Basketball is as popular as it’s ever been right now.
NBA players are the most popular athletes in the world. Every highlight and comment and opinion makes its way to social media before a game is even over.
The NBA has, better than any other professional sports league, found ways to exploit the internet and social media and get its product in front of more and more people.
It’s a great time to be a basketball fan.
But, what about the players?
Well, if you’re in, you’re in good shape: there are 450 jobs in the NBA, another 300 in the G-League, and around 4,000 total jobs in pro leagues around the world.
Does that seem like a lot? It’s not.
According to the NCAA,
Tracking 2018-19 international opportunities for the 2018 draft cohort, it was determined that an additional 839 former NCAA student-athletes played internationally, in the G-League or in the NBA as undrafted players (606 from Division I, 194 from Division II and 39 from Division III) after leaving college; this includes international players who attended NCAA institutions.
That’s not 839 new players; it’s 839 players TOTAL — and every player playing overseas is not retiring every offseason. The number of newly-available jobs is much smaller. And pro basketball career windows close quickly.
Long story short: you might not make it in basketball as a player. You probably already knew that.
But you still love the game. And you’ll do whatever it takes to be involved.
Good. That’s why I wrote what you’re reading.
I’m introducing (or explaining) to you 7 ways you can be involved in basketball outside of the traditional routes of playing (which very few ever get to do), coaching or training (the next-most-popular routes for ex- and never-were players).
Let’s get into it.
Make Basketball YouTube Videos
This may be the most obvious option on the list, as it’s so prevalent these days already. YouTube is the new television, and everybody’s either on it, watching it or both.
Where eyeballs go, money follows.
Where there’s money, there’s business.
You can be a player who gets your rocks off via solo workout videos, dribbling drills or playing against other random YouTubers. There are enough active YouTube basketball players right now for them to get together and start their own league.
If you know the game well enough at the coaching, X-and-O level, you can become a breakdown artist, explaining how the 5-on-5 game happens.
For those with some personality, your daily riffs on the world of basketball can be a business in itself, a la Stephen A. Smith / Skip Bayless. There’s a multimillion dollar industry powered by people talking shit for a living.
Report On The Game
This is another space that’s become more and more normalized as the use of YouTube and Instagram has become commonplace.
Share your opinions on the games, transactions, conflicts and stories that the basketball world never ceases to provide.
This is a year-round job, as there’s always something happening in the hoops world that begs a comment from trusted voices — and you can be one of them.
You have the option of going the commentator route — think Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless — who gives opinions, or the reporter route — think Adrian Wojnarowski aka Woj — the person who breaks news and shares the facts of what’s going on, sans personal opinions.
You can do this for any level of the game you wish to. If the NBA space is too crowded for you, try overseas ball, college, or high school. You also have the option to niching down to a specific area, conference or even a specific team.
Help Players And Coaches Get Seen, By Building / Managing Social Accounts and Websites
This is a big and growing space, and probably the biggest “future opportunity” for anyone reading this in 2020.
Every person who’s in the public eye at any level is doing something to manage their online presence, from the photos they post, to lifestyle videos, to cleaning up their old, dubious tweets and Facebook posts.
That’s where you come in, as a person who has the acumen and the time to clean up, manage and curate social media accounts and websites for athletes who want to leverage their basketball popularity into a prominent online presence.
These days, every public figure needs great photos and compelling video content, and most people are not good at taking their own photos or editing their own videos. If you are good at either or both, there’s a HUGE business opportunity in front of you.
Go online and find local players whose profiles make it obvious that they’re working with amatuer photography shots, and/or that they could use a good videographer to bolster their brand.
Do some work for them for free, edit the media you shoot and even post it for them, and — this is key — show proof of the results of your work: increased engagement, more likes/comments, new followers, etc.
These “vanity metrics” are the currency of the day for many people, and basketball players are people.
Having shown that your work produces results, offer your ongoing services for an ongoing fee. People will pay money to be (or at least feel) popular. Self-esteem is priceless.
How to get started: Get a camera and learn how to use it. Use your phone if you don’t have a camera; smartphone cameras can produce professional media. Take some photography/videography courses in person or online. This investment will pay off big time.
But, have a sense of urgency about this: like everything that has come before, social media will have its run and be replaced by something else. Don’t waste time.
Become A Personal Assistant To An Active Player
Not an assistant coach — and assistant for the players’ life.
Athletes are busy. Though our jobs generally require fewer hours that the average 9-to-5, our bodies are our business: We spend a lot of our downtime literally down, resting, recovering, staying off our feet. That rest time allows us to do what we do when it’s work time.
These truths don’t change the fact that basketball players are still human. We still have clothes that need dry cleaning; groceries we want in the fridge; flights to be arranged for friends and family to come visit us, bills to be paid, game tickets to be assigned.
We need the condo cleaned. Someone to put gas in the car. The dogs have to be walked and fed when we’re away on a road trip.
