Previous iterations of the PRO2CEO Report have focused on the Top 20 transitions out of professional sports into the business world. Each of the Major League Baseball and National Football League lists featured a number of trends. Baseball was heavily involved in venture capital or investment funds, choosing instead to largely stay out of the business limelight or remaining around the game altogether rather than pursuing business heavily. Those transitions deemed most successful featured frequent appearances from the quarterback position but maintained that venture capitalist spirit noted on the baseball side. However, there was an increased presence on the investment and franchise front. The list of most successful transitions out of the National Basketball Association is not unique in demonstrating its own trends.

However, the approach to this list was compiled differently. Basketball teams operate in a much more confined space than some of their professional sports counterparts. Football rosters feature 53 names, while current Major League Baseball rosters maintain 26. Basketball has just 15 to a team and is also at a younger stage of its development than other major sports leagues. With a fewer pool of stars to pull from, the volume of former professional basketball players, paradoxically, becomes higher. The NBA has put a deliberate effort over the past several decades into increasing the success of transition. This is due to several factors, but while there have been many former basketball stars who have struggled with this aspect of their career, far more have thrived. As such, it became necessary to recognize the very elite of transition. As such, this list is consolidated into a Top 10 transitions, rather than the Top 20 that previous editions contained.

Honorable Mention

Because the list itself is organize by net worth, a threshold is created. However, the list of successful transitions does not begin and end with the list. Our research showed an additional ten former NBA players who maintain a net worth at least or more than $100 million. This, in itself, is worthy of mention and discussion. Those names were as follows: Carmelo Anthony (160), Yao Ming (160), Dirk Nowitzki (140), Dwight Howard (140), Tim Duncan (130), Kevin Garnett (120), Pat Riley (120), Chris Bosh (110), Vince Carter (110), and Jamal Mashburn (110). Additionally, names such as Steve Nash (95), Chris Webber (70), Baron Davis (60), Jermaine O’Neal (50), and Gary Payton (50), Al Harrington (40), and Quentin Richardson (25) merit a mention for their own success in transition.

The honorable mention featured in this NBA edition takes a different form than when this was previously examined in the NFL edition. With football, there were small-scale stories worth exploring, such as start-ups, bake shops, and wineries, among a myriad of other ventures. In regard to NBA transitions, the names on their own are worthy of mention. The names listed above are some of the most important names for the sport within strictly that context. Seeing their names attached to a high net worth well after their career has ended speaks to their ability to cross over successfully into the business world. There is value in those names, even in mere mention.

Given the high volume of significant net worth, though, this leaves a few individuals – from multiple eras – worth exploring prior to featuring the PRO2CEO Top 10 NBA Transitions. The era signifier is key. The NBA still being in its relative infancy leaves only a few distinct eras. The transitions for players within each differs.

In terms of era, Dave Bing represents one of the oldest-tenured players to be mentioned anywhere in this list. Bing played from 1966 to 1978, beginning his career in Detroit and finishing in Boston. Bing worked at a bank during his offseasons and at a steel warehouse immediately upon retirement. He eventually set up his own shop and grew Bing Steel into a multi-million dollar business. The company assets have since been sold and the business itself has been rebranded as Bing Group, but it remains in operation. Bing also served as Detroit’s mayor for a term in the mid-2000s.

Jamal Mashburn is perhaps the most seminal figure not featured in the Top 10 list that is worthy of discussion. Few players have prepared and executed transition in a more effective fashion than the former small forward. A diverse portfolio, Mashburn has maintained a list of franchises that includes Outback Steakhouse, Papa John’s, and Dunkin Donuts, as well as multiple car dealerships. Mashburn also owns a realty company and is on the advisory board for Central Bank & Trust in Lexington, Kentucky. This transition represents the formula in which many former players, including several on the list, have followed. Players of Mashburn’s era, that played in the late 90s and early 2000s, have especially been liable to following such a path, as is indicated by some of the names featured in our Top 10.

