The NBA season wrapped up a few weeks ago, which ushered in the long, dry spell of the basketball off-season. In fact, I've only turned on ESPN a few times since Golden State won the chip, especially with the NFL still weeks away from training camp. But on Thursday, June 25th, I will definitely tune in for the NBA 2015 draft.
I frame this article not in the traditional sports sense, as it's not about how the local teams are going to make out in the draft. It's not about who the Brooklyn Nets will select, even though the terrible Joe Johnson trade from 2012 is still bleeding the team with Atlanta swapping the Nets pick, and hence, Brooklyn picking 29th. The actual draft will be held at Barclay Center, so the NY Knicks will have many fans in the house ready to give Phil Jackson a bucket of boos if he doesn't work some magic with the 4th overall pick and earn his monstrous paycheck.
Instead, I'm talking about the players as people. I'm talking about the kids that will be drafted. I'm talking about how basketball players go broke so often, that it's just an accepted reality, nearly an inalienable truth like prices will rise or your metrocard won't swipe when you're late for a meeting. I'm also thinking that it has to be a way for these players, these human commodities, to go from boys to men without losing everything at such an early age.
The Internet is rife with stories about former NBA players going broke-- so much so, that most stories don't even quote the actual Sports Illustrated article which popularized the statistic that 60% of former NBA players go broke within 5 years of retirement (and 78% of former NFL players within 2 years of retirement). So when you look at the players as athletes, also look at them as young adults that are going to have a hard life in the long run.
Here's two interesting facts about the career of an NBA Player, taken from Business Insider:
* The average years of an NBA player's career is 4.8 years
* The average career earnings of an NBA player is $24.7 million dollars
The average NBA player makes more in his career than players in any other major American sports league, which makes financial insolvency even a bigger fiasco. So when you look at the 60 players drafted on Thursday, in Fort Greene Brooklyn, you are effectively looking at 36 men that will be bankrupt or broke in nine or ten years. ESPN will show you 36 young adults that will turn into grown men, with no college degree because they left school early, and no discernible skill to earn money after their playing career.
It's not solely the players blowing cash at strip clubs, supporting a cast of extended family and friends or buying Bentleys and huge homes. Many get gauged by unscrupulous financial advisers, who time and again help ruin the financial future of players. And often, only inordinately long careers, with lucrative contracts, can inculcate against fraud and theft-causing bankruptcy.
In spite of all the pitfalls, most retire with millions in the bank, but with no discernible job skills, they have to become entrepreneurs and don't make smart investment or business decisions. In fact, a study by Ruby Henry, a Toulouse trained labor economist, found that players who attempted a high percentage of three point shots, were more likely to suffer financial distress after retirement.
This is mainly because the three point shot is the least likely of any shot to go in and hence a three point shooter has to be overly confident to attempt them. Since the three point shot is basically a bad shot for most players, Mr. Henry showed a correlation between bad decisions on the basketball court and bad financial decisions off the court. Though that study was done in the 90's, I used it to illustrate that it's a smorgasbord of reasons that the players go broke.
Something should be done for these guys. But there's not much sympathy for someone that blows $25 million dollars in earnings. Maybe the NBA, the Player's Union and the NCAA can work on somethings together, to help these young men out, but as commodities that are used, traded and discarded when their value expires, it's not at the top of anyone's agenda.
But as a fan or casual observer, just keep that in mind when looking at the NBA draft or marveling at the new crop of players next year... more than half of the rookies will be broke, bankrupt and sometimes destitute within 10 years. Though you might not give a crap, you probably wouldn't wanna see a broke, former baller run into your house, carrying a weapon and wearing a ski mask, on a home invasion mission!