When owner Jerry Buss gathered the Lakers for a team party at his Pickfair mansion Tuesday night, he gave them more than a good time. Buss also announced that team captain Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as expected, had signed a two-year contract that will take him through the 1988-89 season.
Terms of the contract were not announced, but Abdul-Jabbar's attorney, Leonard Armato, said that his client was in line to receive a substantial raise on his $2-million annual salary.
"This agreement is a fitting tribute to the final year of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar--the most financially rewarding contract ever for the greatest athlete in sports history," Armato said.
The contract was completed Tuesday afternoon, when Abdul-Jabbar skipped a celebration rally at the Forum, purportedly to work out remaining details with Buss, General Manager Jerry West and Lakers' attorney Jerry Fine.
Neither Buss nor Abdul-Jabbar were available for comment Tuesday night, but both men released statements through Laker publicist Josh Rosenfeld.
"Naturally we're very happy to have Kareem back for two more years," Buss said. "He remains a major force in the league and on this team, and there is no reason to believe his productivity will diminish in the near future."
Said Abdul-Jabbar: "I'm very flattered the Lakers had the confidence to sign me for that long and I hope the relationship will continue to be mutually beneficial."
Abdul-Jabbar, the oldest player in the league, will be 42 when this contract runs out, and will have played 20 seasons in the NBA. He has denied repeatedly that personal financial setbacks--he may have lost as much as $5 million in disastrous business ventures--entered into his decision to continue playing.
"Playing 20 seasons in the NBA isn't something I was trying to do, but it looks like I'll have a shot at it," Abdul-Jabbar said.
Buss also said that the Lakers are close to granting a multiyear contract extension to forward James Worthy, who had the option of renegotiating the last two seasons of his seven-year contract with the team.
Worthy, who was paid $575,000 last season, was due to be paid $625,000 next season and $900,000 in 1988-89 under the terms of his existing contract.