Category: Featured

NBA PLAYERS ARE INCREASINGLY STARTING THEIR MEDIA CAREERS WHILE THEY’RE STILL PLAYING IN THE LEAGUE

by CALEB FRIEDMAN

The summer of 2019 provided an NBA free-agent frenzy unlike any we’ve seen in a long time. Shortly after winning an NBA Championship and Finals MVP award with the Toronto Raptors, Kawhi Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. The team also signed Paul George, and Twitter be-gan exploding.

Bill Simmons, founder of The Ringer and formerly of ESPN and Grantland, considered the news as potential for furthering his family of podcasts.

In discussing the Clippers’ prospects with Leonard and George, Simmons suggested adding Andre Iguodala to the roster. The move, he claimed, would make basketball sense for Los Angeles, but also includes a self-serving reason for Simmons:he believes Iguadola would make a great podcast host for The Ringer, which is based on Los Angeles.

“I have selfish reasons for this one,” Simmons says on his podcast while speaking to Marc Stein of the New York Times. “I’m announcing it, it’s 11:25 here on the West Coast. If Andre Iguodola comes to the Clippers, I’m giving him a Ringer podcast.”

The Ringer, which is known for its podcasts, has experienced great success with player-driven podcasts, where players—as opposed to journalists or pundits with years of media experience—drive the conversation to give insight into the life of an NBA player. For publications and players alike, the relationship afforded by a podcast is mutually-beneficial; the publications get exclusive and informative details that all reporters covet, and current players get valuable media experience that gives them the reputation to jumpstart careers in media in their post-playing days.

Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors speaks to Bill Simmons after Game Four of the 2018 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers on June 8, 2018 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

“That’s the way of the future,” former NBA player Shawn Marion said of player-driven content. “A lot of times when you’re a fan, you’d rather hear it from a player perspective…Living and going through something is different than going through and watching it on TV.”

For instance, Quentin Richardson, a former NBA three-point champion who played 13 seasons in the league, hosts the Knuckleheads podcast with his former teammate Darius Miles for The Players’ Tribune. Richardson said being a current or former player helps build trust with other players early in interviews, which helps create an authentic and interesting conversation.

“It’s a small fraternity of us, we’re some of the only people who are privileged to the things we go through,” Richardson said. “So when I ask a Kevin Durant or a Dwyane Wade questions, we’re relating on a different level than our listeners can, and we’re letting them inside the locker room and inside what we think and how we see things.”

While established media publications often provide a ready-made framework and infrastructure for players to work in, some players are opt-ing to take a more entrepreneurial approach and start their own media entities.

LeBron James, for example, owns Uninterrupted, a digital video company that brings athlete-driven content to fans directly. Kevin Durant, meanwhile, owns Thirty Five Ventures, which has a media wing that produces original content across several online and social platforms.

Regardless of the exact form, NBA players are increasingly taking con-trol of their own content while still playing, which allows them to harness their current connections in the league and use them to build their media profile and personal brand. More than ever before, players are starting their post-playing careers while still playing, making the transition from playing to retirement smoother than ever.

Shawn Marion looks on during Game Two of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors.

In response to the changing media landscape, the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) has committed itself to providing programs and services to help Legends navigate the complex digital world. The NBRPA launched Legends Live to provide an outlet for retired players to have an online voice and contribute to the conversation on social media. Great importance is placed on assisting Legends in the digital space and the NBRPA is committed to expanding these opportunities in the future.

“A LOT OF TIMES WHEN YOU’RE A FAN, YOU’D RATHER HEAR IT FROM A PLAYER PERSPECTIVE…LIVING AND GOING THROUGH SOMETHING IS DIFFERENT THAN GOING THROUGH AND WATCHING IT ON TV.”
-- Shawn Marion

THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF FORMER NBA COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN

David Joel Stern was born on Sept. 22, 1942. His father, William, ran Stern’s Deli in Manhattan, where David often worked as he grew up. He spent most of his childhood in Teaneck, New Jersey, which was the first Northern suburb to vote in favor of busing in order to support integrated schools. Such a background molded a foundation that fostered both an open mind and an open heart in David Stern.

After graduating from Rutgers University, Stern went on to earn his J.D. from Columbia Law School. His very first involvement with the NBA came during his time at Proskauer, Rose, Goetz & Mendelsohn, the firm that represented the league. After years of working alongside the NBA, Stern joined the in-house team in 1978 as general counsel under Commissioner Larry O’Brien. It was a time that saw the league severely lacking.

Just two years later, Stern was promoted to executive vice president and immediately started making waves. One of his first major decisions in the role was to implement a drug-testing policy, a first for any major sports league in North America. Additionally, salary caps were adopted in order to assist smaller market teams. This decision ultimately stabilized the league, priming it for future growth.

When Stern rose to the role of Commissioner in 1984, the NBA was falling behind the NFL and MLB in both broadcast numbers and revenue. The two other leagues were also in the midst of strategies that ultimately muted their players as individuals, rather than empowered them.

Magic Johnson, NBA Commissioner David Stern and Michael Jordan pose with the Gold Medal following the game between the USA and Croatia at the 1992 Olympics on August 8 1992 at the Palau Municipal d’Esports de badalona in Barcelona, Spain. The USA defeated Croatia 117-85 to win the gold medal.

Stern did not believe in these same strategies.

Instead, Stern recognized the intrinsic value each player brought to the league, and embraced the opportunity to highlight the talent and popularity of the NBA greats that had come to grace the hardwood. He introduced the league’s licensing and sponsorship division, which led efforts to align NBA players and personalities with some of the top companies in the world.

His dedication to empowering NBA stars created a space where American basketball superstars were akin to their international football counterparts – both Jordan and Pelé were household names around the world. In turn, the NBA and the sport of basketball continued to rise to elite global recognition.
The efforts Stern took to globalize the league are countless. In 1990, he spearheaded the first regular-season game of any major North American sport to be played outside of the continent. When it was announced that professional athletes would be permitted to participate in the Olympics, Stern jumped at the opportunity to put his stars on the world’s biggest stage, creating what we now know as the Dream Team. Under his supervision, seven new franchises – including two in Canada – were welcomed in to the league. Agreements were made to televise games in more than 200 countries, and NBA offices were opened in 15 new cities outside of the United States.

In 1997 Stern created the WNBA, which is now considered the pioneering league for female athletes in the world to this day as it is the longest-standing women’s professional sports league. In 2001, he created the developmental league, now known as the G League, as the NBA’s official minor league basketball organization. The new venture began with just eight franchises; in 2020, it will have 29.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and David Stern attend the “Kareem: Minority Of One” New York Premiere at Time Warner Center on October 26, 2015 in New York City.

