The forefathers of today's pro basketball royalty may have laid the groundwork for nine-figure contracts, but many of them haven't retired in the lap of luxury as one might think.
George Mikan, the National Basketball Association's first big star in both size and stature, is possibly the most evident example of the discrepancy between the players of today and those who retired decades ago. Mr. Mikan, who helped revolutionize the NBA, died June 1 at the age of 80 after a long battle with health problems that left him so cash-strapped that he sold his own memorabilia.
Larry Staveman, the coordinator for a group of players who retired before 1965, said those players have always sought parity with those who retired after 1965, the year NBA players formed an organized bargaining entity. Mr. Staveman noted that Mr. Mikan's situation "was really the catalyst" for the attention that matter is now receiving.
The NBA and the players union, the National Basketball Players Association, announced June 21 that they'd reached an agreement in principle on a new six-year collective bargaining agreement that would include increased pension benefits for the "pre-'65" players, subject to approval by the Internal Revenue Service. It was unclear exactly how pension benefits would be increased. Dan Wasserman, a players association spokesman, did not return a call seeking comment by press time, and officials at the league press office also did not return calls.