Recent years, in terms of the “era” have brought new means of transitioning. A player like Carmelo Anthony, while not officially retired, is involved in fashion, tech, and athletics. He owns Melo7 Tech (ventures), Creative 7 (media), and STAYME70 (fashion), while also maintaining a stake in several restaurants, media company Overtime, and phone accessory company Mophie. He was the principle owner of Puerto Rico FC of the North American Soccer League, though the team has been on hiatus since 2017. This type of portfolio is becoming more common with players that have retired in more recent years.

Of course, no report would be complete without mentioning two additional names from opposite ends of the timeline.

The first is George Tinsley. While he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1969, Tinsley’s brief career was spent with four different franchises in the ABA. What is more notable about Tinsley’s career is how effective his transition to business was. Initially getting involved with a single KFC franchise, Tinsley developed a second location in his first three years of franchise ownership. He went on to franchise the first African-American-owned TGI Fridays location in the United States. Today, Tinsley Family Concessions maintains ownership of over sixty restaurants across Florida and Kentucky. Even with a short and modest professional career, Tinsley did attribute at least some of his success to the accessibility that being a former professional athlete provided.

On the other end of the timeline – and the longevity spectrum – is Udonis Haslem. While his days of logging minutes for the Miami Heat have essentially passed, he still maintains a heavy presence on his hometown roster and the area at large. Even as an active player, Haslem is extremely well-prepared for his impending transition out of professional basketball. He owns several Subway franchises and multiple Starbucks in the Miami area. He also launched Forty-Three, a joint venture with former teammate Dwyane Wade that currently includes 800° Woodfired Kitchen and multiple experimental restaurant concepts.

Ultimately, while professional basketball as a league does not have the volume of players that its professional counterparts maintain – given the smaller rosters – the extent in which players are preparing for, and thriving in, transition arguably exceeds that of the other major sports leagues.


Top 10 NBA Transitions



The names presented on this list represent the ten most successful transitions out of a career in the NBA. While there are other former players who maintain a high net worth, their career earnings play a significant part in that. This list is created with the caveat that it is not a ranking of net worth. It is an indication of an effective transition, merely organized by net worth.


10. Dwyane Wade: Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Years Active: 2003-2019
  • Reported Net Worth: $170 Million 
  • Notable Business Interests: Forty-Three, Li-Ning, Way of Wade, 59th & Prairie Entertainment, Utah Jazz, 800° Woodfired Kitchen, Budweiser, Stance, Wade Cellars, Proudly
  • Summary: Just a few years removed from retirement, Dwyane Wade has already created a vast portfolio. While his minority stake in the Utah Jazz brings the most notoriety, Wade is making a name for himself on several fronts. Most notable among them is fashion. Wade’s Way of Wade lifestyle brand has a partnership with Li-Ning that has already led to several retail stores in China. His 59th & Prairie Entertainment has produced content with both ESPN and FOX Sports. These come in addition to his work in spirits, through Wade Cellars and a Budweiser Partnership, and food, including the 800° Woodfired Kitchen that was started as part of Forty-Three’s – a company started with former teammate Udonis Haslem – first ventures. The principles he took from his time at Marquette, in conjunction with the completion of the Business of Entertainment, Media, and Sports program at Harvard, have, no doubt, served as a strong foundation as he gets his second career underway.

9. Luol Deng: Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Years Active: 2004-2019
  • Reported Net Worth: $200 Million
  • Notable Business Interests: D3N9 
  • Summary: Through his investment company, D3N9, former forward Luol Deng has managed to maximize his post-NBA earnings while focusing in a very focused space, in terms of real estate investments, private equity, and venture capital. What sets Deng’s firm apart, though, is the international nature of it. In operating in the United States, England, and Africa, D3N9 has a wide array of projects under its umbrella, while also striving to educate individuals in the world of business and investment. This includes spec houses, family units, and hotels on all three fronts, including the Virgin Hotel in Las Vegas. Perhaps notable, though, is the fact that Deng started real estate investment long before his playing career even ended.