Stern’s success in growing the NBA was built on a foundation of marketing genius. When he took over as Commissioner in 1984, the league’s television rights were sold for an average of $28 million annually. Over the course of his tenure, that number increased nearly 40 times over, to $930 million annually.
David Stern was, simply put, well ahead of his time. He consumed the world around him – not just sports business. He understood the role sport plays in society, and recognized the broad reach it has in influencing every aspect of life. Perhaps no better example of this came in 1991, when Magic Johnson announced that he had been diagnosed with HIV.

Prior to the 1991-92 season, a routine physical delivered HIV positive results for Los Angeles Lakers superstar Magic Johnson. Stern, who was well-informed in nearly all facets, understood the disease much better than most of the general public at this time. Stern stood by Johnson, and supported the star throughout his announcement to retire and pursue his new mission of informing the world about the disease. Stern’s position helped advance the acceptance of people with HIV, therefore touching lives far beyond the basketball court.

Stern was not without his challenges, of course. During his time as Commissioner, he faced two lockouts (1998-99, 2011-12), both of which saw significant cancellations for each season. The infamous Malice at the Palace brawl saw Stern hand down the heaviest suspensions the league had ever seen. In 2007, the Tim Donaghy gambling scandal broke, sending the sports world reeling. Other obstacles, such as the poor reception of a player dress code, tested Stern’s leadership. Each time, Stern came back a stronger and more knowledgeable Commissioner.

David Stern was a fierce leader with relentless vision and unrefuted genius. He truly solidified the NBA as a global superpower, leaving behind a storied legacy for generations to come.

Because of David, amateurs can continue to hone their skills in the G League. Because of David, women can pursue their passion for the game professionally. Because of David, we have a league that represents far more than sport. Because of David, we can all proudly stand together to celebrate the game we love.

It’s Time to Look Deeper Because these Men and Women are More than just Athletes

When we look at professional athletes, we tend to see what we want to see. They are paragons of physical achievement, have jobs that pay
millions of dollars, and have reached the absolute highest level of competition within their fi eld. For many of us, that sounds like a dream come
true. But projecting happiness and personal satisfaction onto these individuals is unfair and often wrong. The job is not all bliss; the long seasons under the public microscope are a grind, and players deal with copious amounts of outside pressure and attention. They are people too, fully and unequivocally, and they face their own struggles every single day.

While using athletes as an example, it’s worth pointing out that parallels exist between physical and mental health. In both, specific injuries/illnesses can occur, demanding urgent and specific treatment. Additionally, the body and mind can both be trained to function at a more optimal level, helping to deal with stressful situations and bouts of extreme exertion. the former is obviously more critical and time-sensitive, but disregarding the latter ignores another potential path to complete mental health. At separate times, each can be vital to healing and peak mental performance.

Similar to a torn ACL or a broken arm, clinically-diagnosed mental illnesses require professional attention and care. Mental health issues come in all shapes and sizes. They can manifest through anxiety, depression, or numerous other debilitating symptoms, and they can result from a specific trauma or simply as a disease. They are potent, and they do not discriminate, impacting everyone, even the professional athletes that many people idolize. Take someone like Keyon Dooling, who reached the pinnacle of the basketball world, while playing 13 seasons in the NBA and learning a reputation as a respected, hard-working veteran. Dooling opened up about his struggles just over a year ago in a wrenching article in the Players’ Tribune, laying his demons bare for the basketball world and beyond to see. And he did so with a purpose.

By that time, Dooling had found some sense of healing, “I had done the work, you know, put in the time to work on getting better,” he said. Years of therapy and self-reflection helped him process an earlier trauma, and he was ready to be an example for others to follow. He was confident in his ability to be a healer and to show other athletes fighting their own mental health battles that they weren’t, and aren’t, alone.

Like many around the mental health community, Dooling’s ultimate goal is to normalize the conversation around mental health. Other players, like DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love, have recently come forward about their own struggles. Rather than being vilified as “damaged,” they have received support from players and fans alike. In May 2018, the NBPA established an official mental health and wellness program, expanding the resources offered to its athletes and acknowledging the very real need to make mental health a priority.

“I just want every player to be able to reach out to someone, and to have the kind of help they need once they do,” said Dooling, and his pivotal role in helping bring about change in the league exemplifies this desire.

Unfortunately, treatment for trauma is just one step, albeit an absolutely crucial one. More can be done, and longtime mental conditioning coach Trevor Moawad is adamant about the benefits that come from a trained mind: developing strong habits that can help empower people in stressful situations.

“The leagues [NBA and others] right now are checking an important box, but a lot more is needed, and it’s up to the teams to change it,” says Moawad. Mental conditioning is another step for individuals exposed to high strain to become fully mentally healthy, he said.

For example, one of his chief tenets is the importance of “neutral” thinking. It’s not the friendly fluff of constant positive thoughts (“I can do anything!”), but rather, a more matter-of-fact, practical approach (“I will give my absolute best effort”) that is realistic and controllable in all scenarios.

Moawad has worked with a wide variety of organizations – Alabama and Georgia football, the Memphis Grizzlies, and US Navy SEALs, just to name a few – and he believes more professional athletes could benefit from this type of training. Despite his stint with the Grizzlies in 2014-15, Moawad does not believe the culture around professional basketball is prepared to commit to widespread adoption of mental conditioning.

“I JUST W ANT EVERY PLAYER TO BE ABLE TO
REACH OUT TO SOMEONE, AND TO HAVE THE KIND
OF HELP THEY NEED ONCE THEY DO.”
KEYON DOOLING

“Sports are way behind businesses. Executives are far more willing to embrace this type of change,” said Moawad.

He sets the responsibility on the shoulders of the coaches to commit to the rigorous, time-consuming process, and hopes that an innovative leader (or leaders) can make the difficult choice to ask their front offices for the means to invest in training the whole player. He’s sympathetic to the challenge teams face, acknowledging that the pool of effective mental coaches is quite shallow, but NBA franchises have the power/means to change the narrative over time.

Ultimately, though, no amount of training can defend against a devastating illness or traumatic experience like Dooling’s, and even the most mentally strong individuals can be subject to struggles.  us, it’s worth reiterating the positive strides the NBA continues to make in off ering proper treatment to its players and creating a more supportive climate around mental health.

Slowly but surely, society is becoming more aware and accepting of open mental health discussions, and as part of that society, we must continue to normalize the conversation. That includes letting everyone know that they have options: friends and family that care about them, doctors who can help them discuss and deal with the challenges they’re facing, and fans that will understand and even appreciate their vulnerability. And it doesn’t stop there: learning and applying the benefits of mental conditioning can strengthen the minds of every single player, protecting against life’s constant struggles and challenges.

