Is it me or does it seems like it is not enough to be a professional athlete in the best basketball league in the world anymore? Do players don’t see this as an accomplishment? These men spend their whole life dreaming about the day they will lace them up and then once they are in, they seek out other career alternatives.
Are superstars, naturally good at many areas of a basketball court, translate to being good at different career paths outside of their main career? Or is it all about the Benjamins at the end of the day!?
We are not talking about endorsements, sporting apparel, video games/magazines covers, these come with the fame. It’s always been this way and will never change. We are talking about players pursuing something else that may tickle their fancy. In recent years, three of the most popular secondary career paths within NBA players have been related to music, cinema/TV and fashion.
Take the phenomenon that happened back in the late 90s early 2000s where every NBA star wanted to become a rapper and vice versa. A good share of NBA players tried their luck at a rap career. I know you guys remember this, Shaquille O’neal – I know I Got Skillz (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPKTLLb80Ns
) Other stars such as Allen Iverson, Chris Webber and Kobe Bryant got their feet wet in the music business but none of them went anywhere with it. Shaq is the only one that has bragging right in saying he had a “music career”. He actually released 5 albums, one of which went platinum! That’s right your eyes are not fooling you, let me give you a moment to re-read the previous sentence… This raises the concept of brand loyalty. Once a player makes it at an All-Star level, it is fair to assume his loyal fans will support him no matter, even if it is the most ridiculous thing ever? I will come out and admit to the world that I am a victim of brand loyalty. In 2002, Jennifer Love Hewitt released an album, BareNaked. Guess who rushed to a music store to purchase a copy on the basis that she was gorgeous and not for her musical talents? If you guessed me, congratulations!
Let’s move to the big screen for a minute. I have a theory that throughout the next couple of years we will see less NBA players making the leap to acting. Thanks to Commissioner David Stern implementing his strict “flopping rules”, players will not have the ability to practice their acting skills in front of thousands on a nightly basis anymore. My hat goes off to Rick Fox and John Salley in this category, they both successfully made the transition from NBA players to actors/producers in Hollywood. Do you think it’s a coincidence that they both retired from the Los Angeles Lakers right after a championship season and both ended up working in Hollywood? This seems like a trend Dwight Howard should investigate. Steve Nash already has experience in producing movies and has mentioned that he will focus on his film career once his contract with the Lakers expires. Does that mean another banner is coming to Staples Center relatively soon?
We cannot talk movies without mentioning “His Airness” Michael Jordan. I don’t know about you but I still find myself quoting Space Jam 15 years later. There is just something about one of the best basketball player of all time and The Looney Tunes, it just works! Just like the music business, a lot of NBA players tried it out but were not able to stick with it or were just not good enough. Our latest victim to the movie business is Kevin Durant, fresh out of his acting debut in “Thunderstruck”. Maybe KD should have taken a bit of advice from Ray Allen, who had his first acting gig in “He Got Game”. Let me take this moment to applaud Walter Ray Allen Jr for his performance. Not only was this his first acting gig but he had to co-star alongside Denzel Washington, a phenomenal actor. It also helps when the movie is written/directed by Spike Lee but let’s not take any credit away from Ray. Other NBA stars that have made their mark in the movie business are Kareem Abdul Jabbar, especially for his role in Airplane as he made fun of himself for resembling the towering center from the Los Angeles Lakers. Another favorite of mine is Georghe Muresan in my Giant with Billy Crystal. There has been way too many NBA players cameo in movies or sitcom throughout the years to name them all. The key point here is that the ones who have succeeded went into acting/producing because it’s their passion. They really put some effort into this secondary career. The others used their name as an ATM card for a quick withdrawal. These guys’ acting careers were just as short as Rasheed Wallace’s stint in Atlanta.
Whether it’s for the love of it or for the financial rewards, the real money maker lies in clothing lines. If done right, players can ride their clothing success to retirement. When was the last time Michael Jordan played in the NBA? The answer is 10 years ago and the Jordan line is still successful. I have a feeling that the KB24 line will also be around for a while after Kobe Bryant retires…please give me a moment to gather my thoughts as this is a very sensitive subject to me… Honorable mention here is Kevin Willis. Kevin owns Willis & Walker; they specialize in creating tailored clothing for men 6’3” and above. Willis & Walker managed to have a runway show in New York during Fashion Week 2011. For those who are not into fashion, for Kevin Willis, that is the equivalent of making it in two different pro leagues in one life time…impressive. Other NBA stars that own clothing line that some of you may not be aware of are Hakeem Olajuwon, Steve Nash, Anthony Tolliver and John Salmons just to name a few. Their success seems minimal compare to Kevin Willis. At the end of the day, they were NBA players first and will always be compared to other previous players who have tried to jump ships.
Obviously NBA players have ventured into more than music, cinema/TV and fashion. Some went into writing, publishing, and politics, even enrolling in the U.S. army and serving time overseas. It’s nice that all these players have had the opportunity to pursue more than one dream. However, when do you call it “crossing the line” between your job and your hobby? These athletes are paid millions of dollars to do something they love. Do they owe some sort of loyalty to their team to continuously become a better athlete and a better image for the organization? Shaquille O’neal did it all, music, acting, clothing line, reality star; he even is a law enforcement agent for the Los Angeles Port Police. Looking back at his career, his free throws were always a major concern. He finished with a career percentage of .527 at the free throw line. Could he have cut back on his rap career and practice a bit more? What about his clothing line that lasted just a few years? Do you agree that athlete should be exclusive to their team or are they free to pursue different avenues if the opportunity presents itself?