Blazer's Edge readers, please welcome "TeamMom" to the fold of site feature writers. She's bringing new angles to our stories. Enjoy!
Steve Blake (35 years old) and Chris Kaman (33) might not be ready to retire just yet but, "What's next?" is probably on their mind. If they are smart they are already making plans. Will they go out on their own terms, ready for the next adventure like Clyde Drexler (retired at 36), or will they be traded away and forced out, kicking and screaming?
For some on the Portland Trail Blazers roster, predicting where they might end up seems easy. Dorell Wright will probably continue with his fashion line, Scrapes and Gravel. After the success of 4barFriday and a host of popular commercials, Damian Lillard looks set to become a media mogul. CJ McCollum is already working hard to break into sports writing or broadcasting.
I'll bet Kaman will have a nice post NBA career as an extreme adventure/fishing guide, and dear sweet Meyers Leonard will surely find some way to parlay that charm and boyish smile into being a spokesman for something honorable and wholesome.
The scary facts, murky future
But a solid and stable career after the NBA is harder work that you might think. A 2009 article in Sports Illustrated, How (and why) Athletes Go Broke revealed the depressing statistic:
"Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke."
A number of factors contribute to this, including a very short window for peak earnings. Athletes tend to support people beyond their immediate family, they sometimes fall prey to unscrupulous opportunists, and they are often unprepared to make sound investments that will carry them into the future.
How the NBA is helping players prepare for life after retirement
Between the NBA, the NBA Players Association and the Retired Players Association, efforts are underway to help players prepare for post NBA life. For example, as a part of the agreement that ended the 2011 lockout, 5%-10% of player salaries will be put aside for life after they retire.
Additionally, these organizations hold regular training opportunities for current and former players to learn about budgets, investment, and how to turn their NBA experience into business success. (Read more about the NBA's Rookie Transition Program, the NBA Player's Association Leadership Development Program and the many National Retired Player's Association member programs.)
Portland Trail Blazers Post NBA Careers
Because I like to focus on the positive, I've gathered a list of some Portland Trail Blazers with notable post-NBA career success. (I also threw in one hometown favorite who never played with the Blazers--although his NBA debut was against us. I'll let you guess who that is). I am grateful to Jason Quick's very fine 2010 series Blazers Top 40 on Oregonlive for many of these leads.
When the Glide hung up his sneakers in 1998 he had a variety of options. He had made real estate investments as a young player in the league. He coached for a few years at his alma mater, the University of Houston. He still works as a broadcaster for the Houston Rockets. But when you ask people what Clyde did after her retired, many people recall that he ran the family restaurant in Houston, Drexler's World Famous BBQ and Grill. In an NBA legends interview on nba.com (undated, but it appears to be between 2004-2010) Drexler described how business and basketball are similar:
You have to be prepared to make changes and put out little fires if you have them, but at the same time, keep a good working relationship and try to always achieve maximum performance. That doesn't change in either setting.
Steve "Snapper" Jones
You can hear about Drexler's retirement BBQ skills and learn about fellow Blazer alum Steve "Snapper" Jones in this sweet piece about the old friends by the Tribune's Kerry Eggers. Jones played 8 years in the ABA before joining the NBA and the Trail Blazers for the 1975-76 season. Upon his retirement, stayed in Portland, the city he grew up in. As an NBA broadcaster he traveled all over the country but is best remembered around here for his coverage of Blazer games in the 90s. If nothing else, he should go down in history as the only person (that I can recall) who tried to rein in Bill Walton's commentary.
What a long strange trip it's been. Nuff said.
Valentine played with Portland in the 80s. He was vain about his powerful legs. This story about his yearly uniform fitting gives you an idea what a proud, playful person he was.
"I had to shorten his shorts every year. He'd say, 'I have beautiful legs. I can't hide these things.' So I'd shorten the shorts, and he'd try them on and have to go find a mirror in the back of the shop because I didn't have one at my station.
"Darnell would parade around the shop in those shorts until we got it right." Donna Millak, quoted by John Canzano for the Oregonian.