AN INSIDE LOOK AT WNBA LEGEND TAMIKA CATCHINGS

by BEN LADNER

These days, Tamika Catchings doesn’t wear her hearing aids quite as often as she used to. She might break them out for special appearances and events, but seldom does so within the rhythm of a typical day. That wasn’t always the case for Catchings, who was born with a hearing impairment that affected both of her ears and caused her to spend much of her childhood grappling with the physical and social consequences of compromised hearing. She faced ridicule at a young age for wearing aids that other kids didn’t have to; she was reluctant to speak in front of people because of the speech challenges that came with the hearing impairment. When, out of frustration, she tossed her hearing aids away in third grade, her parents refused to replace them, leaving Catchings to navigate the rest of her childhood without them.

Tamika Catchings, No. 24 of the Indiana Fever, fi ghts for position against Emma Meesseman No. 33 of the Washington Mystics on September 11, 2016 in Washington, DC.
(Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

“Every day was a challenge for me,” she said in an essay on ESPN.com in 2011, “There were plenty of days that I wished I was normal.”

Eventually, Catchings realized she didn’t have to be. She decided to tune out and outwork those that derided her, and used sports as her escape
and motivation. As the daughter of former NBA player Harvey Catchings, she eventually gravitated to the basketball court (though she admits soccer
was her first love). She earned a scholarship to play at the University of Tennessee under legendary coach Pat Summitt, who became instrumental
to Catchings’ success as a basketball player and as a person. When Catchings arrived in Knoxville, still hard of hearing and shy of speaking,
Summitt was one of the first to urge her to go back to wearing hearing aids as a means of embracing who she was.

“I think for her she was more of a visionary in kind of looking ahead,” Catchings said. “For me, being hearing-impaired, she was one of the ones
that was saying ‘One day your story will impact thousands, maybe millions of people.’”

Summitt encouraged – even demanded – excellence from her players not only on the court, but in all their endeavors in life. “I think that she
played a really important role,” Catchings said. “One thing that she always talked about was, ‘We’re not just going to be great on the basketball court,
we’re going to be great in the classroom and great in the community, but I want great people.’”

Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever addresses the crowd after the game against the Dallas Wings on September 18, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
(Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

After years of reticence, Catchings had fully found her voice by the time she graduated from Tennessee. Over two decades later – and three years after Summitt’s death – she still uses the coach’s words as guidance.

Since retiring, she has worked in media, player development, and basketball operations with the Indiana Pacers and Fort Wayne Mad Ants, and most recently was promoted to Vice President of Basketball Operations with the Indiana Fever. “I wanted to do something to impact players,” she said. “I think for me it was really cool to be able to see them all differently, from the W, to the NBA, to the G League, just being able to see even the operations side of things.”

While she leaves strategy and skill development to coaches and players, Catchings remains involved with Fever players’ off -court development. She helps players network with people around the league as a means of preparing themselves for life after basketball and set personal goals on and off the court. Most importantly, she encourages them to get comfortable being uncomfortable. “I feel like as basketball players, we’re so used to getting into our routines and getting into our rhythm that anything that kind of takes us outside of our box, we tense up a little bit,” she said. “And so trying to get them to understand you being uncomfortable sometimes is good, and that it allows you to kind of see things from a different light and from a different perspective.”

In 2004, while she was starring for the Fever in the WNBA, Catchings started the Catch the Stars Foundation, which offers basketball, mentoring, and educational programs for underprivileged children. During her career, she frequently spoke out on issues of civil and human rights and protested gun violence on multiple occasions. “I feel that each one of us has a responsibility to making the space around them better,” Catchings said. “Eventually, the ecosystem that we live in, all we breed and all we breathe is love. So how come we can’t do that, and how come we can’t teach that? I think it really starts with each one of us individually taking ownership of what we have.”

Catchings learned long ago that “taking ownership of what we have” can make a world of difference. Since then, her message has been heard loud and clear.

by JOHN FAWAZ

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE PLAYERS’ TRIBUNE, THE KNUCKLEHEADS PODCAST HAS BECOME A HIT WITH FANS AND INSIDERS ALIKE

Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson are grateful for all the praise they have received for their podcast, Knuckleheads. But the most meaningful feedback comes from those within the fraternity.

“One of the best compliments we got is from the head equipment guy for the Pistons, he’s been in the League a long time,” says Richardson. “He said, ‘Man, it’s the first podcast I can listen all the way through. It reminds me of how things are when we’re traveling, in the locker room, guys talking.”

“That’s the atmosphere we want.…Talk about some cool, fun stories that people don’t know about. See them in a different light.”

This isn’t new media, social media, or any kind of media to Richardson and Miles. It’s two friends (who have known each other since they were teenagers) shooting the breeze with a guest. Except those two old friends also happen to be former NBA players, and the discussion is the same as if no one was listening.

“That’s the best part of what we have going for us. We have regular talks,” Richardson says. “It’s little things here and there, if there was no camera or mic. We have normal conversations.”

And like their usual banter, basketball is only part of the conversation.

“It’s about good vibes,” Miles says. “Not concentrating on anything negative. We want to talk about journeys and stories.”

Miles and Richardson, who spent 13 and nine years in the league respectively, have had their own journeys, from Midwest childhoods to AAU to college ball to the NBA and the post-NBA life, the “what next?” phase that all players grapple with.

They came in together with the Clippers in 2000 and became fondly known as the Knuckleheads because of their on-court celebration involving two taps to the head with balled-up fists. (The salute originated at L.A.’s Westchester High School, whose players asked the duo to do it in an NBA game.) They captured the attention of Michael Jordan, and he and Nike showered them with glam and put them in an ad for Air Jordans. They hung out with hip-hop artists. Ahead of their time? You could say that.

They only played together for two seasons in Los Angeles, so their current gig is not wholly the result of any connections made then. No, this wasn’t even on their radar.

“It was something that we just stumbled into,” Richardson says. “I first did the story for e Players’ Tribune, the ‘Letter to My Younger Self,’ and that got a lot of response.

“Darius did his letter [‘What the Hell Happened to Darius Miles?’] a year later. Same type of response. We had a relationship with the Players’ Tribune and we had done a couple other things. What should we do next?”

JR Smith poses for a photo with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles of the Knuckleheads Podcast in Los Angeles. (Guillermo Hernandez Martinez/The Players’ Tribune)

How about a podcast from Richardson’s Orlando home featuring former NBA player Drew Gooden? Just a lark, a one-off . But they were hooked.

“Literally after we did it, we felt like it was good and we just went from there,” Richardson says.

