Branching Out

The fact of the matter is, even at the best of times, a player’s career is usually over in the bat of an eye. Even though the average pay for a season in the NBA is a sweet 5 million and change, it usually lasts just shy of 5 seasons. For most players, that leaves a player with everything north of their late twenties to do something with their lives that doesn’t involve running the courts. Some players find out what they want to do after retirement, and the smarter, or luckier, ones have opportunities on the side, but for someone who’s dedicated their lives to the game and usually not much else, the prospect of a new career can get you in a whole lot of strange situations.

BALLnROLL wanted to take a look at the most famous examples of players taking gigs off the courts, some of them that worked out well, some that didn’t, and some that come from out of nowhere.

Shaquille O’Neal

We might as well get the big guy out of the way first. Shaq has swung for the fences in just about every medium we have a name for, and in the act of throwing it all against the wall, some stuff has stuck better than others. 

I think it could be fairly stated that Shaq is the most diverse “brand” basketball has ever seen, and second only to #23 in overall impact. He’s done movies (Blue Chips was actually fantastic, Kazaam… well….), video games (No Sega Genesis was complete without a copy of Shaq-Fu, even if nobody played it more than once) a long litany of sponsorship deals, and of course his music career which is still sort of going whenever anybody lets Shaq near a microphone and a drum machine.

With everything else he’s done, it’s almost hard to remember how dominant he was under the rim for as long as he was. He’s also a reservist police officer in two different towns. Now that he’s had a few seasons with Charles Barkley on TNT’s “Inside the NBA”, he’s made it the most watchable NBA show ever.

Shaq has so much fame, so much money, so much persona, there’s literally not a field you can’t see him at least dabbling in.

Steve Nash

The two-time MVP has a credit to his name that makes him stand out even further than his stats: Film Director. 

In 2010, Nash bankrolled and directed in a film about the international symbol and famous Canadian Terry Fox. Included on ESPN’s now famous 30 on 30, Into The Wind follows interviews about and archive footage of Fox’s famous campaign, and ended up being scary good. As if that wasn’t enough, Nash interned as a Mad Man in 2008, learned the ad business from the ground floor enough to start up a film company (Meathawk?) that creates Nike ads, as well as the “Funny or Die” stuff. I guess a guy who skips the gym as much as he does has tons of time for everything else.

Doug Christie

While we’re on the topic of filmmakers, reality stars Doug and his “I clearly wear the pants” wife Jackie have reportedly gotten into the smut racket. They’re producing (not starring in, they both make clear) blue movies, which, though likely more dignified than “Basketball Wives LA”, has still got to be a first. It’s been over a year since they announced their expansion into the adult world, and we’re still looking forward to all the jokes their work is going to make possible!

Dennis Rodman

Now, if you had given us a dozen chances to guess which one of the 90’s Bulls would have become a diplomat, we probably wouldn’t have picked Rodman in any of them, but it seems like he’s just gone and done it. 

The NBA’s dirtiest player, and likely America’s most dirty lover, got the gig from Vice Magazine and HBO, in what surely started as a joke and turned into something that was mostly still a joke. Even through all the surrealism, the media pomp, and the odd picture of Rodman and the Supreme Leader chumming around, the fact is, Dennis Rodman made North Koreans seem exactly how they are, like regular people.

Kareem Abdul-Jabar

Not exactly the Actor’s Actor, but the man who was the coolest human being on earth for most of the 70’s has acted in some completely awesome scenes. First and foremost, in “Game of Death” he fought Bruce Lee in what still holds up as a kung fu classic. Apart from dozens of other performances, he was a prophet in the TV version of Stephen King’s The Stand that was as memorable as anything else that came out of that series. But yeah, that Bruce Lee scene, that took the cake!



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