8. David Robinson: San Antonio Spurs

  • Years Active: 1989-2003
  • Reported Net Worth: $200 Million
  • Notable Business Interests: Vero Capital
  • Summary: Known primarily for his pre-NBA service in the U.S. Navy and incredible consistency anchoring the Spurs for fifteen years, David Robinson has thrived since hanging up his high tops. This is primarily due to his starting of the Admiral Capital Group, which has since rebranded into Vero Capital. The firm initially began in real estate, but has evolved to feature a much more diverse portfolio. While real estate is still very much a factor as part of their private equity ventures, Vero also works in the corporate and entertainment space. The firm strives not only to maximize profit for investors, but better the community around them, including a previous $50 million fund for low-income housing in Texas. Among Robinson’s other notable ventures are IDEA Carver (formerly the Charter Academy) in San Antonio, Jaguar Land Rover in San Juan, and a minority stake in the Spurs.

7. Grant Hill: Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers

  • Years Active: 1994-2013
  • Reported Net Worth: $250 Million
  • Notable Business Interests: Hill Ventures, Penta Capital, Atlanta Hawks
  • Summary: An agentless player who struggled with injury before experiencing a late-career renaissance, Hill knows the importance of preparing for transition. The most notable among his business ventures post-basketball is real estate through Hill Ventures. With the stated goal of establishing a diverse array of real estate types, including (but not limited to) luxury apartments, retail complexes, and affordable housing across North Carolina and Florida. While real estate represents a massive component, sports and art are also essential to Hill’s business empire. He has a minority stake in the Atlanta Hawks, is involved in NBA Africa, and had his personal art collection, Something All Our Own: The Grant Hill Collection of African American Art, serve as a traveling exhibit for three years. More recently, Hill is part of a group bringing a $5 billion complex to downtown Atlanta for residences and entertainment.

6. Hakeem Olajuwon: Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors

  • Years Active: 1984-2002
  • Reported Net Worth: $300 Million
  • Notable Business Interests: Real Estate, Olajuwon Holdings
  • Summary: While Olajuwon has parlayed his career as one of the steadiest big men in league history into post-career mentorship with a heavy slate of current and former stars, his success in real estate is what has gained him the most notoriety since stepping away from the game almost two decades ago. While real estate is, of course, not unique to former athletes seeking a business path, Olajuwon has managed to carve out quite a distinctive spot within the sphere. For one, being of Islamic faith forbids borrowing of money as part of his business strategy. For another, his real estate pursuits are in high volume, high traffic areas, particularly in Houston where he spent his collegiate and almost all of his NBA career. This includes a 41-acre property near Johnson Space Center, the former World Trade Center building near Minute Maid Park, and the former Federal Reserve Bank building in Houston, which has since been converted into a mosque.

5. Shaquille O’Neal: Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics

  • Years Active: 1992–2011
  • Reported Net Worth: $400 Million
  • Notable Business Interests: Authentic Brands Group, 24-Hour Fitness, Auntie Anne’s, Google, Vitamin Water, Muscle Milk, Five Guys, Papa Johns, Krispy Kreme, Big Chicken, Carnival Cruise Ships
  • Summary: Despite retiring a dozen years ago, Shaquille O’Neal is as visible as ever, both on the television screen and in the business world. While serving as a television analyst and brand ambassador in a few different fronts, Shaq has amassed a portfolio so large and diverse that the full extent is not quite realized publicly. He owns several franchises in multiple industries, including the rapidly expanding Big Chicken, and famously owned and sold 155 Five Guys locations. He also owns at least 40 fitness centers, 150 car washes, and a handful of Las Vegas clubs. While many of his former league counterparts have opted to focus on one area or industry, Shaq has gone an entirely different route to wild success.

4. Vinnie Johnson: Seattle Supersonics, Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs

  • Years Active: 1979-1992
  • Reported Net Worth: $500 Million
  • Notable Business Interests: Piston Automotive, Piston Group
  • Summary: Interestingly, among the players featured on this list, Johnson is perhaps the first genuine role player, coming off the bench as a very successful Sixth Man for much of his career. Although he does not feature the same level of notoriety as some of his counterparts on this list, Johnson spun roughly $5 million in career earnings into a massive business empire. Upon his retirement Johnson started Piston Group, an automotive supply company. The company reached the point of supplying car parts to automotive giants GM and Ford. The operation spread from Detroit to at least three other states within the Midwest. Johnson still operates as chairman and CEO of Piston Group.

