Life Worth More Than NBA's Millions

Jeff Green (Elsa/Getty Images)
Jeff Green (Elsa/Getty Images)

The Sacramento Kings announced Monday that forward Chuck Hayes failed his physical because of a heart abnormality. The four-year, $21.3 million contract that Hayes signed last week was voided.


The Boston Celtics made a similar announcement Saturday regarding forward Jeff Green, stating that he'll undergo heart surgery and miss the upcoming season. Green also signed his contract last week, a one-year deal worth $9 million that he won't receive now.

If the problems had been detected after the routine physicals that teams conduct when players sign new contracts, Hayes and Green would have been paid in full. And if there were a way to ensure full payment and subsequent good health, they certainly would have chosen that option.

But it's better that the heart problems were discovered now, before the players engaged in one more workout, scrimmage or game. Because you never know when or where trouble might surface, and no one wants to endure another situation like the one the Celtics faced with Reggie Lewis.

The timing of Green's physical, plus the NBA lockout that delayed the start of training camps, may have saved his life. Lewis wasn't as fortunate in 1993. In the prime of his career, he died from heart failure after collapsing while shooting hoops at Brandeis University.

Lewis' death occurred three years after the Hank Gathers tragedy, when the Loyola Marymount star collapsed during a televised game and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. Gathers' case led to the prevalence of defibrillators at athletic events.

Players' health is the foremost concern, but that doesn't remove the sadness involved when they can't pursue their sport (or cash their paycheck). Kings General Manager Geoff Petrie said that informing Hayes of the news was "one of the most heartbreaking moments of my professional or personal life."


Specifics of Hayes' condition weren't released, but the Celtics had good news regarding Green, who was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm. A team of leading cardiac specialists said that surgery is expected to repair Green's condition and allow him to resume playing next season.

"While we are saddened that Jeff will not be able to play this season, the most important thing is his health, and we were fortunate to have access to an amazing team of specialists to evaluate Jeff's case," Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge said in a release.


Hayes and Green lost a lot of money this week. But that's nothing compared to the stakes at risk if the ailments hadn't been detected.