A knee surgery in 2006 looked like the end of the career of a young prospect named Darius Miles. At the time, it was announced officially that the 6’9” forward won’t be able to play basketball again, allowing his team, the Portland Trail Blazers, to remove him from the roster and, even more importantly, off the payroll. Miles had a 9 million annual contract up until the 2009/2010 season left on the table, but as he couldn’t play anymore, the NBA allowed the Blazers to get Miles off the books under one condition. And that was that Miles couldn’t appear in more than 10 games in one season ever again for the deal to be valid. The situation was relatively quiet and forgotten until Miles appeared in the preseason training camp of the Boston Celtics before the 2008/2009 season.
Miles would play six preseason games for the Celtics but get cut before the start of the season. Then later in the season, the Memphis Grizzlies would give him a shot, but only for two games, as he eventually got cut from there also. So at the time, Miles would total eight games in that season, causing panic in Portland, as they were two games away from having to break out the checkbooks and paying Miles his 9 million dollars.
That scenario would put them above the luxury tax and destroy their chance of signing some of their younger guys to bigger contracts. At the time, they had names like Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden, Nicholas Batum, and Rudy Fernandez, all rising up in the league and looking to get paid.
So what would the be Blazers do? In a panic, they would send out an e-mail to all the other 29 teams, threatening to take them to court if they sign Miles to any kind of contract, allowing him to play two more games and breaking the deal they had with the NBA. It was an unprecedented case never seen before in the history of the NBA.
All the teams were disgusted by this behavior, but despite their threats, the Memphis Grizzlies, the team that already cut Miles earlier in the season, decided to give Miles a 10-day contract, as many believed they did it out of pure spite for the Blazers.
Miles and his agent claimed this has nothing to do with the Blazers but rather the human rights of Darius to do the thing he loves, and that’s playing basketball. The players union would stick up for Miles and give him support. In the end, Darius played and got to 34 games in the season, meaning the Blazers had to pay 18 million dollars for that season and the following one, leaving them in an ungrateful situation.
Even though the salary cup was invented to make all the teams equal, the NBA’s system of negotiating and paying players had one of its most bizarre episodes ever in the case of Darius Miles.