3. Junior Bridgeman: Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers

  • Years Active: 1975-1987
  • Reported Net Worth: $600 Million 
  • Notable Business Interests: Bridgeman Foods, Wendy’s, Chili’s, Fazoli’s, Blaze Pizza, Ebony, Jet, Coca-Cola, Manna Capital Partners
  • Summary: Bridgeman’s path to becoming one of the elite businessmen to come out of the NBA was a deliberate one. He started with ownership of a single Wendy’s location before expanding to 250. It was a step in establishing Bridgeman Foods, which oversaw his ownership of Wendy’s, Chili’s, and other food chains. He sold his 250 Wendy’s and 150 Chili’s locations in 2016. Manna Capital Partners, which was cofounded by Bridgeman, also owns an aluminum mill in New Mexico and invested in a bottling facility in Alabama in late 2022. Additionally, Bridgeman purchased magazines Ebony and Jet, both of which were facing bankruptcy at the time of purchase.

2. Magic Johnson: Los Angeles Lakers

  • Years Active:1979-1991; 1995-1996
  • Reported Net Worth: $620 Million
  • Notable Business Interests: Magic Johnson Enterprises, Real Estate, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Sparks, Los Angeles FC
  • Summary: Since starting Magic Johnson Enterprises in 1987, the former Lakers star has seen his business empire evolve into perhaps the most diverse that we have seen. In the decades that have transpired since its inception, Magic Johnson Enterprises has owned over 100 Starbucks locations, multiple movie theaters, fitness centers, and fast food franchises. The Starbucks licenses have been sold, as has his stake in the Los Angeles Lakers, but Johnson still maintains a heavy presence across the landscape. He partnered with Canyon Capital in starting a number of real estate projects across several states and has gotten massively involved in sports ownership in Los Angeles with the Dodgers, Sparks, and Los Angeles FC of the MLS. Most recently, Johnson was part of a group that agreed in principle to purchase the NFL’s Washington Commanders, attempting to solidify his already-dominant presence as a pro sports owner.

1. Michael Jordan: Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards

  • Years Active: 1984–1993, 1995–1998, 2001–2003
  • Reported Net Worth: $2 Billion
  • Notable Business Interests: Nike/Jordan Brand, Charlotte Hornets, 23XI Racing, Gatorade, McDonalds, Chevy, Upper Deck, 2K Sports, Wheaties, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, Ball Park Franks, Rayovac, Hanes, Upper Deck, Five Star Fragrances
  • Summary: One of the most decorated athletes of all-time, there isn’t a name that transcends sports quite like the one belonging to no. 23. Jordan has carried that same type of prowess that made him into, arguably, the best player in league history to a massive business career in the years since. In addition to continued endorsements through partnerships with Nike & his Jordan Brand, Upper Deck, Gatorade, McDonalds, Wheaties, and Coca-Cola, among others. He maintains a majority stake in the Charlotte Hornets and 23XI Racing, which includes Bubba Wallace as its featured driver.


As was showcased by the honorable mention, the era of player does tend to have a bit of bearing on what transition has looked like and how portfolios have developed in the years since retirement. Ultimately, while venture capital is a factor, especially in relation to specific individuals on the list, real estate and franchising represent the two largest forms of business activity for the most successful transitions. The scale, of course, differs. Shaquille O’Neal, Magic Johnson, and Junior Bridgeman have developed massive portfolios that feature copious amounts of franchising. Their success in doing so is obviously reflected in their net worth.

However, the real estate angle has proven to be extremely fruitful as well. One component worth noting is the idea that each of those listed above who engaged in real estate on some level either said or were said to have done so well before they transitioned out. Luol Deng, David Robinson, Grant Hill, and Hakeem Olajuwon were each known to be very much engaged in the business side simultaneous to performing at a high level on the court. Interestingly, the most modern player of the ten featured in our list represents the shifting of ideologies, as far as what transition can look like. Dwyane Wade’s business ventures, while there are parallels with those that transitioned before him, fall much more in line with his contemporaries, like LeBron James or Kevin Durant.