Initially they booked guests based on two factors: players they knew, and the schedule for the Orlando Magic. Boston will play the Magic on this date. Boom!
Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum are on. When are the Hornets coming to town? Let’s get Kemba Walker.

They knew they had a hit when after a few episodes, Kevin Durant called them. He said he liked what they were doing and wanted to come on the show.

“We spent two days with [Durant], gave me a whole new perspective and made me more of a fan,” says Miles.

“We didn’t have a plan to reach out to KD…we didn’t plan this,” Richardson says. “We didn’t know there was this whole iTunes pop chart. We were just
doing it.”

Kevin Durant joins Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles of the Knuckleheads Podcast.
(Jed Jocobsohn/The Players’ Tribune)

by NANCY LIEBERMAN

It’s a great time to be a female in the game of basketball. Opportunities are all around us, and the WNBA is on the verge of major growth. The creation of the WNBA inspired hope – a hope that women can not only play basketball at the highest level, but can earn a good living doing so.

I have experienced this dynamic first-hand. I have witnessed how the game of basketball has become bigger, better and stronger for women. More importantly, I acknowledge the great opportunities still ahead of us. In order to take steps toward that brighter future, it’s time to take a step back and really understand the facts and expectations for the future.

First, we can’t continue to believe the myth that men are holding women back – it’s just not true. I was hired by men for every major job I’ve had. I was hired by men from the USBL. I was hired by men to work at Fox and ESPN. I was hired by men to be the first female head coach in NBA G League history. I was hired by men to be the assistant coach of the Sacramento Kings. Ice Cube took my career to the next level, making me the first female head coach in any men’s professional league when I joined the BIG3. I can go down a long list of men who wanted to help me succeed.

Furthermore, there is a healthy respect from male players toward women who play the game. I have never had an issue with men in the league respecting me, especially the players. It’s the outside world that says, “Wait, there’s a girl on the court.” They were the ones who didn’t think it was normal because they hadn’t built the camaraderie we had as players.

For these reasons, we cannot blame the men of the game, as they will only continue to push us toward a better future. I have so much respect for Adam Silver, who so badly wants the WNBA to succeed. It’s men like him who will help put us in the best positions to prosper.

In addition, we must look at the WNBA as a business through an unemotional and unbiased lens. If you want an accurate perspective, go back to when the NBA fi rst started in 1946. Players were making $10,000 when the league began. When I started in the WNBA in ’97, I was making $40,000, and the top salary was $50,000. The NBA helped put us in the spotlight instantaneously, but the onus is still on us. It’s not our birthright to have a WNBA. It’s not Skittles. Everybody doesn’t get one. It’s business. We still have to sell tickets and fill the stands, and sometimes that takes sacrifice.

We women are getting the opportunities to coach, learn, network and share, but we have to grind. In the name of gender equity, it’s nice to be thought of,
but we still have to earn the right to be there and have to create the necessary relationships. The women currently in the league have busted their behinds to get there – nothing was handed to them. That’s what it takes to be a pioneer.

Nancy Lieberman of the Sacramento Kings talks with Rajon Rondo prior to the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 9, 2016 in Sacramento, California.
(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

I, along with many other women from my era, have made sacrifices for what we have today. I’m not mad or jealous that I didn’t make the money that today’s players are making. I understood what it took and what I had to sacrifice to create a better future for the game. For five years I went to the NBA summer league on my own nickel. I invested in myself because I knew I had to be around the people who would give me the opportunity one day. If I didn’t believe in myself, why should anyone else?

Every player in the WNBA, past and present, is a role model, a barrier-breaker, a pioneer and a trailblazer. To hold that responsibility, I will ask this: are you willing to make sacrifices today so others can thrive in the future?

I feel a tremendous amount of humility and gratitude to have done something right for a game that changed my life on so many levels. What my greatest role model and friend Muhammad Ali taught me when I was younger was that there are two people in life: givers and takers. He inspired me to be a giver, and I encourage the rest of the young women currently playing basketball to be givers and make sacrifices to better the future of the game.

Nancy Lieberman of the Texas Legends speaks to her team during a timeout as they take on the Tulsa 66ers in an NBA G League game on December 14, 2010 in
Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

2019 LEGENDS CONFERENCE

After being selected fourth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2002, Drew Gooden spent a whopping 14 years in the NBA, playing for teams all across the country.

During the unforgettable 2011 lockout, Gooden witnessed the unfortunate financial crises that fellow players found themselves in. This harsh reality made it clear to him that that was not what he wanted for his own future. The lockout ultimately provided him with an early glimpse of retirement, and the motivation to begin considering what his next step would be after basketball. The break in the basketball season also gave him a leg up, as he was able to use his free time to begin studying and preparing for what was ahead.

Gooden took time to asses a number of potential opportunities, and finally concluded that franchising would be most suitable for his next move. As an NBA vet, though, he was all too aware of the many failed restaurant businesses and franchises owned by other professional athletes. He was committed to not becoming another one of these bad business stories.

The power forward conducted extensive research for months on end on a number of companies that he felt would be good fits for his next move. What he found was that the popularity of chicken wings has sharply risen in recent years. His own affi nity for the food and Wingstop itself aided his decision to make Wingstop his primary investment. He began the outreach process to the company just like any other Average Joe would; nothing was immediately handed to him, and he had to make his case as to why he would be a good fi t for the franchise. His hard work ultimately paid off , and in 2012, Gooden signed an agreement to open four Wingstop franchises in Orlando, FL, his off season home.

During the 2019 NBA Summer Conference, Drew Gooden partnered with Wintrust to speak on the Franchising Forum. He shared his personal experience of franchising Wingstop restaurants, and provided notable advice to former players in the audience who are considering a similar path.

Gooden noted that the process is a long one, and that it’s easy to be discouraged. After all, it took two and a half years of work before his first
franchise ever opened its doors. He spoke to the need for self-awareness and, just like on the court, the importance of building a strong team. He
understands that many athletes have the habit of taking on responsibilities that should be delegated to other, but insisted that all great owners
understand their own weaknesses and surround themselves with people who can effectively fill those gaps. He compares this to the idea of owning
your own basketball team. If you’re the owner, you’re not also the general manager or the coach or on the bench as a player. For athletes like Gooden
who are still in their playing careers (Gooden is currently playing in the BIG3), this advice is invaluable as a strong team must lead the day-to-day
operations while owners are away.

The NBRPA is proud to have Wintrust as a dedicated partner, and encourages its members to utilize their resources for all of their commercial
banking needs.

by BEN LADNER

Before the NBA’s popularity exploded to a point of national interest, before player contracts exceeded those of corporate executives, before stars could
devote off seasons exclusively to training and vacationing, Dave Bing spent his summers working at a bank.

