Being a basketball player in the NBA is surely among the top things a young man could hope to do. Apart from the fame and status the job provides, it’s also one of the most lucrative in the United States – especially if you’re very good.
The money earned there is really quite ridiculous. And along with the huge contracts, there are always some sweet endorsement deals to be had.
Life after the NBA can be pretty smooth as well. A lot of retired players go on to be coaches, media analysts, general managers, team presidents and what have you. Basically, it’s the sort of job that sets you up for life, or most of it.
After making several millions playing basketball, there’s probably no real need to work if one invests wisely, but life could get pretty boring when one is rich and has nothing to do. Some players go on to make even more millions, while others move on to regular jobs.
The latter group sometimes do so for fun or passion, but sadly, others do out of necessity.
This list takes a look at former players on both sides of the fence. So keep reading to meet 10 players who are still rolling in cash and 10 who found regular forms of employment.
20. Regular Job – Adrian Dantley
Adrian Dantley didn’t win an NBA championship, but he really was a big star during his prime years in the league. Dantley scored over 23,000 points over his 15-year metier, was selected for six All-Star games and won the scoring title on two occasions.
The former Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles small forward called it quits back in 1991, capping things off with a career average of 24.3 points after a very short spell in Milwaukee with the Bucks.
A few years ago, he took up a job as a crossing guard in Silver Spring, Maryland. But it’s not something he really needed to do. “I just do it,” he explained after leaving people a tad surprised. “I have a routine. I exercise, I go to work, I go home. I have a spring break next week. I have a summer off, just like when I was a basketball player.”
19. Basking – Michael Jordan
Of course ‘His Airness’ Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, is still rolling in the dough. The former Chicago Bulls superstar even owns his own team now, plus Air Jordan sneakers are still selling like crazy.
Jordan, who won six titles with the Bulls, made $90 million in total salary during his playing career. And yes that pales in comparison to what today’s biggest stars will have earned over the duration of theirs, but he’s now worth a whopping $1.3 billion, according to Forbes, and is now on their Billionaires List.
Jordan’s deal with Nike makes him quite a lot of bread, and his Charlotte Hornets team is now worth $780 million. The former player has deals with Hanes, Gatorade and Upper Deck, and he is also the owner of a car dealership, as well as seven restaurants.
18. Regular Job – Mark Blount
Mark Blount enjoyed a pretty decent career in the NBA after getting drafted as the 54th overall pick in the 1997 draft by the Seattle SuperSonics. He didn’t begin playing in the league until 2000, however, as he would spend his first years suiting up for minor league teams.
The Boston Celtics picked him up as a free agent that year, and in his first season, the center led the team in blocks with 76, the most for a rookie since Kevin McHale’s achievement in the 1980-81 season.
Blount would leave for Denver, returning to Boston before heading to Minnesota and then Miami. He retired from the game in 2001 after a two-year stint with the Heat.
The 41-year-old is now the owner of two Auntie Anne’s pretzel franchises in Florida. Auntie Anne’s also maintains partnerships with other former athletes such as Shaq and ex-Los Angeles Raiders offensive tackle Ed Muransky.
17. Basking – Magic Johnson
Well he’s not nearly as rich as his old chum Mike, but Magic Johnson is still very well off. The ex-Los Angeles Lakers guard is worth $600 million nowadays, and has stakes in various businesses.
Having played out a stellar career with the Lakers, winning four championships before announcing his retirement as a result of contracting HIV, Magic invested well. He was heavily involved in real estate, and got into business with several reputable companies, including Starbucks, 24 Hour Fitness and AMC Theaters.
He’s not on the Forbes Billionaires list just yet, but he was quite happy for Jordan when he made it on there, jokingly asking him to some cash after congratulating the Hornets owner.
16. Regular Job – Karl Malone
Karl Malone sadly goes down as one of the best NBA players to have never won a ring. The former Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers big man spent 19 years in the league, with 18 of those going to Utah.
The retired 54-year-old is a 14-time All-Star who was named MVP on two occasions. He is also a two-time All-Star MVP and his 36,928 career points puts him second on the all-time scoring list, behing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Having called it quits in 2004, following an ultimately unsuccessful campaign with the Lakers, Malone has invested in several business, including a timber hauling truck company. He doesn’t just sit around, though, and loves getting his hands dirty, often hauling timber himself.
15. Basking – Shaquille O’Neal
The Diesel burst onto the scene with the Orlando Magic after being drafted in 1992. But it was his time in Los Angeles that saw him gain legendary status in the NBA, teaming up with Kobe Bryant to form one of the greatest partnerships in the history of the game.
The dominant center did the same with Dwyane Wade in Miami, winning his fourth ring at the end of his second season with the Heat before hopping around the league as his career fizzed out.
During his career, Shaq dabbled in Hip Hop music, as well as films, and continues to rake in good money from movies. Now employed as a basketball analyst with TNT, the former player is obviously on a pretty good salary. And you might not know this, but he could be considered an investing guru, having invested in real estate and huge companies such as Apple and Pepsi. Shaq also became a minority owner of the Sacramento Kings in 2013 and is involved with Auntie Anne’s, as mentioned above.