Michael Jordan represents a host unto himself among his former NBA peers. Given Jordan’s illustrious career and the infinite amount of conversation over his status as perhaps the greatest ever, it comes as little surprise. It can be argued that Jordan’s presence alone changed what transition looked like for former basketball stars. There had already been several successful transitions before and during Jordan’s tenure as an active player. However, the branding concept is an important component. Jordan’s personalized brand, Air Jordan, served not only as an offshoot of Nike, but one that saw him receive a share of profits on shoe sales. The signature shoe became a far more essential component of a player’s career and also the bigger picture of culture. He compounded his Jordan Brand with endorsements, real estate, and ownership stakes in multiple companies and sports franchises. Just as he reached another level of performance that had not been seen in the NBA, Jordan’s transition stands on its own.

The NBA is also unique in that multiple stars, both former and current in status, played for their hometown team. In addition, they managed to stick with that franchise for most or all of their career before parlaying that into success in the same area on the business front. We see this with the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon and Udonis Haslem. Another similar facet is the player that, while not from the area, started and finished their career with the same team and planted their business roots in that city. David Robinson is a strong example of this.

In terms of a comparison to be made with baseball and football, the distinctiveness of these transitions is notable. Former Major League Baseball players either remained in the game or took more of a backseat approach to business, in the form of venture capital. While there are certainly parallels with the NFL, especially in terms of real estate, there is a very clear direct involvement from former NBA players. This is seen in the transparency of their portfolio and the publicity that many of these names continue to experience well past their playing career. This public aspect is an important one to consider, as it is seen both in the “next wave” aspect below, as well as the shifting media landscape that allows NBA players to maintain a platform on a scale that is much larger than their counterparts from other professional leagues.


Top Five Current NBA Players Preparing for Transition

LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)

  • Industry: Entertainment/Media, Sports, Food & Beverage, Investments
  • Interests/Investments: Fenway Sports Group, Uninterrupted, SpringHill Company, Blaze Pizza
  • Summary: James represents perhaps the pinnacle of current athletes establishing a presence in the business world. Already having crossed the billion-dollar threshold in terms of his net worth, James is involved in a number of ventures across multiple industries. Most notable among them are Uninterrupted, the brand beyond the popular HBO program “The Shop”, media company SpringHill Company, which produced the Space Jam sequel and Redeem Team documentary, and Fenway Sports Group, which owns a stake in the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club. This comes in addition to an ownership stake in rapidly expanding Blaze Pizza and a myriad of endorsement deals across multiple platforms. 

Kevin Durant (Phoenix Suns)

  • Industry: Entertainment/Media, Sports
  • Interests/Investments: Thirty Five Ventures, Philadelphia Union, The ETCs, Boardroom
  • Summary: With a recent piece in The Athletic illustrating Durant’s following of LeBron’s model, the former has carved out an impressive business resumé, particularly in the media side. His company, Thirty Five Ventures (35V), oversees media company Boardroom and his podcast, The ETCs. His aim is to explore elements of the sport world away from the playing surface, in order to draw attention to stories that would not get notoriety otherwise. He also owns a stake in the MLS club Philadelphia Union. 

Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors)

  • Industry: Venture Capital
  • Interests/Investments: F9 Strategies, Zoom, Robinhood, HIMS, Allbirds, Jumia Technologies
  • Summary: Having served in a leadership role for the National Basketball Players Association and written a memoir (The Sixth Man), Iguodala is extremely well-suited for his impending transition out of active professional basketball. Primarily working in the investment space, Iguodala’s firm, F9 Strategies, has been at the forefront of some of the fastest-growing companies in recent years, including Zoom and Robinhood. He is a member of the board at Jumia Technologies, which operates in Africa and has drawn comparisons to Amazon’s model of operations. 

Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

  • Industry: Entertainment/Media, Venture Capital,
  • Interests/Investments: SC30, Unanimous Media, Oxigen, Tonal
  • Summary: Operating under the umbrella of his company SC30, Curry has a stake in such products as recovery drink Oxigen and home gym Tonal. He (along with teammate Andre Iguodala) is also involved with esports company Team SoloMid. Most notably, though, is Curry’s ownership of Unanimous Media. Self-described as striving to create content centered around faith, family, and sports, Unanimous maintains a partnership with Sony Pictures. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)

  • Industry: Private Equity, Sports
  • Interests/Investments: Calamos Antetokounmpo Sustainable Equity Funds, Nashville SC, Milwaukee Brewers

Summary: While Giannis is similar to his current NBA counterparts in maintaining a heavy business presence, his approach itself has differed quite a bit. His most notable business pursuit has been through the Calamos Antetokounmpo Sustainable Equity Funds, wherein he partnered with Wall Street veteran John Koudounis of Calamos Investments in an equity fund that not only strives to increase business literacy, but invests in companies that maintain a high level of ethical standards. In addition, he has also gone the ownership route, purchasing – along with his brothers – a stake in MLS club Nashville SC, while also joining the group that has a minority stake in the Milwaukee Brewers of Major League Baseball.


