August 1999: Raptors re-sign Michael “Yogi” Stewart
"After losing John Wallace to the Knicks, we had to step up to secure our talented young big players"
- Glen Grunwald, on signing Stewart for 6-years, $24M
No Raptor broadcast from 1998 to 2002 was complete without the obligatory shot panning down the Raptor bench, ending at a yawning Yogi Stewart itching his balls through the crotch of an expensive suit. The player was a lightening rod for fan frustration, a posterboy for the danger of awarding long-term contracts, and a constant source of embarrassment for Glen Grunwald. Each time a bespeckled Yogi Stewart popped up from the bench during a Raptor timeout must have felt like a new herpes sore for Grunwald—a constant reminder of a terrible lapse in judgement (no offence Mo!)
Believe it or not, but there was a time when GMs actually wanted Yogi Stewart on their teams. Despite not being drafted, Stewart made the Sacramento Kings in 1998 and showed signs that he could be a quality defensive power forward, starting 31 games and averaging 2.41 blocks. When he became a free agent at the end of his rookie year, Stewart received a number of offers but signed a 1-year $1M contract with the Raptors. However, once the young big man arrived in Toronto, he proved to be a flash-in-the pan, averaging 0.67 blocks over 9.4 minutes of playing time per game. Good thing Grunwald only committed to a 1-year deal, right? Wrong suckers! The only reason Stewart signed with the Raptors in the first place was that Grunwald had a Joe Smith-style gentleman’s agreement in place, promising Stewart a longer, more lucrative contract the following season when the team had salary cap space. And what a goddamn regal gentleman Grunwald turned out to be! Petrified that the Raptors would lose credibility throughout the league by backing out of a wink-wink deal, Grunwald overpayed Yogi to the tune of 6-years, 24$M. Because the best way for a franchise to earn respect is by overpaying a player based on potential, after their lack of talent has been exposed.
The final humiliation came when Grunwald finally dealt Stewart to the Cavaliers. By trading for Stewart, the Cleveland media felt it had conclusive proof that the team intended to finish with the worst record in the NBA, hoping to land the #1 pick and Lebron James.
And don’t get me fucking started on John Wallace.