to work for them.

    Don’t you? :-)

    This is "the game" and this is how it’s played.

  26. Jay B says:

    >>Please stick to a software development related posts. The problem with NBA players is much more deeper than just with money, and just because you listen to NPR podcasts doesn’t make you an expert in all of this. Thanks<<<

    Where the hell do some people get off posting on your personal blog with comments like that.

    Some people need a serious kick in the teeth to set them right.

    Maybe disabling all comments for a while and let these dumbasses get bored and leave would help… just a thought.

  27. Lance Fisher says:

    Just delete person’s comment.  No one would care.

  28. Feh says:

    What’s interesting is that the first statement came from the player, while the second statement was obviously drafted by a public relations person and the player just went to some news conference and repeated it like a parrot.

  29. Igor says:

    I would be more interested to learn how much a surgeon in state run hospital earns compared to those athletes?

  30. Cody says:

    "I would be more interested to learn how much a surgeon in state run hospital earns compared to those athletes?"

    Or public school teachers.

  31. jyw says:

    Steve said it best:  “If they weren’t worth what they get paid, they wouldn’t get paid that much.”

    Pro athletes get paid huge sums of money because the owners/franchises make huge sums of money off them.  Sounds fair to me.  Let’s hear all the outrage over the salaries of actors, musicians, lawyers, etc.  

    Why is that amount of money so outrageous anyway?  How many people could ever do what some of these guys do?  I could go to school, pay my dues, and likely become a doctor or teacher.  I  could never be physically capable of playing the NBA.

    cK: “especially most of them is dumb as a rock who blow off those money on drugs and etc”

    You just got done telling us how you never pay attention to sports, so how would you know if most of the players in the NBA are a bunch of dumb, drug-addled rocks?  Most of them seem like decent people to me.  There are idiots in every profession.  Yours included.

    [You know it. I know it. Everybody knows it. So why do people get upset when he actually says it? -Raymond]
  32. jyw says:

    [You know it. I know it. Everybody knows it. So why do people get upset when he actually says it? -Raymond]

    All these guys are supposed to be so grateful for the privilege of entertaining us!  I think a lot of fans live in a dream world where athletes want nothing more than to play their hearts out for the love of the game to make fans smile.  No one wants to hear anything that would burst that bubble.

    Plus, sports is entertainment.  No one wants to, say, buy tickets to a concert and watch a band "go through the motions".  We want passion.  We want a performance.

    People forget he’s a basically a 20 year old kid.  I’m glad no one has a record of all the things I said when I was 20 years old.

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