Much Ado About Nothing
Chris Webber stays with the Kings. But did he ever really want to
Chris Webber signed the richest deal in NBA history last week
because he had no agent. At first glance the value of the
seven-year, $122.7 million contract Webber signed with the Kings
ranks behind Kevin Garnett's landmark six-year, $126 million
contract with the Timberwolves in 1997. However, Garnett owed his
agent, Eric Fleisher, $5 million, at the going rate of 4%, while
Webber avoided that fee: He fired his agent, Fallasha Erwin, last
October, saying he wanted someone who could take him to "another
Instead, Webber farmed out phone calls and meetings to family
members, including his aunt Charlene Johnson, who is a lawyer.
(Erwin was rehired as a "consultant" early in July and became a
spokesman for Webber's team.) By forgoing formal representation,
however, Webber may have cost himself a shot at the same deal
elsewhere, not a small consideration for a player who had
bemoaned Sacramento's remoteness. During the season Webber also
spoke of his fondness for potential teammates like Latrell
Sprewell of the Knicks and fellow Michigan alum Jalen Rose of the
Pacers. Given those signs, fans and the media prepared for a
But how serious could he have been about leaving Sacramento if he
didn't have a high-profile agent to shop him around the league,
someone who might have bullied or bluffed the Kings into talking
sign-and-trade with other teams? When the NBA instituted salary
ceilings for veterans in 1999, it was fashionable to predict that
agents would be rendered unnecessary. In reality, while agents
aren't essential for star players intent on re-upping with their
teams, representation is as important as ever for those looking
to move. Patrick Ewing's wish to be traded from New York last
summer probably would not have been fulfilled if he hadn't had
David Falk to broker a complicated four-team trade involving the
Knicks, the Sonics, the Lakers and the Suns.
This year, while agent Bill Duffy was generating interest among
seven teams for blue-collar power forward Antonio Davis (who
re-signed with the Raptors for five years and $64 million), the
buzz surrounding the All-NBA Webber in front offices was that
you couldn't get a phone call returned from his camp. When San
Antonio briefly became a candidate for his services early in
July after a spat with free agent David Robinson, the Spurs
didn't hear back from Webber's people until July 12--the very
day Robinson agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal. "A free
agent needs somebody beating the bushes for him," says
Sacramento co-owner Gavin Maloof, who adds that the Kings
received no sign-and-trade proposals for Webber.
In the end Webber signed for the max with the most talented team
in the running. Still, his approach doomed his chances of finding
happiness elsewhere--that is, if he was interested in going
elsewhere. "Staying here was a sign that I'm mature," said Webber
at his press conference last Saturday. Depending on what you
believe, that's either an accurate assessment, or the sound of a
man spinning. --Ian Thomsen
5 Most Improved NBA Teams
Picking up Elton Brand for unproven high schooler Tyson
Chandler? This wayward club might finally be getting it right.
Arrival of front-liners Patrick Ewing and Horace Grant to
support Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady puts Orlando squarely in
East's top tier.
Only elite team to improve. Give point guard Mike Bibby his
first assist: His arrival helped persuade Webber to stay.
Shrewd move to bring in Shareef Abdur-Rahim will propel Atlanta
Top draft pick Kwame Brown and free agent Tyronn Lue should
contribute significantly. Number 23 would help a little, too.
IAN WOOSNAM'S BRITISH OPEN MISCUE
THE CADDIE COMMANDMENTS
Myles Byrne may go down as the patron saint of bad days at the
office. With his boss, Ian Woosnam, tied for the lead in the
final round of the British Open, caddie Byrne discovered he had
let Woosnam play a hole with one too many clubs in his bag, a
violation that cost Woosnam a two-stroke penalty. Woosnam called
the oversight "the ultimate sin" for a caddie. Indeed, in the
looper list of commandments, it's definitely up there, along with
Thou shalt not let thy player hit the wrong ball. During the 1995
Buick Invitational, caddie John Burke mistakenly let Brad Faxon
play Phil Mickelson's ball, resulting in a two-stroke penalty for
Faxon. Later that year at the Buick Classic, Burke handed Faxon a
different model ball from the one he'd started the round
with--another two-stroke penalty. Amazingly, Burke kept his job.