Trends in Current NBA Business | image by pinnacleanimates

While every professional sports league features prominent players showcasing their business acumen, nowhere it would be difficult to argue that this was more tangible anywhere than in professional basketball. The endorsements and brand partnerships are, of course, a crucial element. This is an element that cannot always be relied upon at the point of transition, however. It remains to be seen how many of today’s NBA stars will follow the transcendent presence of a Michael Jordan or a Shaquille O’Neal by being heavily featured in various brands well after their playing days are over.

In the interim, it is clear that the current group of NBA stars is as suited as any across the sporting landscape to effectively transition. In not only establishing business investments with lucrative companies and other professional sport organizations, there is a clear interest in establishing a personal brand. LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant especially showcase this pursuit of the media frontier, as each has a media or production company that is already working in unison with some of the largest names in the industry.

It is telling that the NBA has been able to foster a culture of not only athletic excellence, but prominence in business and branding, especially in relation to some of its counterparts in other sports. Compact rosters consisting of only fifteen players, effective utilization of social media, and wildly successful league promotion are all likely contributing factors. While the business journey is fairly traditional in terms of the investment side, entertainment and media represent a genuinely innovative development that will be intriguing to watch as these players begin their transition over the course of the next several years.


Culture Discussion

Previous iterations of the PRO2CEO Report have discussed the concept of culture in transition. Through this concept, players have the ability to maintain an active presence even after they have transitioned out of the sport and into business. This is attained through tangible concepts, such as endorsements and sponsorships, to more abstract ideas, like style of play. Through a player establishing a presence as a person of influence within the culture of basketball, they can exist in the zeitgeist well after their career has ended.

In terms of the quantifiable versus the abstract, basketball likely represents the pinnacle of the former as it is seen in sport. However intentionally, players that reach the NBA have the opportunity to become culture creators and, by extension, drivers of mainstream culture. There are multiple facets to this cultural concept, most of which have been established for a long time at this point. That comes in relation to fashion, particularly in regard to footwear. One of the more recent developments in the culture – and one that speaks to a new development in transition – is on the media side.

From a fashion perspective, professional basketball has had something of a complicated relationship with the aesthetic of their athletes. A stringent dress code was implemented in the early 2000s, the timing corresponding with the infamous events between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers in 2004. Clothing affiliated with “hip-hop culture” was essentially banned in favor of a shirt-and-tie system. The years since have seen the dress code relaxed, to the point where current players have become innovators in the fashion game. Dwyane Wade has capitalized on this with his own line of fashion in retirement. Current players have taken the relaxed dress code to new heights, however. Russell Westbrook, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Devin Booker, and Kyle Kuzma are a minuscule sample of the aesthetic choices that current players make. In doing so, they certainly highlight current fashion trends, but in some cases are also able to create new ones. This being such a new development does make the long-term implications of the trend relatively unknown. It is worth noting, though, given its prominence in the modern game.

One area of fashion that we can examine with absolute certainty as a transition element is in relation to shoes. While the concept of a signature shoe dates back to the days of Chuck Taylors gracing the feet of NBA All-Stars, the concept was revolutionized with Jordan. What was “more than just a shoe” graduated into a brand unto itself. The Air Jordan I remains one of the most popular shoes to date, despite being released in 1985. Through multiple iterations, Jordans remain as popular as ever. It’s a trend that basketball players have attempted to emulate with their own signature shoes in the succeeding years. Allen Iverson’s “The Answer” shoes were able to replicate a certain level of success; Tracy McGrady’s “T-Macs” did as well. While difficult to attain anywhere near a level of prominence as Air Jordan, of course, a high volume of athletes carrying a signature shoe across Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, Puma, and New Balance allows basketball stars to embed themselves in the culture on a more permanent basis. Kevin Durant recently signed a lifetime deal with Nike, speaking to the ability of players to transcend their own era on the basis of footwear.

