Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise gave final approval yesterday to a pre-pension plan that will pay funds and provide medical benefits to NBA players from the day they retire until their league pensions kick in.
At a hearing in Newark (N.J.) Federal District Court, Debevoise reiterated his preliminary July 27 approval of the plan, which is opposed to by some big names in the game, such as Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Their claim is that the pre-pension money, taken by agreement of the NBA Players Association and the league from the salary cap, restricts free agent movement.
The annuity benefit is based upon a player's salary, though portions of the medical benefits package are standardized.
Because of the pre-pension plan, the salary cap came down from a projected excess of $13 million to $11.8 million for this season.
Opponents of the plan filed a memorandum with the court with 22 names on it. However, according to Simon Gourdine of the NBAPA, none of those players had filed paperwork with the court as of the required Sept. 10 date to state objections. And there were no representatives of the opponents in court yesterday.
"We're not sure that the players who are listed are still objectors to the plan," Gourdine said.
Washington Bullets player representative Darrell Walker, a strong supporter of the plan, was in Newark yesterday, along with Detroit's Isiah Thomas, the NBAPA president, and Dallas's Rolando Blackman, the vice president.
The rank and file already had approved the plan in June, but when objections were raised, a new vote of player representatives was taken this month. They voted to adopt the plan by 25-1 -- the Los Angeles Clippers' Danny Manning the lone dissenter -- with one abstention.