Thou shalt not touch thy player's ball marker. At the Hartford
Open, Keith Clearwater's caddie, Tom Williams, thought he was the
first in his group to reach a green, so he picked up a coin from
the putting surface. Williams hadn't seen Clearwater rush to the
green, mark his ball and run off to a Porta Potti. Clearwater was
assessed two strokes.
Thou shalt not lose a club. During a practice round before the
1994 British Open, Greg Kraft's putter was stolen after his
caddie, Todd Blersch, left it leaning against a concession stand.
Even though the putter was returned after the second round,
Blersch got axed.
Thou shalt not let your player's shot hit the bag. At the 1998
Singapore Open, Ed Fryatt needed a par at the last hole to tie
for third and remain atop the Asian tour's season money list. As
Fryatt got set to tee off, his caddie walked ahead, stationing
himself on the 18th fairway and leaving the bag in the rough.
Fryatt's tee shot hit the bag, and he was penalized two shots. He
finished tied for sixth in the tournament and fell to second on
the money list.
Thou shalt not use artificial devices. At the 1996 LPGA Skins
Game, David Esch, Annika Sorenstam's caddie and fiance at the
time, used a compass to gauge wind direction in the first
fairway, a no-no that cost Sorenstam two strokes. The two were
married a few months later, but Esch no longer caddies for her.
Sport? Not a Sport?
THIS WEEK: BATTLEBOTS
SPORT "Of course it is. Any game in which competitors get to hit
each other in the head is a sport." --Chad Brown, Seahawks
NOT A SPORT "It may be the Olympics for mechanics, but it's not a
sport." --Travis Fryman, Indians third baseman
SPORT "It's people applying themselves to build a machine better
than somebody else's. And people pay to watch it, don't they?"
--Jeromy Burnitz, Brewers outfielder
NOT A SPORT "I was watching it, and it took three guys in the
ring just to pick one of [the BattleBots] up." --Matt Morris,
SPORT "A sport is any competition with physical or mental
effort, as long as there's strategy involved. If chess is a
sport, then so is BattleBots." --Aloysius Anagonye, Michigan
State power forward
SPORT "I used to play pinball machines, and I looked at that as a
sport." --Charlie Manuel, Indians manager
NOT A SPORT "Guys just play with remote controls. Now, if they
were wired up and got an electrical shock each time their robot
got hammered, then, yes, it would be a sport. Kind of a cool one,
too." --Paolo Di Canio, West Ham United soccer player
WWF VS. WWF
In a squabble that's the stuff of a tabloid headline writer's
dreams, London's High Court last week finished hearing arguments
in a lawsuit brought by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) against
another wild animal outfit: the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
The 40-year-old international conservation organization is
seeking to enforce the terms of a 1994 agreement that limited the
Federation's use of the WWF initials. (The grappling group
adopted the WWF tag in 1979.) That deal restricted the Federation
from using WWF, except in certain cases, such as spontaneous
references during telecasts abroad ("the current WWF champion,"
for instance). The agreement, says Fund spokesman Michael Ross,
has been breached "thousands of times." Among those violations,
claims the Fund, are the domain name wwf.com and the Federation's
scratched steel WWF logo.
"Our identity as expressed by the initials WWF is crucial," says
Ross. "The ability to carry out our mission is predicated on the
public's recognition and trust of those initials as belonging to
a global conservation organization." Gary Davis, a spokesman for
the Federation, says, "The question is, how could you possibly
confuse these organizations? It's hard to believe that our use of
the WWF initials could have any impact on the business of the
Fund." We say forget the courts: Just throw Stone Cold Steve
Austin into a ring with those pandas and get it over with.
The IOC's "Celebrate Humanity" Campaign
SYNOPSIS A series of eight ads plugging the 2002 Winter Games,
featuring voice-overs by Robin Williams and highlighted by
footage of such past Olympic luminaries as the 1988 Jamaican
bobsled team (tumbling to Bob Marley's Coming in from the Cold).
