What do NBA Players do After they Retire?
The life of an NBA player is, for the most part, quite glamorous. From playing a game they love day-in and day-out, to travelling across the country, to getting paid a healthy sum for their efforts. However, basketball, as with many other sports, is not a long-term endeavor and unfortunately for many players, whether due to injury, age, or fatigue, will be forced to retire and quit the game, typically in their mid-thirties.
But what exactly do NBA players do after they retire? Below, we are going to look at what many NBA players have done once they have retired from the NBA and the sport and alternative careers many former players have coopted once they have retired from the game.
Why do NBA Players Retire so Young?
Basketball, like so many other sports, is quite grueling on the body and the mind. Basketball requires a high-level of dedication, effort, and commitment. Oftentimes, this level of commitment can be taxing on the body, eventually leading to both fatigue and exhaustion.
While for many of us casual players, a couple of pick-up basketball games is enough to leave us sore and bruised for days to come, NBA players are oftentimes expected to play back-to-back games while travelling between states and away from their family and loved ones as they play in different arenas.
And while basketball is generally considered a beneficial sport, the sheer amount of games, practices, and exercises required to compete in the NBA takes a heavy toll on the body and can lead to fatigue and exhaustion.
And similarly, for many NBA players, as they age through their careers in the league, they are often tasked with defending and playing against other players younger than themselves, many times against other players who are nearly a decade younger in age.
And while there are steps that NBA players can take to be better players as they get older, the simple fact remains that their bodies oftentimes cannot compete with the younger competition, grueling schedules, and difficult lifestyles led by NBA players.
Does the NBA Offer Retired Players a Pension?
While NBA players are generally some of the highest paid athletes in the world, making on-average over $91,000 per game, the NBA does have a pension plan in place for former players. Since 1965, the NBA has had a pension plan in place for former and retired players with at least three-years of play in the league.
In addition, the NBA league offers former and retired players access to additional benefits, including life-long healthcare coverage, college tuition reimbursement, and access to additional physical and mental benefits.
Since 2017, the NBA pension plans increased nearly 50 percent for players who begin receiving payments starting at 50 years old. As an incentive, players who push back on their eligibility to receive this plan will receive corresponding yearly increases.
Before 2017, players aged 50 years old were paid out $559 per month, per year of play in the league. However, under the updated rules, the league now pays out more than $800 per month, per year of play in the league. This means that a former, retired NBA player who played for five years in the league would be eligible for $4,000 per month once they reach the age of 50.
Do Many NBA Players Go Broke Once They Retire?
In the NBA, and unlike in the NFL, many player contracts are signed as guarantees. This means that an NBA player will be fully entitled to their contract, regardless of injury or inability to play. This is in stark contrast to the NFL, wherein NFL players contracts are not fully guaranteed.
However, simply because NBA players’ contracts are fully guaranteed, does not mean that they do not incur financial stress after they retire from the league. In the most recent report, upwards of 60% of all former NBA players faced financial distress within five years of retiring from the league.
And while, for many of us, such fortunes can be difficult to conceive and even more difficult to spend, for NBA players, the allure of keeping up with their teammates may simply be too difficult. As former NBA player Daniel Schayes stated, “guys go broke because they surround themselves with people who help them go broke.”
And similarly, for many NBA players, their length of time in the NBA is simply too short to ensure adequate, long-term earnings. On average, NBA players will play in the league for five years, a time in which they will need to properly save and invest for their futures, which can be difficult to do when surrounded by other players who spend at such high levels.
And lastly, for so many NBA players, the influx of wealth oftentimes brings about an influx of attention from friends and acquaintances looking to take advantage of their newfound wealth. For many NBA players, incorrect financial advice and people looking to take advantage of them has led them to make costly investment mistakes, oftentimes resulting in the loss of several millions of dollars.
What Has the NBA Done to Counteract These Issues?
Due to the sheer number of former and retired NBA players who face financial difficulties upon leaving the league, the NBA and the National Basketball Retired Players Association of New York offer financial planning programs and have a list of advisers to contact. These contacts are typically financial advisors who will guide current and former players on how to best handle their finances and make investments which will allow them to live comfortably long after their last NBA game.
Why do NBA Players Want a Career After the NBA?
With so many players in the NBA receiving millions of dollars in annual pay, it can be difficult to understand why they would want to remain in the workforce after they retire. However, for many of these players, once they leave the league, they are often bored and isolated.
For many of these players, basketball is simply all they knew growing up. From daily practices to game schedules, to readying themselves for the season. And once that is completed, it can be difficult to resume normal life without basketball.
In essence, basketball has given so many of these players a sense of purpose, drive, and ambition. And even though they were paid handsomely for it, it can be difficult to leave it behind and enter an unknown world where they are not expected to train and compete day-in and day-out.
Top Career Moves for Former NBA Players
While there is no playbook for any former NBA player to take once they retire from the league, there are a few avenues that they are more likely to consider. Many of these avenues combine some aspects of basketball, allowing them to relay their experience and knowledge while remaining a part of the game.
- Basketball Coach – perhaps the most obvious choice for many former NBA players is to take up a head coaching position. For NBA players, particularly those with deep, intimate basketball knowledge, a head coaching position is a great transitional career. Whether as a high school, college, or NBA coach, these former players are able to impart their wisdom of the game to the next generation of players.
- Sports Commentary – while not a great fit for all players, offering sports and basketball commentary is a great career option for many retired players. From the likes of Shaquille O’Neal to Charles Barkley, these players are able to discuss the happenings of the game on live, national television.
- Invest in a Basketball Team – popular with many of the more famous players, such-as Michael Jordan, some NBA players will opt to invest their money in an NBA or minor basketball team. This allows them to remain part of the basketball operations where their influence and reputations will help them to secure additional financing and opportunities.
- Write a Book – for many former NBA players, writing a book on their experience is a great opportunity to showcase the inner workings of the NBA. These players are able to discuss their experiences and speak honestly on the challenges and difficulties they faced to reach their place in the NBA. In fact, we’ve written about the best books written by athletes which have discussed such difficulties and challenges.
- Start a Podcast or YouTube Channel – for many NBA players, starting a basketball focused podcast or YouTube channel is a great way to discuss the workings and happenings of the game after they retire. From the likes of JJ Redick to Matt Barnes to Stephen Jackson, starting a podcast or YouTube channel is a great way for former NBA players to make some additional income while remaining close to the sport.