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Winderman: Billy Hunter backhands players “intellectual capital,” too

Oct 24, 2011, 10:24 PM EDT

Billy Hunter AP

The problem with a lack of games is that all we are left with to dissect is the rhetoric.

So we parse Bryant Gumbel’s “plantation overseer” comment on David Stern, even though, with the exception of those with premium cable, the last time we even noticed Bryant Gumbel was during his attempt at NFL Network play by play.

Similarly, ESPN’s Bill Simmons raises the notion of “limited intellectual capital” amid the lockout negotiations, and suddenly the philosophical debate transcends basketball-related income.

This is where we’re at amid the lockout, without games being played, balls being bounced, stats being crunched.

Which brings us to union chief Billy Hunter and one of his comments during Simmons’ most-recent “B.S. Report” podcast.

On the surface, it was seemingly an innocuous attempt by Hunter to portray his clients’ transitory celebrity:

“Most of our players, when they end playing basketball, they’re going to be living for another 40 years or so. And I don’t know how long that money’s going to last, even if they’ve made every prudent investment they can possibly make, at what level they’re going to be able to live.”

A reasoned argument.

Except . . .

Why do we have to assume that once a basketball player is finished playing pro basketball he has no other intellectual or physical capabilities to continue to earn a living?

Is that not insulting?

Hunter’s comment hardly was unique. Often in locker rooms you will hear players talking about how they have to get what they can in free agency, because this could be the last contract of their careers.

Not their playing careers. Their entire earning careers. And they’re saying this at 30, sometimes younger.

Mind you, the NBA, in conjunction with the union, offers an array of post-NBA career-training options. The union, in fact, features the NBA’s SportscasterU broadcast initiative for players on its website.

If concerns about post-playing earnings are, indeed, an issue, then that is all the more reason for the union and the league to try to get players to stay in college longer before entering the NBA, to open players’ eyes to post-NBA opportunities.

What can NBA players be after their NBA careers?

Doctors. Lawyers. Stock brokers. Accountants. Entrepreneurs. There are worse places to start a second career than with fame and a healthy bank account.

“Limited intellectual capital” offended many, even if the context was somewhat twisted.

But to say NBA players have no earning potential beyond their NBA careers? That seems to go to the same place.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at

  1. goforthanddie - Oct 24, 2011 at 10:55 PM

    Even beyond Hunter calling his people useless off the court, he forgets that 2mil, properly invested, equals a nice life post-hoops.

    • skids003 - Oct 25, 2011 at 7:42 AM

      I agree. Give me that at age 25 and I’d never have to work again. But we regular people forget, these guys have to pay off their posses and “make it rain.”

  2. bobulated - Oct 24, 2011 at 11:41 PM

    Seriously? Many of these young men have been groomed by the system to be nothing but basketball players; pee-wee and junior all-stars to spoiled high school stars and the AAU traveling circus, then one-and-done at best paying lip service to a college education. While Simmons words were a poor choice, for 90% of the guys currently in the NBA it’s true; this is the pinnacle of their earning capacity and careers. They need to take advantage of it now and every game they miss is money they will never get back either in wages or the investments it could be used to make.
    The owners have all the cards in this one and know it. You can hate them for it but most of them (except James Dolan) made their money by being either the sharpest or most cut-throat guys in the room.

  3. therealhtj - Oct 25, 2011 at 12:03 AM

    Wow the apocalypse must be upon us. Lord Hunter not even realizing he just called his “bosses” a bunch of morons.

  4. ninerfan94954 - Oct 25, 2011 at 1:03 AM

    I realize this is only one example, but have you seen the GE commercials about ex- Milwaukee Buck Junior Bridgeman who owns 165 fast food franchises. Junior can you spare me a dime?

    • goforthanddie - Oct 25, 2011 at 1:14 AM

      If he’s who I’m thinking of, he owned several franchises before he retired.

  5. mogogo1 - Oct 25, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    Hunter really doesn’t understand who the average NBA player is. And that should be frightening to the average player. He says “most” of his guys will live for another 40 years or so after they’re done with basketball? I’m sure they’re hoping to do far better than that, given average life expectancy is pushing 80 and the average player’s career is over when he’s still in his 20s. The average career is only 2-3 years. These guys will absolutely have to do something else with their lives after basketball.

    Really, the union’s overall stance seems to be making sure that the superstars are taken care of. The talks have been dominated by the star players. Unfortunately, the stars best interests don’t necessarily match that of the lower-tier guys. (In contrast, the NFL players union has lots of leaders who aren’t what you’d call franchise players.)

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