SportsProf

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Thursday, June 30, 2005

So You Want to be a Star?

Read this, and then think again. (Thanks to Dave Sez for the spotting of this article).

Peter Parker's uncle told him in Spiderman that with great power comes great responsibility. Well, with great talent in a unique area (such as professional basketball), with great power comes great money and great potential wealth. I used the word "potential" because, as you'll see from reading the linked article, many stars blow their money. Big time.

Many years ago, I talked with a significant person within the ranks of a professional sports union once who said to me that the biggest problems that existed were rogue agents, the "idiot sibling" problem and the pressure on players to give money away. The article addresses points one and three rather well, but doesn't necessarily address the second problem (which, in essence, is that a player's parents prevail on him to lend money to a business venture of a sibling who, will surely equally loved, didn't make it to the big-time; typically, the venture is poorly planned and becomes a failure that costs the player tons of money).

The overall issue, in a nutshell, is that kids are coming into huge sums of money. When I say "kids", I mean people who haven't had enough life experience to handle the demands that one gets when he comes into a lot of money. Isiah Thomas, who seems like a pretty savvy guy, had an exceptional mother who didn't play games with him or his money. Many other players haven't been so fortunate. They are easy pickings for those who want a piece of them.

The story is a very sad story, make no mistake about it. No one should derive any glee from the fact that many former players have suffered serious financial problems. Perhaps they were too carefree in their spending, and perhaps they suffered because they relied upon others too willingly instead of taking more of a role in managing their money. Most of all, some suffered this fate just because they were young and inexperienced.

On the other hand, the article also goes to show a reader that you probably shouldn't say you want someone else's life. After all, some of these players and former players have made complete messes out of their lives. So while you can't hit the finger roll after flying through traffic, hit the jumper from the corner or dunk over the other team's center, you also haven't come out of a short-lived career without a nest egg or skill sufficient to do anything else worthy of a good salary for a living. To be done at 29 with not much to look forward to is not how most people want to live their lives.

What's the fix? There is more counseling for younger players in all leagues on important life topics, and there are also veteran players who seemingly have more clues about how to handle their resources. The names Grant Hill, Tim Duncan and Shane Battier come immediately to mind.

Because in the end, all that glitters is not gold.

Unless the players themselves show in their off-the-court personal finances the same discipline that got them big buck in the NBA.

3 Comments:

Blogger Jonathan said...

Another way that many of these young athletes get into financial trouble is through agent loans. I can't remember where I read the article but it dealt with agents and how they take loans out for potential draft picks. When these players don't get drafted where they were projected, or convinced they would go, they become indebted to the agent and they have to pay up. Think about a high school player that gets a six digit loan so he can go out and buy his "Bling" or "ice" from Jacob the Jewler. What happens to this kid when he doesn't get drafted? He has no job, no college career to look forward to, and he is deep in debt.

This problem is not indicactive to just athletes, it is ever present throughout society. I saw a news report last week where the subject was which states have the highest or lowest debt, in terms of thier residents. We live in a society where over consumption is the norm instead of being a rarity. We live in a throw away society and many of these future professional athletes are coming from environments that have been thrown away.

7:50 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

It's true that the agents can be part of the problem, especially if they're looking out for themselves more than the players, and that's been known to happen. Part of it is that people can live beyond their means, but part of it also is an exaggerated sense of entitlement. Some of these players think that they deserve to live to a certain high standard, even if their dollars don't back it up. If they've been stars all their lives, chances are they've been given a lot of things. As a result, they can have a strange sense of what things cost (and what they're worth). Part of it is also youth -- they don't have fully formed abilities to make judgments at their age. And, yes, part of it is our society, where living beyond one's means is a troubling phenomenon that transcends these kids.

1:55 PM  
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1:16 PM  

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