Worst free agency signings in NBA history: 21. Jim McIlvaine, Seattle SuperSonics
The then-Seattle SuperSonics made a few bad gambles that their franchise could never quite recover from. One of those gambles came during the 1996 NBA free agency period when they had a chance to sign a lucrative deal.
After two seasons with the then-Washington Bullets in a backup role, Jim McIlvaine entered free agency. Through 135 appearances, he put up 2.1 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game with the Bullets, but it came as a shock to many when the SuperSonics offered and signed him to a seven-year, $34 million deal.
For a guy who hadn’t put up more than 12 points or 11 rebounds in a game, he was given quite the deal (roughly $4.8 million/per year) by the SuperSonics. It quickly struck the ire of fans and even Shawn Kemp in particular.
After leading Seattle to their third NBA Finals appearance in team history a franchise-record 64 wins, Kemp had requested a contract extension, but the collective bargaining agreement didn’t allow for one to happen until October 1997.
McIlvaine’s signing had a domino effect on the demise of the SuperSonics franchise. After triggering the ire of Kemp, Seattle shipped him off to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-team deal that secured them Vin Baker during the 1997 NBA offseason.
After two seasons in Seattle and with five years left on his deal, McIlvaine was traded by the SuperSonics to the then-New Jersey Nets. After three seasons and 106 appearances in New Jersey, McIlvaine was out of the league after the 2000-01 NBA season.