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An In-Depth Investigation Into Amir Johnson's Contract Incentives: Part 1

In part one of his investigation, Corbin Smith looks at Amir Johnson's $50,000 contract incentive next season and wonders what it could be for.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Spo

Corbin Smith writes at his Biscuitball blog which we highly recommend. He also contributes to Portland Roundball Society. We were thrilled when Corbin offered to take an all-too-in-depth look at what Amir Johnson's contract incentives are for next season.

From Daniel Hackett's round-up of contract incentives, we learned that Amir Johnson has a $50,000 incentive for next season. So, what accomplishment would trigger this reward? Let me take you on a deep dive.

1. Statistical Benchmark

Johnson's incentive is labeled as not likely to be achieved. The difference between likely and unlikely incentives has precedence. Larry Coon's Salary Cap FAQ uses the following example: "If a player had seven assists per game the previous season, then an incentive based on seven assists per game would be classified as likely to be achieved, but one based on eight assists per game would be classified as not likely."

It would make sense for a big man like Amir Johnson to have a rebounds-based incentive in his contract. He averaged 6.6 rebounds last season. The year before that, he scaled the mountain and snagged 7.5 rebounds per game. So, one could justifiably assume the incentive might kick in when he averages say eight or nine rebounds a game.

2. Awards

Players can receive incentive payments for All-Star selections or playoff awards like winning Finals MVP. Amir would certainly be an unlikely All-Star, but it's also not outlandish that this would be his contract incentive.

3. Amir is a private detective and this bonus functions as a retainer for his services

Amir Johnson was the last NBA player selected out of high school before the NBA changed the rules in 2006. A young man in possession of the kind of money is bound to make some eccentric purchases.

A comprehensive private detective course and license wouldn't even be in the tenth percentile of weird things NBA players have bought. Amir knew that his basketball career could end at any time and it was best to have a backup plan.

On August 7th, Amir took a call.


"Amir, it's Masai. We need to talk. Meet me at the Centre. In the seats. It's the only place we can get some privacy. I can't say any more right now."

(we sourced this beautiful photo of Masai via Toronto Life)

"Hello Amir. You're looking well."

"Cut the crap Masai. What do you need? Time to ship me out for Durant or something?"

"I heard you're a private dick."

"I dabble. Only the occasional cheating-husband-inquiry since my basketball career really broke out, just to keep myself sharp."

"We've got a hot lead on a cold case and we want you to track it down."

Masai handed Amir a manila folder filled labeled OPERATION DINOGOLD.

Amir idly flipped through the mishmash of half-hazard pictures and half-redacted documents.

Masai might be able to swing NBA deals but his paperwork left something to be desired.

"Why me? Why not hire a full time fella?"

"We need someone we can trust. A known leader on and off the court. Anyway, you're already wealthy. You can't be bought."

"And how do you plan to pay me? The NBA frowns on out-of-contract money changing hands."

"The $50,000 incentive. The extra promotional clause is surprisingly flexible. James Harden has a $100,000 incentive that will kick in if he designs a functional single person submarine."

"Classic Morey move."

"In 2002, the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment was storing two million dollars worth of gold toonies in a garbage bag under the floorboards of the Toronto Raptors locker room."

"Why so much liquid capital?"

"The NHL is a different beast from the NBA, Amir. I'll leave it at that. Anyways, a week after the end of the 2001-02 season, we went to retrieve the bag so we could make a payment to Bryan McCabe's Swiss bank account."

"Did they look into McCabe?"

"Of course they did, but he was clean as a whistle. Someone else did it. Someone with knowledge of the Raptors locker room. Here."

Masai hands Amir a plane ticket: destination, Johannesburg.

"We got a lead. One of the toonies turned up in South Africa."

"Won't my sniffing around raise eyebrows?"

"I set up a Basketball Without Borders event. No one will suspect a thing."

Amir gave the envelope a thorough look through on the plane ride from Toronto to Johannesburg.

The toonie was used at a shop in the Northern part of the city known for hawking counterfeit goods.

But the JNB's most prominent counterfeiting operation had just been shut down in July. What was going on?

Amir stepped into the store and spoke to the clerk. He held up a color picture of one of the gold toonies.

"Did anyone pay for something using one of these?"

"Who wants to know?"

Amir lowered his sunglasses.

"The Toronto Raptors Basketball Club."

"Whoa, mister. I'm just a simple shopkeeper. Not trying to make trouble with the Mr. Ujiri and the Raptors organization. It was a big guy, almost as tall as you. A little bigger, though. Like, wider."

"And what did he buy?"

"A sequin coat. Since the factory shut down, I've mostly been dealing in customs. It said MOOSE across the back, all in purple."

Amir knew exactly who it was.

To be continued in Part 2 tomorrow.