14. Regular Job – Bryant Reeves
Bryant Reeves was selected as the sixth overall pick in the 1995 NBA draft, getting recruited by the Vancouver Grizzlies after a stellar college career as a dominant center. The Arkansas native was nicknamed ‘Big Country’ by a teammate due to him being extremely taken aback when completing his first flight across the US.
Sadly, Reeves’ NBA career was cut short by back problems and he was only able to play for six seasons, retiring midway through the 2000-01 term, despite earning a six year extension worth $61 million in 1998. He posted averages of 12.5 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game over those six years.
After his retirement, Reeves purchased a 300-acre cattle ranch in Oklahoma which he operates himself. He couldn’t bring himself to stay off the court, however, and built one on the ranch to shoot some hoops in his spare time.
13. Basking – Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem Olajuwon is now 54, but he could probably put food on the table solely through summer coaching. The former Rockets and Raptors center has taken Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Amar’e Stoudemire under his wing in the past, teaching them the post moves that made him the potent threat he used to be in the paint.
The Nigerian is said to be worth at least $200 million nowadays, and he did make a relatively huge salary during his playing days, but his investments made after playing the game are keeping him sailing smoothly.
Olajuwon is a real estate dealer, and has made huge amounts off deals. He has his religion to thank, though, as being a Muslim forbids him to venture into high-risk deals due to their rules regarding interest.
12. Shawn Bradley
Shawn Bradley is one of the tallest players to play in the NBA, and during his era, he was definitely one of the most towering.
He spent most of his career playing for the Dallas Mavericks, having started out with the Philadelphia 76ers and then moving to New Jersey to join the Nets.
Bradley also featured alongside Michael Jordan in the 1996 movie Space Jam.
After his retirement in 2005, the former center decided to become a cowboy and got himself a huge cattle ranch. His biggest and most obvious challenge as a cowboy, though? Finding a horse tall enough to carry his massive frame.
“Bless the horse’s heart, the biggest challenge is finding a saddle that’ll fit, and I had a guy help me make a saddle,” he said in an interview a few years back. “So we’ve got a saddle and a 16-hand horse is the smallest I can even consider.”
11. Basking – Gary Payton
Gary Payton, known as ‘The Glove’ for his lockdown defending, is now worth $130 million. The ex-guard spent 13 years playing for the Seattle Supersonics, getting voted in as an All-Star on nine occasions.
Payton also played for the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, but he would win his first and only ring after joining the Miami Heat, having spent the last two years of his playing career in the Sunshine State.
Money came in large sums for Payton while he was a player, and he would sign an $80 million deal with the Sonics after his first six years in the NBA. Since leaving the league, Gary continues to make good money as a TV analyst, and put his gloves on a lucrative position as an analyst on Fox Sports Live.
10. Regular Job – Maceo Baston
The Texas native was quite the journeyman, playing in European leagues with Spain and Italy, as well as the NBA, joining the Toronto Raptors and then the Indiana Pacers before returning to Toronto for a second spell and then back to Indiana again.
Baston moved back to Europe after his second stint with the Pacers and passed through Ukraine, Galicia and Israel before calling it quits on his professional career, after which he started up a cupcake business called Taste Love Cupcakes in Michigan with his wife. It’s no shabby business either, and has been featured on Cupcake Wars, even winning their $10,000 prize.
9. Basking – Kobe Bryant
Possibly the best player since Mike, although some would argue that he surpassed the Bulls legend, Kobe Bryant was one of the best earners in the NBA through his starring years – and that’s nearly his career in its entirety.
The ‘Black Mamba’, as he was known, also made huge sums through endorsement deals. But his coffers took a huge hit after his sexual assault allegations in 2003, as he lost endorsement deals with Nutella and McDonald’s.
In 2011, his wife Vanessa made things a lot worse after announcing that she was filing for divorce. And with no prenuptial agreement in place, half of his assets were up for grabs. They made peace and called the divorce off, however, leaving Bryant with his fortunes intact.
Bryant, who spent all of his storied career with the Lakers, retired from playing last year as a five-time champion and is now working on film projects, as well as mentoring current NBAers.
8. Regular Job – Tom Chambers
Tom Chambers is best remembered for his remarkable shooting ability and highlight reel dunks, but is also the only player to have scored over 20,000 career points, and is eligible to be in the Hall of Fame, but isn’t.
A four-time NBA All-Star, Chambers proved a potent threat in the front court, averaging 18.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game over the course of his career, spread across 16 years with six different teams.
Chambers works as a broadcaster for Fox Sports Arizona, covering the Phoenix Suns, but also owns a ranch over in Utah where he breeds show horses. Said ranch has been in Chambers’ possession since he was a player, and he claims that owning a ranch is more of a hobby than a job.
7. Basking – Scottie Pippen
Scottie Pippen enjoyed loads of success playing alongside Micheal Jordan, but it would be blasphemous to suggest that he wasn’t very responsible for all of it. As great as MJ was, he would probably never win a championship without Pippen.
