But the NBA isn’t entirely littered with the wreckage of riches-to-rags stories. Sometimes players invest wisely, cut their losses, and retire to live in luxury and prosperity.
Shaq was one of the wealthiest basketball players on the planet and that was with his penchant for throwing himself into potentially money-losing projects, like his music career. Built up as a powerhouse icon almost from the beginning of his career, Shaq had a damn good head for business. He was a trendsetter, often credited, among other things, with helping to popularize Twitter in 2008.
Part of what made Shaq so successful was his ability to hold up the brand that the NBA had created for him. Even towards the end, when his skills on the court started to decline, he was still an immense presence in the basketball world (even when that presence became a little ridiculous). He’s now parlayed that ability into a gig as TNT commentator this Christmas.
Shaq embodies good branding: focus, clarity, and conciseness. Right from the bat, he was Shaq. Remember Shaq Attack? Even kids who didn’t watch basketball growing up still remember the Sports Illustrated For Kids covers, the Shaq posters, and his movies.
Bonus lesson: Shaq led the way for NBA stars to start using social media like Twitter. You’d be hard pressed to find a better example for how you can leverage social media to your advantage.
Amid the detritus of retired NBA players fading into obscurity, Reggie Miller stands above. Like Charles Barkley and others, he successfully made the switch from basketball into basketball commentary and journalism. The difference is that Miller is one of the wealthiest of the retired players-turned-commentators, with a net worth estimated at $90 million, almost twice that of Barkley’s estimated net worth.
Miller seems to have avoided the usual pitfalls that retired NBA players fall into; he has a respectable position in the sport he loves, and has been considered as a possible future GM for the Pacers. Stick that in your craw, New York.
Think about Michael Jordan, who, for all his flaws, seems like the flagship for success stories in the NBA. The guy is a legend, and earns an estimated 45 million dollars a year, which is about three digits more than almost everybody on the planet. It’s a testament to his marketing savvy that we still think of him as an untouchable basketball god rather than a corporate behemoth.
So much has been written about Jordan’s mythic rises and falls that there’s not too much more to say, except that it’s telling that at one time Jordan was so huge, so monumentally important to the franchise, that Warner Bros funded a $80 million film specifically to mythologize his return to basketball.
Diversification is at least partly responsible for Jordan’s monolithic fortune—he has a lot of frying pans going at one time: not only is he part-owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, but his Nike brand nets over one billion dollars annually. His name even graces the signature shoes of players like Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade.
Diversifying your business or portfolio is a big step, and not one to take lightly, but it’s a good idea. If one area of your business declines, your other projects can help to hold you up. Changing industries often create new opportunities for new businesses, and expanding the range of your services can create new revenue streams which can help stabilize you through lean times.
Bonus Lesson: Similar to Shaq’s ability to become an icon, Jordan really leads the way in showing us how to mythologize our life story.
Retired Hall of Famer Moses Malone probably has it the most figured out. He made some wise investments, and now spends his days in Sugarland, TX. In an interview with NBA.com’s Micah Hart, Malone said,”What am I doing? I’m doing nothing, just relaxing and enjoying life. I did 21 years of hard labor in the NBA, invested my money right, so I’m set. I earned the right to relax and enjoy, you know? “