Keith Johnson, Deseret News
Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur, if he played for New Jersey, could be your private dinner guest for just $25,000.

My daughter's birthday is coming up next month, and I know just the gift: dinner with Kyle Korver.

She once joked about having me hook her up with that good-looking new Jazz player — "hot" was the term I think she used — and I said, yeah, right, I'd put it at the top of my to-do list.

Now I'm actually thinking I could make it happen, except for two things: It costs a lot, and the plan I have in mind isn't available in Salt Lake.

Otherwise, heck of an idea.

It's been a long time coming, but economic realities are finally affecting NBA players. That was brought home during the free agent period, last summer, when Carlos Boozer got no better offers than the one he already had from the Jazz. During the season, he had predicted he would command a guaranteed raise "no matter what."

Now comes an even bigger shock for super rich athletes: They may actually have to do something besides play basketball to sell their product.

My birthday brainstorm came after hearing the New Jersey Nets are selling ticket packages that include four courtside tickets for 10 games, plus parking, access to the big-shots lounge and a one-hour appearance by the player of their choice. The player may appear at the buyer's office, home, school or even party.

"That's a terrific thing and it's tough to put a price tag on it," said Nets' CEO Brett Yormark.

But they managed. The cost is $25,000.

That's one expensive hookup.

The marketing idea hasn't spread to other NBA teams, but if it does, I might fork over the money and get Korver to visit our house. I'll just tell my daughter we're having a surprise guest, and suddenly he'll be sitting by her at the dinner table, first chair on the left. Or maybe I'll request a visit from Mr. Guaranteed Raise himself, Boozer. Since he'll be employed by me for an hour, I might ask him to do a few tricks, like blowing milk through his nostrils or singing happy birthday in a falsetto.

I may even convince him to come out to my driveway and let me beat him in a game of H-O-R-S-E.

You know, so the neighbors can see.

If there's time before the hour is up, I'll entertain him with my knock-knock jokes.


Who's there?


Abbott who?

Abbott time you guys started living like the rest of us!

The amazing part of this is that the Nets players aren't going to be compensated for their time. For decades, NBA players have lived a privileged life. They signed guaranteed contracts and got paid, whether they produced or not. They currently receive $113 per diem, though they are often comped on things like meals, clothing and entertainment. Their travel and lodging are paid for by the team.

A Jazz player once told me of a shop owner who gave them huge discounts on pearls for their wives or girlfriends. You'd think if anyone could afford to pay full price, it would be NBA players. But noooo.

When you're in the Show, everyone wants to pick up your tab.

True story: Fifteen years ago, a Jazz player refused to make an appearance at a retail store, even though he would have been paid $5,000 for a two-hour gig. The player didn't think it was worth his time.

Appalling? Maybe. But in their strange and wondrous world, it makes sense. Andrei Kirilenko will earn roughly $100,000 an hour this season, so $2,500 an hour is tip change.

I figure if the Nets' plan spreads to Utah, I could have a lot of fun. I'd rent Kyrylo Fesenko and get him to show up for Christmas Eve in a Santa suit. Ronnie Brewer could emcee my family reunion. Or maybe I could get Mehmet Okur to come to my office to play Nerfball with me.

The story on the Nets said not everyone will get their top choice for a player visit. Whoever came to my house, I'd tell him he's working for me now. But I would be nice. We would have dinner and talk about our kids, the cost of gasoline and recent movies we'd seen.

Just before he left, I'd say, "Oh, one more thing. Would you mind helping clear the dishes before you leave?"

It's the least he could do to show appreciation for my support.