A rapidly rising component of transition – and one that has become such a force that it is impossible to leave out of any transition discussion – comes in the form of media. We previously mentioned that NBA players are able to remain front facing to the public well after their career. Shaquille O’Neal and Magic Johnson are examples of that. Personal branding and endorsements have long allowed basketball players especially to remain culturally relevant in such a fashion. However, a relatively new entry into the media landscape is becoming a dominant force in the sphere of transition: podcasts.

The list of players with their own podcast is seemingly endless, with both former and current professionals engaging in the medium. This movement could very well be attributed to Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles. The podcast done in affiliation with the players tribune dives into sports and culture with current & former NBA players, coaches, and executives featured regularly. Their pioneering of the platform has given way to a myriad of podcasts from the industry in recent years. The Draymond Green Show, Old Man and the Three (JJ Redick), All the Smoke (Matt Barnes & Stephen Jackson), Road Trippin’ (Channing Frye & Richard Jefferson), Pull Up (CJ McCollum), and The ETCs (Kevin Durant) represent a sample of not only popular basketball podcasts, but some of the most notable within the industry at large. From current role players, like Austin Rivers, to NBA legends, such as Charles Barkley & Julius Erving, no exceptions are made here. This is true to the point where some of our current stars listed above as being best suited for transition are weaving this into part of their own budding media empire. While fashion and footwear have always been components of athletes remaining relevant and, in many cases, generating income after their playing career ends, this new element has the ability to represent a massive shift in the coming years for former players.


NIL Corner: Hidden Success Stories

March Madness 2023 has come and gone, and one of the biggest Cinderella stories comes from the sunshine state of Florida. The Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Owls advanced to the Final Four for the first time in school history. With this advancement, the notoriety of the program and the respect for their talented student-athletes began to rise. This newfound fame allowed for the creation of the program’s first NIL collective. Paradise collective, founded by Chuck Toman, a local surgeon in the college town, turned his efforts to donating to the university into a massive NIL collective movement. “In the first week of fundraising efforts Toman and his friend, Kevin Kosco, were able to garner $100,000 by the weekend” (Dellenger, 2023). Of course, many of the FAU players have already been approached by other programs that have NIL collectives. Paradise Collective will aid in keeping the athletic program together (and its players) as Toman and Kosco devise a way to for players to receive compensation from the collective. It (student athlete compensation) is imperative for the smaller programs to keep up with the big dogs, says Toman (Dellenger, 2023). Kosco and Toman have modeled Paradise Collective after other colleges and universities, allowing the students athletes to earn compensation for performing community service for local charities as well. 

Another NIL highlight from FAU’s historic NCAA basketball run happened to extend beyond their players. For many student-athletes, being able to look into the stands and see a familiar face can help ease the anxiety and fuel the motivation needed to perform at an elite level. Not many FAU fans could financially afford to make the trip to the Final Four, but that was all about to change by a simple gesture from a Texas businessman. Jim McIngvale, better known as Mattress Mack, signed an NIL deal with FAU’s men’s basketball team. The funds produced from this deal would be used to assist with friends and family travel to Houston for the Final Four (Grimes, 2023). So, for the naysayers that speak out against NIL, I will leave you with this: too often NIL deals are associated to financial gains of a student-athlete, but the bigger value in this deal was the presence of the friends and family. 

A New Outlook on NIL

Truly, NIL dollars can make a difference in the lives of the student-athletes way beyond the financial gain and notoriety they bring to brands, schools, and sponsors. NIL should be looked at in various ways beyond monetary gains. It is an education enhancement opportunity if we begin to look at it that way. It can be a motivator and incentive to continue one’s education and skill building for life. Essential skills for entrepreneurship, business acumen, and life skills should now be taken extremely seriously by student-athletes and their parents because of the potential gains and opportunities it can create for student athletes.  