BACKGROUND Though NBC plans to promote the Games vigorously (to
put it mildly), the IOC nonetheless wanted to reinforce its brand
through an estimated $150 million campaign. The emphasis on
perseverance and fair play is clearly intended to erase the taint
from the scandals that have dogged the Salt Lake Games and the
IOC. Additionally, two of the ads are designed to hook younger
viewers: one titled I am an Olympian, with background music by
Radiohead, and another featuring quick-cut footage of
snowboarders and freestyle skiers over tunes by the French techno
group Daft Punk. "Younger generations tend to be more cynical
about the Games," says Lee Clow, chairman of TBWA\Worldwide, the
agency that produced the ads. "Sports like snowboarding and
freestyle skiing seemed appropriate for that audience."
BOTTOM LINE Do we really need more syrupy spots preaching Olympic
values? Still, give the IOC points for landing Radiohead. Says
Clow of the melancholy Brits, who okayed use of their music
without compensation after seeing the ad, "Had it been a paid
spot, they would never have done it."
The logo of the NBA-sponsored National Basketball Development
League, intended to be a venue for noncollegians to hone their
all-around skills. The logo depicts a player dunking.
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, with threatening e-mails concerning
the team's failure to sign free agent Jeremy Roenick and its
subsequent trade for Jaromir Jagr. In a letter on the team's
website, Leonsis--whose e-mail address is posted there--said he
may limit his accessibility if he continues to receive hate mail.
Into the Baseball Writers Association of America, Japanese
journalists Gaku Tashiro of Sankei Sports, Mamoru Shikama of
Nikkan Sports News and Keizo Konishi of Kyodo News. The three,
whose names were submitted by the BBWAA's Seattle chapter, are
the first members from Japan in the organization's 93-year
By Raiders owner Al Davis, members of the jury that ruled
against him in his lawsuit against the NFL. Davis wants jurors
to sign affidavits saying that one of their group harbored a
bias against the team. Joseph Abiog of Los Angeles told the San
Jose Mercury News he believes he's the juror in question, noting
that during deliberations he joked, "I hate the Raiders because
I went to Las Vegas and lost my bet once."
To the U.S. Open's Sept. 8 evening schedule, a winner-take-all
match between old-timers Boris Becker and John McEnroe. The
$100,000 showdown, sponsored by Heineken, will follow the
women's final. Television rights have yet to be negotiated.
By surfing site swell.com, the Webby Award--the Internet's
version of the Oscar--for best sports website. It beat out
espn.com, sportsline.com, planetrugby.com and kegling site
bowl.com for the honor.
As David Duval can attest, the British Open's claret jug is a
nifty piece of hardware. However, in an obsessively commemorative
age when even the third-place team in an over-70 Tuesday-night
hoops league gets a showy mantelpiece anchor, tasteful sports
awards are rare. Here's our roundup of the good, the bad and the
just-plain-heinous sports trophies.
THE STANLEY CUP Sure, it's been used as an ashtray, a planter and
a urinal, and at three feet high and 34 pounds it's hefty, but
with its instantly recognizable profile, it's the most enduring
symbol of triumph in sports.
HEISMAN TROPHY Designed by New York City sculptor Frank Eliscu
for the Downtown Athletic Club in 1935, the statuette for college
football's highest honor has been mocked and hawked. Still, it
remains sports' classiest trophy for individual achievement.
THE LOMBARDI TROPHY Elegant yet simple--Tiffany designer Oscar
Riedener made the original sketch on a napkin--this sterling
silver award is that rare bird: an understated sports trophy.
AMERICA'S CUP The oldest continually contested trophy in
sports, the eight-pound silver cup drips with the ornate,
old-money look favored by patrician yachtsmen from Kennebunkport
to Hilton Head--which might explain why, in 1997, a Maori
activist smashed it with a sledgehammer.
THE COMMISSIONER'S TROPHY When Seinfeld's George Costanza tied
the World Series trophy to the bumper of his car and dragged it
around the Yankee Stadium parking lot, it was fitting treatment
for this gaudy bauble. The ostentatious signature of Commissioner
Selig on the base completes the Bud-ugly package.
SEARS TROPHY College football's championship award features a
Waterford-crafted crystal football that takes three months to
create by hand. The result is as tacky as a cubic zirconia
necklace shilled on the Home Shopping Network.
