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Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Updated: March 12, 4:22 PM ET
They earned pink slips, not paychecks

By Graham Hays

Bob Knight doesn't think 16 wins, including six conference wins in the rough-and-tumble Big 12, merits his annual salary of $250,000? In today's sports world, we call that a bargain.

Plus, we've been to Lubbock, and $250,000 wouldn't be enough to get us to vacation there. We're willing to watch Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez sign contracts that dwarf the GDP of small nations, but there are more than a few sports figures who should follow Knight's lead in ripping up a paycheck. We've got nine sporting deadbeats, but choosing the last member of this loathsome group is up to you.

1. Clifford Etienne ($1,000,000)
It would be nice to think pay-per-view buyers would get a refund if common decency did the same sort of number on Etienne's conscience that Mike Tyson did on his chin. Page 2's Jeff Merron crunched the numbers and found Etienne earned $20,408.16 for each second he was in the ring. And you know those numbers were spinning through Etienne's head as he hit the canvas for the first, and last, time.

What can $250K buy?

  • 1000 copies of "A Season On The Brink" DVD: $16,999
  • 50 black V-neck sweaters: $1,499
  • Airfare to New Orleans and two Final Four tickets: $1,450
  • Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior, by Phil Jackson (used): $2
  • One year's supply of potted plants for his secretary: $1,560
  • 100 folding chairs: $2,000
  • One year's supply of coffee (decaffeinated): $1,460
  • Unpaid phone bills for Villanova basketball players: $54,970
  • Tony Cole: $100,000
  • Roadmap for state of Texas (in case an exit trip is planned): $5
  • Roadmap for United States (to find new destination): $5
  • Attorney to settle outstanding legal disputes with Puerto Rican authorities: $20,000
  • Ticket on Indiana to win 2003 NCAA Championship at 20-1 odds: $50,000
  • 2. Mike Hampton ($9,504,543)
    Hampton's disastrous stay in Denver didn't offer much return on the $121 million Colorado invested in the "ace" southpaw, and got him a ticket to Leo Mazzone's pitching paradise in Atlanta. The Rockies want to dump Hampton so eagerly after watching him surrender 55 home runs and 464 hits in 381 2/3 innings that they helped pay more than $10 million for the mere privilege of removing him from their roster (and brought on over $50 million in salary in Preston Wilson and Charles Johnson). And so far this spring? Can someone check the elevation in Celebration City, Florida? In his first five spring innings, Hampton surrendered nine hits and two walks.

    3. Greg Vaughn ($8,750,000)
    Vaughn isn't alone when it comes to being old and infirm in Florida, but most of the state's other geezers are off the payroll. Vaughn slugged 50 home runs for San Diego in 1998 and 45 home runs for Cincinnati the next season, but he's totaled just 60 dingers in three seasons with the Devil Rays. Sadly for baseball fans in Tampa, that ranks him second on the team's all-time list. But at $213,444 per hit last season, Vaughn is a worse buy than Devil Rays season tickets.

    4. Alexei Yashin ($7,400,000)
    At least fans at Nasseau Coliseum still get glimpses of Carol Alt, Yashin's supermodel girlfriend, because the high-priced center isn't producing many beautiful moments of his own. Despite playing on a team that has scored just seven fewer goals than its allowed, Yashin has managed a minus-20 rating. Fellow Islanders forward Jason Blake has a plus-21 rating and six more goals than Yashin, all at a fraction of the cost.

    5. Vin Baker ($12,000,000)
    There's a reason Seattle fans lobbied for a municipal holiday when Baker was dealt to Boston. Once a legitimate All-Star-caliber forward in Milwaukee, Baker arrived in Seattle with a big contract and even bigger rear end. Only the uniform changed this season, as Baker struggled to beat out such low-post luminaries as Tony Battie and Walter McCarty. Not that it shows in the stats, but Baker is currently on a leave from the team to deal with several personal issues.

    6. Damon Stoudamire ($12,000,000)
    Good seats at the Rose Garden cost upwards of $150. Until recently, Stoudamire made that much for every field goal he watched from the end of Portland's bench. Stoudamire's minutes have picked up in recent days (not tough when DNP-CD is almost a part of your name), but shouldn't a player with one of the league's richest contracts have more than nine games with double-figure points?

    7. Kevin Brown/Darren Dreifort ($25,000,000)
    It's unfair to lump two players in one entry, but it might take Brown and Dreifort returning their paychecks for anyone to consider paying Rupert Murdoch full value for this franchise. The Dodgers paid Brown and Dreifort a combined $25 million in 2002, and the duo responded with three of Los Angeles' 92 wins.

    8. Allan Houston ($14,000,000)
    It's not that Houston is playing particularly poorly for the Knicks, as he ranks 13th in the league in scoring, but the guard's massive contract has almost single-handedly destroyed the team's ability to maneuver beneath the cap. What good will it do for David Stern to fix the lottery, if Houston's deal means the Knicks can't get LeBron any complementary parts?

    9. Jan van Breda Kolff
    If there's any college coach who ought to feel shamefaced about cashing his check, it's van Breda Koff. It's one thing for Jim Harrick to run afoul of the NCAA authorities at a sports factory like Georgia, but corrupting a small Atlantic-10 school of 2,200 students like St. Bonaventure is akin to feeding crack to puppies. And if you're going to cheat, how about finding some players who can do better than a 7-22 record?

    10. ????
    The choice is YOURS. Vote here!