So here’s your job: be personal concierge to an athlete who doest have the time or energy to do these “everyday life” things that people holding down regular jobs normally do for themselves.
Thinking about it, getting and keeping this job would require a high level of trust between you and the player you’re working for. A prior relationship would help, but sans this prior connection, present yourself as neat, organized and understanding. Those are some things I’d want from anyone whom I’m trusting to be in my home or caring for my pets when I’m not around.
Make Gear For Players And Fans
The rules of society state that we must wear clothes. You’d get arrested for going against this norm.
Combine this with the understanding that everyone is a brand these days. Everybody is promoting or selling something. When it comes to athletes, the product we’re selling is often ourselves.
We’re popular, and with our photographer/videographer’s help, more and more fans are seeing us. Why not capitalize on it by selling some merch?
Be a logo designer and/or merchandise manufacturer who can help an athlete get their branding out into the world, and get paid for doing it. Be the supplier who handles the orders, shipments and payments, and take a cut for your time and efforts.
Do this well enough and you can make yourself the go-to person for athletes who want to please their egos by having a logo and something to sell. As I stated earlier: people will pay to be (or at least feel) popular.
Start A Highlight-Video Creation Service
Every wise athlete, in the midst of all the picture-potsing and brand-building, should remember to feed the golden goose: their ability to actually play their sport well. If that goes away, everything else falls apart.
Highlight videos are the samples of a basketball player’s game that afford them the attention of the decision makers who can help advance their career. A well-made, professional highlight video is imperative.
Those same editing skills you use to make lifestyle video for athletes can be put to use in making highlight videos for lesser-know (read: NOT yet in the NBA) players who want to showcase their game.
The highlight business is a busy one, as you’ll have to comb through hours of video to get the best stuff to put in your finished products, so I would assume anyone who’s doing this really loves the game. This is also a well-paid business to be in once you prove your work to be good.
Help Players Transition From Playing To Whatever’s Next
Playing basketball for a living, or even playing in college, is an incredible experience that most people, even most basketball players, never experience.
The only thing about this great experience: it ends quickly.
Pro athlete careers are rivaled in shortness only by the career spans of porn stars and strippers. Every athlete faces the day when he or she has to figure out what the hell they’re gonna do for the final 60 years of their lives.
Oh, and just so it’s said: Every athlete WILL have to answer this question, no matter how much money they earn as a player.
Kobe Bryant, legendary NBA player who earned more money on and off the court as a player than 99.9% of players will ever earn, was in his business office the day after his last NBA game, already focused on his next chapter in life.
Kobe himself said that if, twenty years after his NBA retirement, his basketball career was his greatest accomplishment, his life had been a failure. Why? Because the only reason any of us wakes up in the morning is to put something in the world that makes it better.
While you may have been great at your sport, that doesn’t mean your mandate to contribute ends when you hang up your hightops.
Humans are most alive when we have a sense of purpose — not when we have a certain amount of money in the bank.
Ironically, it’s the money we make that often causes complacency to set in and robs us of our purpose — but that’s a different conversation for a different post.
So you, maybe as a successful former athlete yourself, can help athletes who are on their way out of the game figure out and get situated in their next game.
The good thing about this work: current players are becoming former players every single day. You will never be short of prospects to work with.
The challenge of this work: Many athletes NEVER think about the day when their sport career ends. Many of them never consider the day when there are no more games to play. Thus, many athletes experience a period of being a former athlete who’s doing a whole lot of nothing. And they aren’t very excited about doing anything else.
This often occurs because the now-former athlete never invested in any other skills while playing; to do something would require an investment of time and energy; an invoice that they didn’t see coming to their inbox.
That’s where you come in to help them.
I suggest you plant the seeds in the minds of athletes early — i.e. while they are still playing — because, frankly, most athletes don’t choose when their careers end.
As I heard one former player say, ‘often, your career is over and you’re the only one who doesn’t know.’
Help players develop skills they’ll need to transition from basketball to whatever is going to be next. You’ve been there yourself, so you know what they’ll need. Give them what you wish you’d had if you had it to do all over again.
Though I didn’t experience it myself, I damn sure thought about it: the possibility that a basketball career doesn’t happen, or that it doesn’t last long.
No matter how your basketball life goes, one day it ends for all of us. But you don’t have to abandon the game because of it. You just need a little bit of creative thinking and a business mind.
My aim with this article is to plant some seeds in your mind about what you can do even if you never get that college or pro basketball shot — and if you’re one of the lucky few who does, that means you’ve bought yourself some time to consider these as possibilities for you.
Don’t wake up one day, your career over, with no plan.
If you’re still on the pro basketball path, get my book The Overseas Basketball Blueprint free (while supplies last) so you have all the tools needed to start your career abroad.
For more articles for athletes, addressing both on and off the court needs, see my Athlete Resources page.
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