WORLD CUP Cast in 1971 from Italian sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga's
design, this ridiculously shrimpy (14-inch) gold sculpture was
described by SI writer Clive Gammon as resembling "something that
grew from a spore that drifted in from outer space." Plus,
shouldn't the world's most coveted sports cup be, well, a cup?
Jason Sehorn and Angie Harmon's wedding last month was a highly
private affair, with guests needing passwords to gain entrance
to the ceremony. That's nothing, though, compared to the veil of
secrecy surrounding Allen Iverson's upcoming marriage to high
school sweetheart Tawanna Turner. Invitees haven't been told
where the Aug. 3 wedding will take place; the invitation says
only that it will be "in the city of Philadelphia" and that
guests should call a wedding planner for more info. There's even
been talk that the Philadelphia detail is a bit of misdirection,
and that the nuptials will actually take place in Hampton, Va.,
where Iverson (right) and Turner grew up....
The Beijing Olympic bid committee pulled out all the stops in
its successful campaign to win the 2008 Games, even enlisting
the aid of Jackie Chan. The martial arts star appeared in
Beijing's presentation video, which was shown to IOC members in
Moscow, and Chan also flew to Russia to celebrate with Chinese
president Jiang Zemin....
Some intriguing details have emerged about Ali, the
Muhammad Ali biopic due out later this year. For example, star
Will Smith was so intent on channeling the Greatest that he not
only gained 35 pounds of muscle but also had his prominent ears
taped back. Smith would also call up Ali's wife, Lonnie, and
speak to her in the voice of the young boxer....
At this rate, everyone will be on--or at least know someone
who's been on--a reality show. To wit: Mariners pitcher Freddy
Garcia is reportedly dating Jamie Kern, the aspiring actress
from the first season of CBS's Big Brother. Meanwhile, Kevin
Dunn, one of the cast members of MTV's The Real World, dropped
in on his friend Chris Mihm, the Cavaliers' center, after a game
in Philadelphia. His visit, however, ended up on the
cutting-room floor. Guess Mihm wasn't real enough.
B/W PHOTO: ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBA ENTERTAINMENT ROYAL FLUSH By dumping his agent, Webber saved himself millions--but limited his options.
COLOR PHOTO: REUTERS (WOOSNAM) Neither Woosnam nor Byrne could fathom the caddie's historic foul-up.
COLOR PHOTO: COMEDY CENTRAL
COLOR PHOTO: RICH FREEDA/WWF ENTERTAINMENT/GETTY IMAGES (WRESTLING)
COLOR PHOTO: ANAT GIVON/AP (PANDA)
COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY IOC (BOBSLED)
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK
COLOR PHOTO: PAUL BERESWILL (STANLEY CUP)
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN (HEISMAN)
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: JOHN IACONO (LOMBARDI, SEARS)
COLOR PHOTO: JACK SMITH/AP (AMERICA'S CUP)
COLOR PHOTO: TIFFANY & CO./AP (WORLD SERIES TROPHY)
COLOR PHOTO: TSUGUFUMI MATSUMOTO/AP (WORLD CUP)
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS (IVERSON)
COLOR PHOTO: JIM COLE/AP
Calories burned up by Tour de France riders each race day.
Speed to which a skydiving suit from BirdMan International that
mimics the anatomy of a flying squirrel can slow free-falling
divers, who normally drop at 120 mph.
Percent of Colorado sports fans who said in a recent poll that
the Nuggets were their favorite team.
Amount tennis promoter John Korff has offered to pay Andre
Agassi and Steffi Graf if they have a baby girl and she plays
in his A&P Classic tournament in 2017.
Weight of a recent catch by Norwegian angler Kjell
Wilhelmsen--namely, fellow fisherman Kjell Ovesen, who tumbled
into the Gaula River and was hooked by Wilhelmsen and reeled to
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
White Sox designated hitter Jose Canseco says he's ready to play
the outfield on a regular basis.
"Shouldn't the world's most coveted sports cup be a cup?" PAGE 31
They Said It
Timberwolves exec, asked what he learned from his NBA-mandated
leave of absence in the Joe Smith affair: "That my wife wants me
to have a job."