Coming out of college at age 22 and in search of a home, Bing had applied for a mortgage on a house, but was turned down after the National Bank of Detroit deemed his lack of credit history too risky for a mortgage. The following year, after Bing won Rookie of the Year and established himself as the best player on the Detroit Pistons, Bing had secured a mortgage from a different bank altogether. The first bank, however, didn’t forget about Bing, and reached out to apologize – and offer him a job.

“The relationship wasn’t sour,” Bing said, “because I was big enough, strong enough to say, ‘Look, they made a mistake. They now want to employ me.’ And I needed a job, because back then, obviously, we weren’t making a lot of money.”

Bing worked at the National Bank of Detroit for seven off seasons, and while he went on to play 12 seasons in the NBA, those summer jobs helped prepare him for what was in store once his basketball career ended. While many retired athletes dabble in business ventures via investments or partnership, Bing had dreamt of starting and operating a business long before he entered the NBA. His father, Hasker, ran his own bricklaying company in Washington D.C., and while Bing vowed never to work in that industry after Hasker suffered a life-threatening injury, he long hoped to emulate his father as a businessman. “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Bing said. “I saw what [my father] did, what he accomplished. I saw the struggles that he had.”

In spite of his own obstacles – namely his diminutive stature and impaired left eye – Bing excelled in both basketball and baseball at Spingarn High School in Washington, D.C., the same school that produced Elgin Baylor. After a growth spurt and an illustrious high school career, he earned a basketball scholarship at Syracuse, where he blossomed into one of the most dynamic guards in college basketball. He went on to lead the league in scoring and earn two First Team All-NBA nods in an era that featured Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, Oscar Robertson, and Jerry West. Though his Pistons never ventured far into the postseason, the success they did have was driven mostly by Bing’s scoring and playmaking.

In 1980, two years after he retired from the NBA, he started Bing Steel, which supplied steel to automotive companies out of Detroit. In the two years between retirement and founding the company, Bing devoted himself to learning the steel industry, taking classes and studying other companies to prepare himself for this new venture. Bing Steel struggled in its first year, and with just four people on staff, took time to find its footing in the industrial world. By the company’s second year, however, it took on General Motors as its main client and turned a $4.2 million profit. In 1984 Bing was named the National Minority Small Business Person of the Year by President Ronald Reagan, and by 2008 the company had sold $300 million of materials, opened five different plants in Detroit, and employed over 1300 people – most of them African American. “I was an African-American entrepreneur,” Bing said. “I felt it was important to make sure I hired as many African-Americans from the city of Detroit as I could.”

Bing’s devotion to the black community became the basis for much of what he did after his NBA career, both in business and in politics. In a city whose
population is over 80 percent black, Bing felt an obligation as a successful and prominent member of the community to serve and represent its people. When the city’s mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, was removed from office in 2008 for committing perjury and obstruction of justice, several prominent members of Detroit’s business community – including Roger Penske and Tony Earley – identified Bing as Kilpatrick’s logical successor – at least for the remainder of the term. “They basically asked me to run for it,” Bing said. “It’s not something I [sought] out.” He deliberated for a few months before deciding to run among a field of 15 candidates – and won.

Isiah Thomas

Dave Bing and Isiah Thomas speak at the half time jersey retirement ceremony for Chauncey Billups during the game against the Denver Nuggets on February 10, 2016 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. (Photo by Allen Einstein/
NBAE via Getty Images)

After completing Kilpatrick’s term, Bing was reelected in 2009. The latter portion of his tenure proved trying for Bing and his administration, and much of their work involved rectifying the mistakes of previous administrations. Still, in 2013, four years into Bing’s second term, Detroit fi led for bankruptcy – the largest city in U.S. history to do so. Despite an unceremonious ending, Bing learned and grew from what he called “the toughest four years of [his] life,” and maintains that he would do it all over again if given the choice. He also believes that his experience as an entrepreneur and NBA team captain gave him the necessary skills and background for a political career. As a player, Bing knew not only his own strengths and weaknesses, but those of his teammates, and sought to mesh complementary skills with one another. In both the business and political realms, he surrounded himself with people who possessed expertise in areas he didn’t.

“Picking the right people to be part of my team was very, very important,” Bing said. “It’s a people business, and you’ve got to make sure you give people the respect and the dignity to let them do their job.”

by Caleb Friedman

Juwan Howard stands at the podium, taking a deep breath as those in the room applaud and cheer. About to speak, he stops. He bows his head and covers his eyes before they begin to swell with tears – tears that embody the emotion Howard feels in this punctuating moment for what has been a crazy few days.

He turns around with his back facing the wall, taking a few final deep breaths to compose himself.

“Tears of joy,” he says.

You will understand the tears if you understand the place. Juwan Howard is back in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan, where he once captivated the country as a player. This time around, Howard is donning a block “M” pin on his lapel – he’s just been introduced as the head men’s basketball coach.

You can tell Howard is reflecting back to the journey that led him to this defining moment in his career. He mentions the last time he had a press conference at Michigan, where he was declaring for the 1994 NBA Draft. Howard touched on his late grandmother and best friend and what they meant to him, before speaking to the tradition and pride he has to coach his new players – his new family.

Howard calls this his “dream job,” and tells the origin story of his path to Ann Arbor more than two decades ago. Howard is raw and genuine, his words impassioned. It’s clear just how much this all means to him. 

Juwan Howard is home.

Juwan Howard sits at a table during Big Ten Media Day in Chicago, and he sticks out like a sore thumb.

Howard is the only head coach without previous college coaching experience. The other 13 coaches in the Big Ten Conference average 24.5 years of college coaching experience, and 12 of them have 15 or more years of college coaching under their belts.

Then there is Howard who took the Michigan head coaching job after he spent his entire coaching career in the NBA from 2013-2019. After six seasons on the Miami Heat bench under head coach Erik Spoelstra, Howard jumped at the opportunity to return to his alma mater, despite frequently being a candidate for NBA head coaching vacancies. 

“I’ve always been asked the question, ‘Will I ever want to coach college basketball?’” Howard tells Legends Magazine. “My answer was always ‘One job, if it became available. The University of Michigan.’”

At its core, the main part of Howard’s new job is comfortable to him. He has been around the sport professionally for the past 25 years and around youth basketball and AAU circuits through his sons. From a coaching and teaching standpoint, Howard is confident his NBA experience will translate to the college level.

It is all the other stuff that is new and will take some getting used to, chiefly recruiting. Howard is getting used to being on the phone a lot more to talk to recruits, and that relationship-building isn’t something foreign to him. After all, he was once at the other end of those calls as the recruited player.

“The NCAA rules and regulations will take some time to learn and understand,” Howard says. In the NBA, for example, there is no limit on how often a coach can work with players. At the college level, Howard can only work with players for a set number of hours per day and week.

