What will our favourite NBA stars be doing during the lockout? The prospect of a basketball-less winter time is daunting enough for fans of the game: the lads and ladies who anticipate the days leading up to game time, when they can sit down, have a beer, watch the game, and forget their troubles for four quarters. Or rather, forget the troubles unrelated to a point-guard’s assist to turnover ratio or a big man’s struggles from the line.
If such a world seems bleak for the spectators, how must it seem for the players, left aimless by a convoluted barrage of back room dealings and minor concessions? How will they spend their empty hours?
There will be time spent with families—wives and children for the older players, parents and grandparents for the younger—and days spent getting reacquainted with friends neglected by the hecticness of the pro athlete’s schedule.
Some players will spend the majority of their time doing exactly what they’d be doing without a lockout: balling. I have surreal images in my head of players like Kobe or Dirk or KD spending innumerable hours in total seclusion, basketball exiles, doing battle against the demons of shots missed, passes imprecise, chances for victory squandered.
But beyond the respectfulness of family time and preparation for the future, players will be spending money. A lot of money.
As many rags-to-riches stories as the NBA hosts, it’s also the setting for the opposite scenario. I can easily recall Latrell Sprewell’s yacht being repossessed, Scottie Pippen losing millions in an ill-advised corporate jet deal, Eddy Curry going bankrupt, owing, in part, to a $1000 per month cable bill, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley both wading through modest gambling debts.
All big name players, all extreme cases of spending, with often extreme consequences. But it’s not only the truly rich men who deal with financial trouble.
Indeed, a 2008 Toronto Star article reported that as many as 60% of players go broke within 5 years of their playing careers ending. With this stat in mind, I can’t help but expect the impending lockout to cause some jitters amongst the big-spending members of the NBA family.
On the other hand, maybe the lockout and the sudden stop to the obese pay cheques is exactly what the league needs in this regard. If a significant enough number of players face money problems, then maybe some form of mandatory money management education is needed to help the younger players spend their money more wisely.
For now, NBA vets like Toronto grinder Reggie Evans will have to do. Staring down the lockout’s barrel, Evans has been badgering his younger teammates to plan ahead, to use their heads.
It shouldn’t be too difficult. In a league where the average salary is more than $5 million per year, even an athlete’s head should do.