(Photo from GreekSoccer)
Josh Childress and one of the league's most perfect afros left the NBA to play for Olympiacos Piraeus on July 23, 2008 for three years and $20 million dollars with an opt out clause after every one of those three years. That's a deal, that's a steal, that's the sale of the effing century, and while the Hawks were offering 33 million over 5 years, hey, you can't really blame a young dude trying to get his, just like any other NBA player. But people freaked. And it lead to other "top" names playing abroad.
Before Childress, Juan Carlos Navarro signed with Spain's FC Barcelona on June 18th.
Jorge Garbajosa signed with Russia's Khimki Region on July 25th.
Nenad Krstic signed with Russia's Triumph Lyubertsy on July 29th.
Carlos Arroyo signed with Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv on August 4th.
Earl Boykins signed with Italy's Virtus Balogna on August 6th.
Jannero Pargo signed with Russia's Dynamo Moscow on August 15th joining
Bostjan Nachbar who had already signed on July 21st (and gave a warning: "'The NBA had better be careful,' Nachbar said. 'European teams are offering a lot of money. It's much more, considering there are no taxes, than what I could make signing for the midlevel exception'").
Gordan Giricek signed with Turkey's Fenerbahce on August 21st.
I mean my goodness! Nachbar sure knew what he was talking about! But hey, everyone believed the same thing (to an extent). Perhaps it made for better sports stories to have the NBA possibly ransacked of all of its players due to more money available in Europe and Russia. The summer of 2008 was the year of the Summer Olympics and the NBA's redeem team where Kobe made international headlines saying he'd possibly leave the Lakers if a team in Italy offered him $50 million in one year. Keep in mind that when Boykins signed his ONE YEAR DEAL for $3.5 MILLION, he became Italy's highest paid player, a far reach from $50 million.
So where are these players now? Some came back to the NBA, some for less money than they were making abroad:
Boykins is on the Wizards making $1.2 million for this season. FA this summer.
Krstic is on the Thunder making $5.4 million and has a player option this summer for $5.8 million.
Jannero Pargo is on the Bulls making $2 million for this season. FA this summer.
Carlos Arroyo is on the Heat making $1.1 million for this season. FA this summer.
Gordan Giricek, Bostjan Nachbar, Josh Childress, Juan Carlos Navarro, and Jorge Garbajosa are all still on their contracts they signed two summers ago and are playing in Europe and Russia according to their wikipedia pages.
So hindsight is truly 20/20. Josh Childress wasn't the first to sign abroad, but he was a mid-level exception guy who signed for more in Europe. Everyone freaked and I'll admit, even I was wondering if a big name guy would soon go but if you remember, this past summer, no one went abroad and no one even mentioned the possibility.
Instead, Everyone was talking about Lamar Odom and if he would re-sign with the Lakers or go back to Miami. Everyone was hyping up Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon in Detroit (for some reason). Everyone was talking about Shaq teaming with LeBron. Brandon Jennings who was already PLAYING in Europe came to the NBA. Europe became an afterthought and we will see THIS summer if any of the five guys listed above come back and use that crazy clause that allows them to opt out of their contract after every year (I can't get over how sweet of a deal that is).
But hey, Kobe hasn't signed an extension yet. If the NBA and the players don't reach an agreement in the Collective Bargaining Agreement and there's a lockout... watch out Europe!