"I have nothing to complain about," a gleeful McKie said, standing beside his New Jersey-based agent, Leon Rose, after the signing. "[The Sixers] came through when they had to, which is what matters most. I never wanted to go anywhere else. This is where I wanted to be all along.
"Words can't describe how happy I am to finally get paid, to be where I want to be, playing with the guys I want to play with, possibly for the rest of my career," he said.
"Aaron gave us everything we needed," said Sixers general manager Billy King, who flew in from Boston for the signing and then returned there for the Shaw's Pro Summer League yesterday afternoon. "He gave us points when we needed points. When we needed defense, he gave it to us. When we needed him to play point, he did everything. He played small forward. He was like Bobby Jones when the Sixers were in their heyday. He gave you everything you needed on and off the floor."
McKie's performance on the floor was what got him the money.
The Sixers' 6-foot-5 guard out of Temple averaged career highs in points (11.6), rebounds (4.1), assists (5.0), steals (1.39), and minutes played (31.5) last season. He started 33 of the 76 games in which he played, enduring everything from knee to back to shoulder injuries, rarely unavailable whenever the Sixers needed him most.
McKie was drafted 17th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1994. The Sixers acquired him and Theo Ratliff on Dec. 18, 1997, from the Detroit Pistons for Jerry Stackhouse and Eric Montross.
McKie ended up giving the Sixers more than they had expected - so much so that Brown called him "everything a coach could ever want in a player."
Still, McKie nearly left Philadelphia.
As late as Friday afternoon, he was frustrated with the Sixers, annoyed at a seven-year, $35 million offer. McKie had two outstanding offers on the table. One was from the Atlanta Hawks, and he was ready to walk.
"Yeah, I did think about leaving last week," McKie said. "I'm not going to lie. To me, it was all about fairness, loyalty, and the same kind of commitment I've spent years giving this organization. . . .
"After all the injuries, all the perseverance, all the hard work and finally getting to the NBA Finals, I felt they didn't come to me with an offer I deserved. That bothered me. Just don't nickel-and-dime me; that's all I'm saying. In the end, [the Sixers] didn't, so I'm happy."
Today, center Dikembe Mutombo will sign a four-year deal worth more than $65 million. After that, King has to concern himself with restricted free agent Todd MacCulloch, who signed an offer sheet with the New Jersey Nets for six years and $33.75 million.
King and the Sixers have 15 days to match the offer or lose MacCulloch. A decision has not yet been made.
"I feel good because we got our core team back," King said, referring to the signings of McKie and Mutombo. "That was a big part of our success."
Stephen A. Smith's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.