In a perfect world, egos would be suppressed and inquisitive minds wouldn’t hesitate to ask questions, no matter how personal or even elementary. But at these types of things—a seminar, symposium, or something like that—when guys would prefer their conversations not be broadcast in front of their peers/competitors, and everyone’s situation is different, the one-on-ones off to the side often are the most impactful.
Grant Williams gets it, since not too long ago he was in the same shoes as the 65 rookies that sat in a hotel conference room in Las Vegas this past August. So he was more than happy to set a neophyte straight after speaking on a panel about one of the most important topics the NBA’s class of 2021 must confront off the court: money.
“Someone said my first purchase is going to be a $100,000 car,” the Celtics forward recalls. “I’m like, ‘You know a car’s value depreciates as soon as you go off the lot.’”
There are a ton of perks when you’re good enough to play in the NBA, the most enticing being the massive amount of money to be made. Salaries for a first-year player start at $925,000 while each first-round pick from July’s draft enters the league with a guaranteed two-year contract that will earn them at least $3 million (before taxes, of course).
But not every rookie will retire in 15 years with “fuck you” money. Nor will every rookie sign ultra-lucrative third and fourth contracts or ink big endorsement deals. Sure, the average NBA player made $7.5 million last season, according to Basketball Reference. But mega earners—guys like Steph Curry, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo balling on a max deal—inflate that number. The average NBA career lasts a shade under five seasons and even those that carve out a decade or more in the Association—an awesome accomplishment—will almost assuredly walk away from the game with a fraction of LeBron James’ net worth.
So knowing how to properly manage your finances as a newly minted millionaire, with a finite window to maximize earnings, is really, really important. Not just to avoid being another sad story of a pro athlete that went broke, but to make that money last a lifetime and ideally create generational wealth. Balancing it all can be an anxiety-riddled exercise for the NBA’s newest players that, frankly, can’t fathom what life after basketball looks like.
“Compared to everyone else, we make a tremendous amount of money,” says Bucks guard Pat Connaughton. “It’s incredible. It’s a dream. We’re fortunate, the whole nine. But I would say for the vast majority of guys in the NBA, understanding you have to make that last for 30, 40, 50, 60 more years when you’re done playing, that doesn’t always set in until it’s too late.”