In addition to his basketball duties of coaching and recruiting, Howard serves as a face and ambassador for the school, which means meetings with alumni and donors are also a major part of his job.

“Being a head coach in college, I’m not only coaching the players, but I’m helping run an institution,” Howard says. “I have to choose my staff, hire those guys, make sure I balance a budget. I’m like an Erik Spoelstra, a Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg all in one.”

Still, Howard makes the leap at a time when former NBA players are coming to college seemingly in droves, with names like Penny Hardaway and Patrick Ewing also returning to coach their alma maters. Success has been difficult to come by for many of the former NBA players coaching in college, but there has been a clear advantage in recruiting, particularly for Hardaway.

“There’s been a changing of the guard with coaches that have been around a long time,” former NBA player and current Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse tells Legends Magazine. “There’s a new wave of coaching. I think athletic directors are thinking outside the box, just trying to find guys that can relate to this generation of players…a lot of those guys are one-and-dones now coming into the NBA.”

Speaking to that trend, Howard’s college teammate and current ESPN personality Jalen Rose voiced his support on ESPN for Howard getting the Michigan job early in the process, in part because of his ability as a recruiter.

“He would be a terrific head coach,” Rose said. “He would be terrific at developing young talent. He would own the Michigan market.”

New Michigan Men’s Basketball head coach Juwan Howard is introduced at a press conference at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, MI on May 30, 2019.

If Juwan Howard’s opening press conference at Michigan signified a symbolic beginning, his first day of summer workouts was the real start.

It was then, when Howard walked into a gym with players to coach and a team to prepare, that Howard finally felt he arrived.

“It was that day, the first day of workouts, when it hit and sunk in. I’m the head coach at the University of Michigan,” Howard says. “That was my epic moment, an epic time of sinking in that ‘this is real now.’”

This upcoming season will bring a number of firsts and milestones for Howard, who’s ready to embark on his first season as a head coach. Now, as the season gets going, and the initial emotions fade, everything turns to actual basketball.

As Howard prepares to lead a team for the first time as head coach, he thinks back to the years he’s spent in and around the game, giving him a lifetime of experience to fall back on. He knows he can do this.

“I played this game before for many years, I’ve had a lot of success doing it at all levels, high school, college and pro,” Howard says. “I’ve learned a lot, and I know the game and I know I can coach the game.”

by Martin Kaufmann

Even before he played his first NBA game, Jim Jackson realized that he had to begin preparing for life after basketball.

Jackson was the fourth pick in the 1992 NBA draft after an All-American career at Ohio State. But he only played 28 games his first season with the Dallas Mavericks because of a contract dispute.

“I had already started a (long-term) game plan,” Jackson said. “It really started my first year when I had to sit out. That gave me insight into the way the business works. And then in my third year when I sprained my ankle really bad, (I realized) this thing can be over in a heartbeat, so you have to prepare yourself.”

Copyright 1996 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Through his first four seasons, Jackson was a fixture in the Mavericks’ starting lineup and a reliable scorer, peaking at 25.7 points per game in that injury-plagued third season. During the 1996-97 season, however, he was traded to the New Jersey Nets, beginning an odyssey that came to define his career. Over 14 seasons, he played for an NBA-record 12 teams. Only three other players have played for as many teams.

That’s a mixed blessing for an athlete. Jackson lamented never being able “to establish a camaraderie, a legacy with one team. That’s what you search for when you’re a player.” He would have loved to have become a Dallas institution, such as Dirk Nowitzki, who just retired after 21 seasons. But there might have been some benefits to his itinerant career. He lived all around the country, developing friendships he never would have made had he stayed in one city. “That can benefit you later in life,” he said.

After 14 seasons, and his playing time dwindling with the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers, Jackson knew it was time to move on.

“I just wasn’t the type who wanted to be the 12th man on the bench,” Jackson said. “After the 2006 season, I said, ‘I’m just tired of it. I just want to move on with my life.’”

He already had interests in real estate and restaurants through business partners in Dallas, but he balked when his agent, Mark Termini, suggested that he consider moving into broadcasting. Termini finally convinced Jackson to meet with broadcasting agent Maury Gostfrand, who in 2007 steered him toward the Big Ten Network. Jackson spent eight years there, overlapping with son Traevon’s playing career at Wisconsin.

(Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jackson attacked broadcasting much the way he used to game-plan for an opponent during his playing career. He leaned on his Ohio State network, seeking advice from CBS’ Clark Kellogg and ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit. He also hired a coach and pored over video of his on-air appearances.

“You’ve got to work. It’s just like watching game tapes,” he said. “You break it down and point out things I’ve done wrong — maybe eye contact, verbiage, maybe slowing down my cadence. It’s a lot of stuff that you might not be aware of ... You have to be honest with yourself. You also have to watch the ones who do it the best. I think that’s the best teaching tool.”

His workload has mushroomed since 2015, when he jumped to Fox Sports 1, where he maintains a busy schedule calling college games. During March Madness, he called televised games for Turner Sports during the early rounds, then moved over to the radio side for Westwood One at the Final Four.

“I love the live games the best,” he said. “There’s nothing like being in the action.”

When he’s not on the road, you often can find him in Fox Sports’ studios, swapping hot takes on LeBron James and NBA life on shows such as “Speak for Yourself” and “Undisputed.” Occasionally some of those contacts he made during his playing career float back into his life.

Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

In December, John Calipari, who coached Jackson when he played for the New Jersey Nets in the mid-1990s, asked his former player to speak to his Kentucky Wildcats when they visited New York. (Jackson joked that when college coaches ask him to talk to their players, “they have to prep the team, because they don’t know who I am.”)

 Jackson urged the players to spend more time focusing on their defense and rebounding rather than obsessing over their offense; if they did that, he said, the points would flow naturally.

“Ride the wave,” he told the Wildcats. “I was fortunate to play 14 years. You’re going to go through this (moving his hand through the air like waves on an ocean). It’s a microcosm of life. But how you handle it, what your outlook is, how you choose to deal with it, is going to determine how you get through it.”

Jackson has practiced what he preaches over the past 12 years. Broadcasting became his new passion, and he never took it for granted. To this day, he said, he still seeks advice from experts to help him improve.

“The same tools you used to become a successful basketball player — the work ethic, the studying, the attention to detail, listening, taking advice — are the same tools you’ll need when you move to that third phase (post-NBA) of your life,” Jackson said.