After 11 years and six titles in Chicago, Pippen went on to play for the Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers, returning to Chicago in 2003 before retiring from the NBA.
Pippen made lots of money from endorsement deals, and continued to following his departure from the league. He returned to the Bulls for a third time as a team ambassador, subsequently earning a post as an adviser in 2012.
6. Regular Job – Vin Baker
Had this been written up earlier in the year, Vin Baker would have probably still been described as a Starbucks employee. The former center – who most notably played for the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics and Boston Celtics – blew a cool $100 million as a result of poor decision-making, also missing out on another $36 million as a Celtic after violating the drug policy and getting released from the team.
After leaving the NBA, Baker took up work at a Starbucks in Seattle, serving some very surprised customers. He didn’t allow it to get him down, though, and has fought an incredible battle to turn his life around.
In June this year, the four-time All-Star and Olympic gold medalist got a job as a summer camp basketball director in Massachusetts. He has also released a book called God and Starbucks, detailing the journey.
5. Basking – Jamal Mashburn
Jamal Mashburn spent 12 years in the NBA, playing for the Mavericks, Heat and Hornets; and he was quite the scorer in his day. The New York native averaged 19.1 points over his career, and obviously made some good money as a player.
Since leaving the league, though, he has made some very wise investments and is now the owner of over 80 franchise locations and five car dealerships. Mashburn actually owns 40 Papa John’s joints, 38 Outback Steakhouse restaurants and four Dunkin’ Donuts.
“I had a vision of what I wanted to be at an early age, not just a basketball player,” he says. “I’ve always disliked the stereotypes of athletes can only do their sport and they can’t do anything else. I’ve always been the guy that had broader interests.”
4. Regular Job – Shandon Anderson
Former Jazz guard Shandon Anderson couldn’t find many restaurants that served what he liked after leaving the NBA, so he made one.
Anderson is the proud owner of the Drink Art restaurant in Atlanta, which has been open since 2010. The ex-player didn’t just open a restaurant and hire staff; he put his all into it, attending the Living Light Culinary Institute in Fort Bragg, as well as the National Gourmet Institute.
Anderson has been a vegetarian for over 30 years, falling out of love with meat after a piece of steak sent him to the hospital as a child. So upon leaving the NBA, he decided to immerse himself in the culinary arts, but with a bit more flair.
3. Basking – Junior Bridgeman
Junior Bridgeman also played out a 12-year stint in the NBA, and is now thought to be worth well over $600 million.
Bridgeman’s career spanned from 1975 to 1987, and began when the Lakers drafted him. He was immediately traded to the Bucks, along with three other players, for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And he would go on to have a solid career as a scorer, putting up over 11,000 points during the course.
After retiring, the ex-player acquired over 450 restaurant franchises, mostly made up of Wendy’s and Chilli’s. But last year, he sold his restaurants so he could get into the Coke business.
No not that Coke; Bridgeman is now a distributor for the Coca-Cola company, only the third independent bottler in recent times. He also purchased several territories and plants from the company, which is one of the biggest and most profitable in the entire world.
2. Regular Job – Chris Washburn
Chris Washburn is also one of the biggest busts to ever show his face in the NBA. The ex-center was selected as the third overall pick in the 1986 draft by the Golden State Warriors after a stellar high school and college career.
His time in the NBA, though, was marred by drug problems, and he would be slapped with a lifetime ban after failing three drug tests in as many years. Washburn tried to save his basketball career overseas, playing in Greece, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Spain, Switzerland and Colombia. He once said that the “drugs were really good in Colombia”.
After years of living in crack houses and eating out of trash cans, Washburn finally decided to get clean in 2000, and he swears he hasn’t taken any drugs since.
1. Basking – Jonathan Bender
Jonathan Bender’s career was ruined by knee problems, but he’s still making money because of it. Drafted by the Pacers as the fifth overall pick in 1999, Bender was thought to be what Kevin Durant is to the NBA right now.
After playing three seasons with the Pacers, the team signed him to a $28 million deal. But just a few months later, he was under the surgeon’s knife as a result of a degenerative condition in his left knee. The surgery seemed to worsen Bender’s problems, and he would only play 30 more games in the NBA before being forced to retire at the age of 25.
Bender turned his misfortunes into real cash, however, inventing a product to help people with knee problems. “Literally in about five minutes, I had the whole thing put together, with duct tape and some cables and ankle weights from the corner pharmacy,” he said.
The device proved to be a hot seller, and Bender surpassed his goal of earning $500,000 in the first year of production. He now runs a business from his laptop, selling what is known as the JBIT MedPro, having made millions off his invention.
If you have any doubt the product works, Bender actually made it back into the the league midway through the 2009-10 season, joining the Knicks. After being put through tests, the player was found to have the most lower body strength on the entire team.
He was offered a new deal at the end of the season, but turned it down to perfect his device.
Want more from Kavan? Connect with him on Twitter @KavanFlavius
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