Valentine was traded to the Clippers before retiring with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He spent 12 years with the NBA Players Association before returning to the Trail Blazers organization. Since 2007 he has worked as a VP at Precision Castparts, a local Fortune 500 manufacturing company. He works on employee development, nurturing and developing employees as he once did players.
Steele played his entire NBA career for the Portland Trail Blazers. After retirement he worked for the front office and as a broadcaster with Bill Schonely. He and his wife have owned and operated the Cedar Ridge Retreat Center in Vernonia Oregon since 1991. They run the business retreat center based on values they picked up traveling the world studying yoga. They are working to create a zero-carbon-footprint business. Steele continues to coach, having served as the University of Portland's head coach and running the Larry Steel Basketball Camp.
After 11 years in the league, playing for New Jersey, Portland, Denver, San Antonio and Indiana, Calvin Natt had traveled a good portion of the country. While the rest of his teammates were seeing the sites and visiting popular clubs and restaurants, Natt was touring the local funeral homes.
A lifelong fascination with death lead him to open a funeral home and mortuary after his NBA career ended in 1990. He was moved by the enormous grief and financial burden put upon parents whose young children die, so for years Natt covered funeral expenses out of his own pocket for grieving parents. He started a charitable foundation in 2006, All for One and One for All, to raise money to help these families. (Unfortunately I can't find any information about the organization so it looks like it no longer exists.)
Carr has an impressive post-NBA career resume--a resume which started before his playing days were over. He played for the Blazers from 1982-1987, a veteran during the era that saw rookies Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter and Jerome Kersey join the team. Carr started a construction business more than a year before he retired. Almost 30 years later, his business, Carr Construction has evolved from a general contracting operation to a business specializing in structural steel. Some notable projects are the Portland Aerial Tram, Evergreen Aviation Museum and Seattle's Experience Music Project.
Portland fans had long stood in awe of Chris Dudley and his Yale education. We whispered about his Ivy League pedigree and wondered how he ended up in Portland. (We also wondered if he spent his formative years practicing with the crew team instead of practicing free throws.) Despite the odd fit with Portland and his setting records for missed charity tosses, Rip City respected Dudley's intellect, his size, and especially the grit with which he persevered in a difficult league (made more difficult by his Diabetes diagnosis).
Dudley's NBA career spanned the 90s and included two stints with the Blazers. After retirement in 2003, he put his degree in economics to use and started working for an investment firm. Later he ran for statewide office. In 2010 he won the Republican nomination for governor, losing by a narrow margin to John Kitzahber.
Cliff "Clifford" Robinson
When the ball was in Cliff's hands, Blazers fans were never sure what was going to happen. When he was off the ball, you could only hope for the best. But his headband and infectious smile kept him a crowd favorite even if his decisions on and off the court left us wondering how the story would end. It ended well. After leaving the Trail Blazers he played for 10 more years on 4 different teams.
In 2012 Clifford Robinson appeared on the popular reality TV show Survivor. He lasted several episodes until he was betrayed by his own teammates. In 2014 Robinson traveled to North Korea with Dennis Rodman's "basketball diplomacy" mission. His post NBA career has been as varied, unpredictable and interesting to watch as his NBA career.
Although he was never a Blazer, Terrell Brandon is a hometown boy. His professional debut came in Eugene for a preseason game vs the Blazers. He went to University of Oregon at the same time I did and worked at the convenience store around the corner from where I lived. My boyfriend at the time (who grew up to be Mr Team Mom) went to school with Brandon and every time we came to the corner store, Terrell always said "Hi" and asked after Charlie's mom. After he retired from the NBA, Brandon returned to Portland and opened a barbershop which has been a neighborhood hub for more than 20 years. Other business interests include dog grooming business and promoting hip hop entertainment in town.
Examples for the future champions
Did I leave off your favorite Blazer? Let me know in the comments if I've missed someone! Remember we are looking for positive examples that will inspire the current crop of players to think about and prepare for their future. I mean, being an NBA Champion will be great and all, but that will only get them so far. Even the best players will need to have some solid plans to enjoy their long and fulfilling post NBA (Championship) careers.