There is an important need for those involved in the NIL movement to pay attention to branding, management, finances, marketing, social responsibility, and student-athletes personal life. All of these variables should be taken into account by student-athletes if they wish to enhance their skill sets because it can lead to early opportunities, financially, and partnership wise in college and beyond. With these factors into play, essentially student-athletes now have every reason to become business savvy while they’re studying and competing, because it can be a huge catapult to their post careers, whether they decide to play sports professionally or join the workforce. 

Either way they can win more, and NIL should be lauded for the potential that it has to motivate more student-athletes to go to college. Additionally, student-athletes can experience more opportunity to truly create educational, life, and financial gains if they stay all four years and compete. Should a student-athlete actually decide to stay enrolled, it can create an early financial pathway to solidifying a career preparation strategy that few non-student athletes have the opportunity to create for themselves because they do not play a sport. For example, if a student-athlete is afforded an NIL opportunity and they can create a graduation saving strategy that will fund their post undergraduate career to fuel a future business or fund their training should they decide to go pro. In addition, the byproduct effect of student-athletes staying in school longer due to NIL could lead to college graduation rates skyrocketing for student-athletes in particular sports like football and basketball where they tend to be marginal or traditionally low for Power Five Schools. Of course, the verdict is still out for NIL but there’s still way more opportunity, and with this new outlook in mind, only time will tell.

Please see our P2C MLB Baseball edition here:




Kevin Carr is the Founder, CEO and Principal of PRO2CEO, LLC. Kevin believed a high-performing professional development firm specializing in transition management for professionals in the sports, entertainment and business needed to exist. PRO2CEO is a career transition and business development-consulting firm for elite current & former athletes, artists and organizations who seek to increase their optimization and monetization in the business world. Kevin has also been a guest lecturer at NYU, UCF, Indiana U, and Baruch College for several graduate and undergrad level classes on sports management, leadership, corporate social responsibility and public administration. He has also been an adjunct professor at Florida State and Michigan State universities and taught courses on life Skills and Career Development.

Randy Holt is a research assistant and analyst with PRO2CEO. A former high school English teacher, Randy acquired his Masters in Sport Management from the University of Florida, specializing in Athlete Development. Away from PRO2CEO, he is a corporate analyst, an Athlete Development Specialist at Mesa Community College in Mesa, Arizona, and a freelance baseball writer focusing on analytics. Randy’s aim is to identify major trends in sport as they relate to athlete development and transition, while also determining how those trends can be shaped into resources and development opportunities for athletes at the lower levels.

LaVaughn is a United States Naval Officer stationed in Virginia, with over 17 years of military service. He was a member of the United States Naval Academy varsity football team, where he graduated in 2005. LaVaughn earned his masters degree in Sport Management at Liberty University and was inducted into their International Honor Society in Business, Management and Administration. He is currently serving as the lead for PRO2CEO’s NIL/Player Management department.

Meneftha Pierre is a South Florida native who earned her Bachelor of Arts in Human Communication from the University of Central Florida in 2015. She also graduated with her Master’s of Business Administration in Sport Management from Florida Atlantic University in 2018. Pierre has over seven years of varying experiences at the collegiate, non-profit, and professional level. Most recently, Pierre earned a Project Management Professional Certificate. She currently serves as the Business Operations Manager for PRO2CEO. 

Jessi Wynn is a social media content creation intern at PRO2CEO. She is an undergraduate student at Florida State University double majoring in Public Relations and Sport Management. In addition, Jessi is very passionate about sport public relations/ social media. She aspires to continue to learn and grow her career in this field. 

Collin is the Director of Marketing and Communications for the University of Florida Institute for Coaching Excellence. Additionally, Collin is pursuing his Master of Science in Sport Management at the University of Florida. Collin also serves as the producer and editor of the Athlete+ Podcast Network, including The HIT Show hosted by Kevin Carr. For inquiries or further concerns, please reach out to Collin via email.

Justin Skaggs is the graphic designer for the Institute for Coaching Excellence. Justin graduated from Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida with an A.S. degree in Graphic Design Technology. Currently, Justin also works as a Graphic Design Assistant with ELearning TEKnologies and assist with the development of E-Learning courses at various companies. Read more about Justin and view his portfolio here.

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