Kazaam! Those Salaries

With some stories, it's hard not to join in the collective gasp - or is it a groan? The news that National Basketball Association stars have broken a new salary barrier, winning nine-figure contracts, was one of those stories.

Everyone knew that this year's free-agent bidding would be furious, but in excess of $100 million for shooting and dribbling? Such paychecks reflect the huge market value of pro sports, and basketball has been leaping ahead of football and baseball as Americans' sport of choice.

Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, and others are one-man industries, raking in added millions in product endorsements and entertainment appearances. We're about to go from the "Shaq attack" Pepsi ads to Shaq's first feature film, "Kazaam," with the Los Angeles Lakers' newest addition starring, appropriately, as a genie.

What do young men, many of them from modest backgrounds, do with amounts of cash once reserved for tycoons or sultans? They might do well to take a page from Magic Johnson's book and invest in businesses in the communities they came from - especially at a time when the government is hardly activist on urban renewal.

That's just a suggestion. We know these guys have no shortage of advisers. But the constructive use of some of those added millions could make a riveting story of a different kind.

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