Jerome Williams, known to many as the Junk Yard Dog, earned his nickname during his stint with the Detroit Pistons. His teammates coined him ‘JYD’ for his hard work ethic and willingness to do a lot of the “garbage” jobs, such as rebounding, playing defense, setting strong screens and the other basic fundamentals. Since the conclusion of his playing career, Jerome has used that same mentality to promote the importance of education to the country’s youth via his Shooting for Peace program.

(Photo by Tim Warner/BIG3/Getty Images)

Williams, who initially began his own service project called Jerome’s Youth Development (JYD) Project, has long been an advocate for helping young people reach their highest potential. After starting the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) Las Vegas chapter and outreach to the local community, Williams immediately saw the parallels between the NBRPA’s community initiatives and those of the JYD Project, and decided to pair the two together. Today, that marriage is known as Shooting for Peace.

“The efforts on both sides were focused on professional and retired athletes going out and serving the community,” said Williams. “Because doing so really requires a brigade of players, I knew it was the perfect time to bridge the two initiatives. The result is a program that serves a multitude of young people in a significant way.”

Shooting for Peace has since grown into a nationwide tour and includes several different facets that aid students. Benefits include digital education services, scholarships from notable HBCUs, and school visits from the Legends themselves, which include a Q&A panel, poetry and essay contest, and a game pitting the Legends against the school team. Last year, NBA Legends made stops in various chapter cities, including Las Vegas, Boston, Harlem, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Toronto, Miami, Oakland, and more.

It is no secret that students who go on to earn a college degree are more likely to lead productive lives in society. Jerome Williams is no stranger to this fact. He has worked harder than most to achieve his dreams. In fact, Jerome paid his own tuition at a junior college to earn his Associate’s degree. He went on to receive a full scholarship from Georgetown University, as well as several other certifications in his professional life. His passion for this work is clear and reflective of his own personal values.

(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

“I believe that kids today need their education now more than ever,” says Williams. “We take great pride in showing them how the Legends of the game and a good education work hand-in-hand.”

Local chapters encourage all members — from the NBA to WNBA to the Harlem Globetrotters — to get involved with Shooting for Peace. No matter what their professional playing careers looked like, each and every one of them started at the same place: school. All of these stories, especially those that include hardship, are necessary for students to hear.

“By hearing directly from Legends, these young people learn that while they can be an athlete, it is being a student-athlete that is really most important for lifelong success.”

A special thanks to all of the chapter presidents for their leadership with Shooting for Peace. This program would not be what it is today without them.

by Sean Deveney

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – It was a night for the overlooked, the underrated and the trailblazers whose contributions to the game have been too obscured by history.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame held its induction night this weekend and welcomed a field of new members that included center Vlade Divac, a pioneer of international basketball who was drafted from Yugoslavia by the Lakers in 1989 and went on to become the first player born and trained outside the U.S. to appear in 1,000 NBA games.

The group also included one of the WNBA’s first stars, Teresa Weatherspoon, as well as defensive stalwarts Sidney Moncrief and Bobby Jones, unique face-up center Jack Sikma, championship coach Bill Fitch and five-time NBA All-Star Paul Westphal.

Divac opened the night with a speech that set the tone for the entire collection of inductees, speaking about his love for the game and emphasis the game puts on selflessness.

“I believe love gives you the power to share your best self and to inspire others,” Divac said. “Love liberates you the power to make the impossible possible. Just like in life, when you play basketball you have to give in order to receive. On the court you are not just making moves alone, you are also giving your physical and mental strength, your passion, your talent, your trust in your teammates. This way, the power can multiply and the whole team wins. Basketball is the opposite of selfishness.”

That resonated throughout Symphony Hall. Also inducted on Friday were Al Attles, who has been the face of the Warriors franchise for six decades—as a player, a coach and a franchise ambassador. Attles, chosen as a contributor, witnessed Golden State’s most recent dynasty, but was also on the floor as a point guard back when the team was based in Philadelphia in 1962, when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game.

But, asked about the game earlier in the week, Attles was quick to point out that even Chamberlain’s dominating individual achievement had a team feel to it. “Well, I always remind people that we won the game, that’s the first thing,” Attles said. “The other thing is that Wilt tried to come out of the game. He did not want to score 100.”

Also inducted were Chuck Cooper, the first black player to be drafted by an NBA team; Carl Braun, a five-time NBA All-Star who played 13 seasons from 1947-62 and coached the Knicks briefly; the all-black Tennessee A&I teams (now Tennessee State) of 1957-59, which traveled to national tournaments, challenged segregation and were the first team to win three straight championships at any collegiate level; and the women’s teams of Wayland Baptist University (1948-82), who won 10 AAU championships and once won 131 consecutive games.

The honor was probably overdue for both Moncrief, who made five All-Star teams and won the first two NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, and Sikma, who made seven All-Star teams and averaged 15.6 points with 9.8 rebounds. Sikma was also instrumental in bringing the 1979 NBA title to Seattle in his second NBA season.

But Sikma was best known for developing a step-back, face-up shot that became known as the “Sikma move.” It has regained popularity in the modern NBA, with fewer back-to-the-basket centers, but Sikma said it started mostly out of necessity—he grew 10 inches in his final two years of high school and arrived at tiny Illinois Wesleyan, as he described it, as a, “6-11, 195-pound specimen.”

Sikma recalled that, in his first Summer League game after being drafted by Lenny Wilkens and the Sonics in 1977, he had the misfortune of going against Moses Malone, who as already established as a star center. Because players can’t foul out in Summer League, Sikma said Malone wound up with 30-something points while Sikma had 10 fouls.

“The owner was there,” Sikma said, “and asked Lenny, ‘Is that our first-round draft pick?’”

The night was highlighted by the speech from Weatherspoon, whose passion for the game remains palpable even 15 years after her retirement. Weatherspoon won a gold medal with Team USA in 1988 and played overseas for 10 years before the advent of the WNBA. She created one of the great moments in league history when, playing for the New York Liberty in the 1999 Finals, she launched a buzzer-beater from beyond halfcourt that went in for a Game 2 win.

Speaking to her two brothers and three sisters seated nearby, Weatherspoon said, “I never had to look outside my family for my heroes. … I was well-protected, well-watched over and I hope that you know that everything about you, I watched. I took it from you, I took your perseverance, I took your consistency, I took your dedication, I took your determination, I took it and I ran with it. And I hope that I made you tremendously proud.

“We’ve gone through a lot together, we’ve done a lot together, we fought together. Tonight, we go in together.”

She went in, indeed, with a well-rounded group that finally got their due. It was a celebration of the hard-working stars, the players and coaches who often gave up the notoriety and big headlines to sacrifice for winning.

As Moncrief put it, “I take great pride being inducted into this Hall. But as I was trying to think of, what do you talk about? It’s not really about me. It’s not about a speech. It’s about the game of basketball. The game of basketball that has changed everyone’s life in this room.”

