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Why Crab Legs May Have Cursed the Celtics’ Pursuit of Kevin Durant

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Getty Images

It’s a time-honored tradition: Superstar Athlete’s contract is up. Superstar Athlete considers joining a new team. Prospective fans promise Superstar Athlete everything they have to offer. Some of those fans own restaurants, and lately many of them have offered a lifetime of free meals to athletes if they would please, please, please sign a contract.

On Wednesday, Boston’s Legal Sea Foods offered soon-to-be free agent Kevin Durant unlimited crab legs if he signs with the Celtics. We got to thinking: What other lifetime offers have been extended to athletes? And how many athletes have successfully been wooed by the promise of untold wings/pies/hoagies?

The answer: not many. Offering athletes unlimited food, in fact, just might be a curse. In all the cases we could find, whether to encourage free agents to sign or inspire a victory, a single food-baited outcome came to pass: Chris Davis sticking with the Orioles in January 2016.

Below, a selection of some of the morsels and other worldly delights recently promised to athletes, listed in the order the offers were made. Has Legal Sea Foods doomed Boston in the KD lottery? If history is any indication, they might have.

LeBron James (2010)

The offers: LeBron was offered steak (specifically, steak from a strip club) and My Chemical Romance tickets to sign with the Knicks in 2010; he was offered Iron Chef catering services if he re-signed with the Cavs.

Did these offers work? No.

Possible explanation: “I would pay money to not have to see a My Chemical Romance concert.” — LeBron James, probably. Having the Iron Chef as your private chef, on the other hand, actually seems like a pretty good offer! I have no explanation.

Peyton Manning (2012)

The offers: Manning was promised unlimited MoonPies and daily pancakes if he signed with the Titans in 2012.

Did these offers work? No.

Possible explanation: Not to be like, MoonPie definitely has a smaller advertising budget than Papa John’s, but…

Colin Kaepernick (2013)

The offer: Noted Red Robin fan Kaepernick was promised unlimited eats by the chain if he could just win Super Bowl XLVII.

Did this offer work? No.

Possible explanation: I don’t know for a fact that Kaepernick hasn’t set foot in a Red Robin since that loss to the Ravens, but he definitely hasn’t.

Dwight Howard (2013)

The offer: Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers offered Howard — you guessed it — a lifetime of chicken fingers if he would sign with the Mavericks.

Did this offer work? No.

Possible explanation: America’s finest food though it may be, it’s probably best to offer something not already sitting in every freezer in the country.

Manny Pacquiao (2015)

The offer: A Filipino restaurant in California offered Pacquiao free food for life if he beat Floyd Mayweather in what was billed as the “Fight of the Century” in May 2015.

Did this offer work? No.

Possible explanation: It was not exactly the “Fight of the Century,” in the end.

Paul Pierce (2015)

The offer: Taking a page out of the Iron Chef’s (failed) book, Washington, D.C., restaurant baron José Andrés offered to cook for Pierce once a month if he re-signed with the Wizards.

Did this offer work? No.

Possible explanation: “Is The Era Of Celebrity Chefs Over? My Column”

LaMarcus Aldridge (2015)

The offers: A Portland microbrewery offered LaMarcus Aldridge free beer for life if he re-signed with the Blazers. The Arizona Diamondbacks dangled game tickets and their signature Churro Dog to try to convince him to sign with the Suns.

Did these offers work? No.

Possible explanation: A Churro Dog comes in at 1,117 calories. You could eat, like, ten of these in a year and not die of starvation. You would die of something else, sure — a heart attack? scurvy? sadness? — but from a sociogourmand perspective, this is an impressive food. Anyway, it did not sway Aldridge. As for Portland … it’s full of boring Californians now, right?

Zack Greinke (2015)

The offer: LA Metro offered Greinke free bus rides for life if he re-signed with the Dodgers.

Did this offer work? No.

Possible explanation: Los Angeles’s public transit system drives a hard bargahahahahahhahahaaha no.

Yoenis Céspedes (2016)

The offer: Baltimore restaurant Jimmy’s Seafood offered Céspedes free crab cakes for life to abandon the Mets for the Orioles.

Did this offer work? No.

Possible explanation: I can never tell if crab cakes are good or not. On the one hand, crab; on the other, deep-fried mush balls. I don’t know. I support Céspedes’s wariness.

Chris Davis (2016)

The offer: Spurned by Céspedes, Jimmy’s Seafood turned to first baseman Chris Davis offering him, his kids, and their kids unlimited crab cakes for life if he would re-sign with the Orioles.

Did this offer work? Yes!

Possible explanation: Got to think it was the multigenerational offer that pushed Davis over the edge. The future belongs to our children. And especially to Davis’s crab cake-bloated children.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (2016)

The offer: The city of Oberhausen, Germany, home to club team Rot-Weiss Oberhausen, offered to institute a monarchy and appoint Zlatan king if he would join the team.

Did this offer work? No.

Possible explanation: Blah blah blah, democracy is soooo great, death to tyrants, yada yada. ALL HAIL KING ZLATAN! (He should reconsider.)

Which brings us back to Durant, and the crab legs promised to him in Boston.

Other athletes have been offered unlimited foodstuffs for their, uh, accomplishments. This week Orioles star Manny Machado was promised free crab cakes for life after charging Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura on the mound; Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor was wooed with free barbecue after punching Blue Jays outfielder José Bautista. (This restaurant’s owner subsequently received death threats and angry online reviews from aggrieved Toronto fans, which is the meanest thing any Canadian has ever done.) Richard Berman, the New York judge who overturned Tom Brady’s four-game suspension in September, was offered free coffee for life at a Maine Dunkin’ Donuts. These offers work as rewards; as incentives, they may be hexed.

As for why the curse might exist, it could be that the likelihood of a food offer goes up as the probability of a sports outcome goes down. Why offer unlimited crab products if something is going to happen anyway?

Or — sorry, Boston — it might just be a curse.