Of all the major professional sports, basketball may be both the most lucrative and the most stable. On average, NBA players enjoy a career length of 4.8 years and an annual salary of $5.2 million, meaning that the average NBAer will earn nearly $25 million over the course of their career. That is over $18 million more than the average NFLer will make, but that does not mean that life in the NBA is not volatile, and it certainly does not mean that players are automatically set for life once they earn a place on an NBA roster.
Many NBAers find themselves retired from the league well before they reach the age of 40, and there is a very real struggle in making the transition from a structured basketball environment in which a fairly strict schedule is outlined for players to follow. Many former pros find it difficult to adapt to the post-retirement lifestyle and endure financial hardship, while others thrive in different lines of work following the end of their playing career. Of course, there are also those who earned more than enough during their pro career and are able to find sufficient meaning in spending their retirement years on the golf course.
The most visible post-NBA careers are in broadcasting and coaching, and former pros like Jalen Rose, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd and Steve Kerr can all be found either in the booth or on the sideline in basketball arenas around the league. There are limited opportunities in broadcasting and in coaching, however, so even though Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Chris Webber are frequently seen on television during the NBA season, other former pros have to look elsewhere for gainful employment.
Whether players take on so-called “regular” jobs to supplement their career earnings or simply out of the need to occupy the time they used to spend on basketball, many retired NBAers are currently working in fields that have very little to do with their former profession. From baking custom cupcakes to hauling timber, these 15 former NBAers have all found regular jobs during their post-playing career.
15 Maceo Baston
After playing four seasons for the University of Michigan in the late 90s, Baston bounced around quite a bit during his professional basketball career, playing in the CBA, Italy and Spain before catching on with the Raptors for a brief stint in 2002-03. Following his first taste of the NBA, Baston then spent three seasons in Israel, playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv through 2006. The 6-9 power forward then enjoyed three more years in the NBA, playing two seasons with the Indiana Pacers and one for the Toronto Raptors, seeing action in just 105 games over parts of four seasons in the league.
14 Bryant Reeves
The first-ever draft pick of the Vancouver Grizzlies, Reeves did not quite live up to the lofty expectations thrust upon him as a lottery selection and apparent franchise cornerstone. Due to chronic back issues that limited his effectiveness, Reeves was out of the NBA at the age of 27, finishing his six-year career in the NBA with averages of 12.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
13 Karl Malone
Malone has an ownership stake in over a dozen businesses, but that does not mean he serves as just a well-heeled financial backer. A Hall of Famer who is second on the all-time scoring list behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the 14-time All-Star and two-time MVP takes a hands-on approach to many of his businesses, especially as it relates to the property he uses for harvesting trees.
12 Dan Dickau
Dickau was a legend at Gonzaga, where he was an All-American and part of a squad that upset the University of Virginia on the way to a Sweet 16 appearance in 2001. The point guard went on to spend six seasons in the NBA, playing for six different teams before his playing career ended after a brief stint overseas.
11 Shandon Anderson
10 Tom Chambers
9 Mark Blount
8 Detlef Schrempf
7 Charlie Ward
While in college at Florida State University, Ward was better known for his accomplishments with the football program than the basketball program, as the quarterback led FSU to a victory in the NCAA National Championship over Nebraska and was named the Heisman Trophy winner in 1993. Despite his football exploits as a Seminole, Ward was undrafted by the NFL (he said before the draft that he would not play in the NFL unless he was a first-rounder) and instead went on to enjoy an 11-year NBA career, spent mostly with the New York Knicks.
6 Evan Eschmeyer
5 Shawn Kemp
4 Vinnie Johnson
3 LaRue Martin
Martin, the top pick of the 1972 NBA Draft, is often cited as one of the biggest busts in the history of the league. In four seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers – a team that passed over Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo by taking Martin with the first pick – Martin never carved out much of a role and posted career averages of 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game before being out of the league following the 1975-76 season.
2 Vin Baker
Baker was a four-time All-Star whose well-documented troubles with alcoholism ended his 13-year NBA career in disappointing fashion. In retirement, Baker has found sobriety and has been working in his father’s church as a minister. In addition to his ministry work, the 6-11 Baker could most recently be found behind the counter at a Starbucks in Rhode Island, where he is training for a management position.
At 43 and nearly a decade removed from his playing days, Baker landed the opportunity with Starbucks through the franchise’s CEO, Howard Schultz, who was also the owner of the Seattle Supersonics during Baker’s final season as an All-Star in 1998, his first as a member of the Sonics after being acquired in a trade that sent Shawn Kemp to Cleveland. Seattle was the beginning of the end for Baker, though his immense talent helped convince the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers to take chances on him as a reclamation project.
1 Adrian Dantley
Dantley, a Hall of Famer who played for seven different franchises while scoring over 23,000 points during his 15-year NBA career, is now spending his days as a crossing guard in Silver Spring, Maryland. According to Dantley, he took the part-time job, which reportedly pays $14,000 per year, simply to fill his free time by helping others. One report suggested he took the job for the health benefits, but, when asked by The Washington Post about his motivation, Dantley replied, “Nah, I just did it for the kids. I just didn’t want to sit around the house all day.”
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