Have you heard of Chasity Melvin? If not, wake up!

Melvin is the epitome of what it means to dream big. Her saying, “you can’t dream big enough” has carried her through a career spanning more than 20 years, 12 as a professional in the WNBA. Originally from Roseboro, North Carolina, Melvin attended North Carolina State University, where she led the program to its first Final Four appearance during her senior season in 1998. Following graduation, she was selected 11th overall in the 1999 WNBA draft and spent time with the Cleveland Rockers, Washington Mystics and Chicago Sky.

Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

“I was reminded of that growing up in a small town,” Melvin said of her ‘dream big’ saying. “I know what it’s like to set a goal, achieve it and realize my dream.”

Melvin retired from professional basketball in 2010 and was faced with a crossroad. Her desire to return to the game in a coaching role was initially faced with some resistance. Her lack of true coaching experience and available positions in the WNBA made it hard for Melvin to make a seamless transition to the coaching ranks upon graduation.

Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

“When I initially retired, people didn’t want to hire me because I didn’t have enough coaching experience,” Melvin said. “For me, I played for eight different coaches in my 12-year WNBA career. I played for a lot of different systems and NBA coaches. I felt like I had enough experience that should’ve given me that first opportunity.”

Enter the NBA Assistant Coaches Program (ACP). Through the NBA ACP, former NBA and WNBA players interested in coaching at the collegiate and professional levels can gain real experience and mentorship from the game’s best coaches.

“It was a great avenue for me to get in front of people who could get me to where I needed to be,” Melvin said. “I needed that experience to get an opportunity and the NBA ACP gave that to me.”

Through her participation in the NBA ACP, Melvin realized that there might be more opportunities outside of coaching women. “It gave me the idea that maybe I could coach on the men’s side,” Melvin said. “With the limited opportunities on the women’s side, this just made sense.”

Within two months of completing the program, Melvin landed her first full-time coaching role with the Greensboro Swarm in the NBA G League. As an assistant coach, Melvin was able to use her personal experiences during her professional career to relate to the players. “I’ve been part of the professional game. I was in their spot at one time,” she said.

Copyright 2007 NBAE (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

“It meant everything to get this opportunity,” Melvin said. “For me, it was both challenging and rewarding at the same time. To be part of helping these guys realize their dreams was special. I know what it’s like to set a goal, to play pro and achieve that dream.”

Melvin found immediate success by leveraging her unique journey and playing experiences. Her insightful perspective and first-hand view of the game allowed her to gain the most out of her first season with the Swarm.

“At the end of the day, I learned that basketball is just basketball. Same plays, special situations, scouting. It’s all the same,” Melvin said. “I know the level of confidence you need to have to succeed at this level. I’ve done it. I’ve experienced it. And it gave me great pride that I could share those experiences and help these guys further their careers.”

The opportunity also gave Melvin a new perspective on the G League and the opportunities it can create for players. While she continues to dream big herself, she is now able to share that message with others.

“It’s not just about moving up to the NBA,” Melvin said. “It’s also just as much about securing a great opportunity overseas to support themselves and their families. There are so many opportunities these guys can get from playing in the G League and so many awesome memories to be made. Outside of the basketball court, I could relate to these guys more on a personal level. That is where I’ve succeeded the most.”

Husband. Father. Mentor. Investor. These are just some of the many words that describe eight-year NBA veteran Eddie Gill. But before his basketball career took him all across the globe, he was just a kid from Aurora, Colorado who went on to overcome immense odds to realize his dream of playing in the NBA.

After high school, Gill enrolled at the College of Eastern Utah, where he played minimal minutes and was given few opportunities. The decision to transfer the following season to Salt Lake Community College proved to be a game-changer for Gill. He would go on to average more than 16 points and six assists per game.

After a standout season, Gill tested his skills at the D-1 level. He transferred to Weber State in 1998 and went on to play two full seasons for the Wildcats. MVP of the 1999 Big Sky Conference Tournament and named to the First-Team All-Big Sky Conference, Gill leveraged his college successes into a career in the NBA G League and eight seasons in the NBA, and spent significant time overseas for teams in the Greek Leagues and Continental Basketball Association. But, after a career spanning the globe, he still felt most at home in Indiana.

2006 NBAE (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

“When I knew retirement was a real possibility, I asked myself ‘what’s next?’” Gill said.

Gill turned in his jersey in 2011 but couldn’t stay away from the game for long. He started a youth skills development program in Indianapolis called, “All Out Training”. Through the program, he led after-school initiatives for kids that focused primarily on exercise and training.

“The NBA has a number of youth initiatives. Working in camps, clinics and schools,” Gill explains. “Through all these initiatives, I developed a passion for working with kids, especially on the court, regardless of their skillsets. Not everyone wants to go to the NBA — some kids just want to be able to play better on the playground! That’s why I started ‘All Out Training’.”

What Gill didn’t know at the time was that his youth training program would be an avenue for another career option. One afternoon, Gill began talking with a father of one of the boys in the program. The man had a successful career in wealth management and Gill was intrigued. Fast forward to today and Gill has been active in the financial management and investing industries for years.

Copyright 2005 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

“Networking is tremendous in any business,” Gill says while reflecting on his past. “It doesn’t mean you’re trying to get something out of someone, you’re just building a relationship. You never know what you could do for someone or what doors they can open for you. That’s what happened to me.”

Gill began hiring more coaches to run All Out Training while he pursued his new goal of becoming a financial advisor. He also knew that, through his time playing professional basketball, he could be a great resource for other athletes looking to do the same thing. But it wasn’t as easy as asking his new friend for a job.

“I had to do some serious studying to get certified and licensed,” he says. “To be 34 and studying ... that was a different experience than the first time around. It was hard!”

Gill worked for it and turned into an incredible success story in the process. He has moved up in the ranks as a financial advisor, while simultaneously juggling All Out Training and pregame/postgame analyst work for the Indiana Pacers.

One of the most rewarding aspects of Gill’s life is helping younger players through the process. The biggest piece of advice he offers to current players is that basketball won’t last forever. Even if you have a great playing career, 15 years or so is still a short amount of time to make a lot of money. And then what? If you stop playing at 35 years old, then you still have 65 years of life left.

Copyright 2007 NBAE (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

“Plan for your future,” he says. “Don’t just save, but think about what you want the rest of your life to look like. Your community involvement. Your next career. Think about it now.”

Gill’s final piece of advice? Get out of your comfort zone, and never be the smartest person in the room. “When we’re comfortable, we’re not making progress. In order to be a better basketball player, we had to be uncomfortable; the same holds true beyond the court. Surround yourself with high achievers, and don’t be the smartest person