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.
Having retired from professional basketball, Baston returned to Michigan with his wife to open Taste Love Cupcakes, a gourmet cupcake establishment that has not only been featured on Cupcake Wars, but also won the $10,000 top prize. While the cupcake business is thriving, Baston admits that he does not necessarily play a major role in the production of the gourmet cupcakes, instead telling NBA.com, "I'm not a baker. I do a lot of the tasting!"
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.
Though his career was cut short by injury, Reeves did sign a lucrative six-year extension worth $61 million after his best season in 1997-98, some of which he likely used to buy the 300-acre cattle ranch he now owns and operates in Oklahoma. A fitting career for the man nicknamed “Big Country,” Reeves’ cattle ranch also includes a 15,000 square-foot home with a full-size basketball court.
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.
According to a business associate of Malone’s, the legendary big man often hauls the timber from the property himself and after saying that Malone had just returned from a two-day timber haul, the associate explained that, "He loves trucking. That's his way to do something he loves. He's in the truck by himself. It gives him time to think." In addition to long-haul trucking, Malone has also hosted a radio show on an ESPN affiliate for which he accepted no salary.
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.
Since his retirement from professional basketball, Dickau, who was known during his playing days for his somewhat unkempt and curly locks, has opened a barbershop in Spokane, Washington. In addition to owning The Barbers, Dickau also does broadcasting work for both the Pac-12 Network and ESPN radio.
11 Shandon Anderson
Anderson spent nine seasons in the NBA, retiring at age 32 following stints with the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz. A vegetarian, Anderson went to culinary school after realizing he could not prepare a meal for himself and most restaurants did not cater to his specific diet. Anderson attended both the Living Light Culinary Institute and the National Gourmet Institute, and after completing an internship at the famous New York-based vegan restaurant Candle 79, the former backcourt mate of John Stockton and one-time NBA Champion opened a vegan restaurant of his own, calling it “Drink Art.”
10 Tom Chambers
Chambers, the only player with over 20,000 career points who is eligible for election to the Basketball Hall of Fame but has not yet been inducted, can most frequently be seen on Fox Sports Arizona, where he co-hosts the pregame and halftime shows for the Phoenix Suns. While he has enjoyed a lengthy career as a broadcaster since his retirement from the NBA, Chambers also owns Shooting Star Ranch in Utah, a property he has owned since his playing days. Chambers’ ranch is used as a full-service horse-training facility, and the four-time All-Star and 1987 All-Star Game MVP even breeds show horses on the ranch, though he does admit that his work as a rancher is “more of a hobby and personal enjoyment right now than a business.”
9 Mark Blount
Blount, a center who enjoyed a nice pro career while playing for the Celtics, Nuggets, Timberwolves and Heat, can now claim to have something more in common with Shaquille O’Neal beyond just being a NBA center who once played in Miami. Blount is the owner of two Auntie Anne’s pretzel franchises, both of which are located in West Palm Beach in South Florida. Shaq’s vast business interests also include an Auntie Anne’s franchise, as the company has apparently been partnering with a number of retired pro athletes over the years.
8 Detlef Schrempf
A three-time NBA All-Star who was a major part of a Seattle Supersonics team that took the Chicago Bulls to six games in the 1996 NBA Finals, Schrempf’s career NBA earnings exceeded $30 million. A graduate of the University of Washington who majored in International Business, Schrempf began using his NBA earnings for private equity investments while still active in the league, which ultimately led to a post-NBA career in wealth management. The German basketball legend is now the business development officer for Coldstream Capital Management, but he still makes time for other pursuits, including a recurring role as a guest star playing himself on NBC’s Parks and Recreation.
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.
Ward retired following the 2004-05 season and in the time since he has returned to football. Though he first took a job as an NBA assistant coach with the Houston Rockets under then-coach Jeff Van Gundy, Ward decided that he would prefer coaching football at the high school level. After serving as the head football coach at the Westbury Christian School, a small school in Texas, Ward recently accepted the head coaching position at Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola, Florida.
6 Evan Eschmeyer
Eschmeyer’s time in the NBA was brief, as he spent four seasons in New Jersey and Dallas while finding minutes very difficult to come by, due in part to knee issues that required five surgeries in a span of just two years. Out of the NBA at 27, the Northwestern University product returned to his alma mater and enrolled in its highly competitive JD-MBA program, where he earned both a law degree and an MBA. Eschmeyer has worked as both an attorney and an entrepreneur, and he currently serves as the director of finance for Atlas Tower.
5 Shawn Kemp
Kemp, a legend in Seattle due to his days as the “Reign Man” with the Sonics, returned to the Pacific Northwest to open a sports bar in Queen Anne called Oskar’s. The bar was subtly named after Kemp, as the first three letters in Oskar’s stand for “Oh Shawn Kemp,” but the bar unfortunately announced that it had to close in July, citing rent hikes as the main reason for its closure. Fans of the Sonics will now have to find a new bar in which they can openly root against Clay Bennett and the Oklahoma City Thunder while hanging out with Kemp.
4 Vinnie Johnson
Known as “The Microwave” during his playing career due to his ability to heat up quickly and score in bunches off the bench, Johnson spent 13 years in the NBA and is certainly best remembered for his time with the two-time NBA Champion Detroit Pistons. After retiring in 1992, Johnson founded the Piston Group, a manufacturing company that began as a small-corrugated pallet manufacturer but, according to the company, is now “one of America’s leading Value Added Assembly companies.” After more than 20 years since founding the company, Johnson still serves as its Chairman and CEO, overseeing ventures that include partnerships with Lear, Sachs and Continental Teves.
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.
With his playing days over, Martin worked at Nike in Oregon before taking a job as a driver for UPS. The delivery company has a policy of promoting from within and Martin was able to move up quickly, now serving in his role as a community services manager. Martin is also active in the National Basketball Retired Players Association, where he is a member of the board and often provides advice to NBAers who are making the transition into retirement.
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.
Despite losing over $100 million in career earnings, Baker finally seems to be completely at ease, as he recently told the Providence Journal, “When you learn lessons in life, no matter what level you’re at financially, the important part to realize is it could happen. I was an alcoholic, I lost a fortune. I had a great talent and lost it. For the people on the outside looking in, they’re like 'Wow.’ For me, I’m 43 and I have four kids. I have to pick up the pieces. I’m a father. I’m a minister in my father’s church. I have to take the story and show that you can bounce back. If I use my notoriety in the right way, most people will appreciate that this guy is just trying to bounce back in his life.”
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.”