Slam dunk for old timers
NBA Players Union shares profits to retirees for bennies
While NBA players dazzle us with their sky high dunks and three point shots that come seemingly from the stands, the average player is out of the league within four years. Many of these players are not the ones playing for tens of millions of dollars, but are playing on league minimum contracts. That is why the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) has decided to break new ground in providing funded health insurance to all former players who have played at least three years in the league.
The move, which is a first by one of the major North American sports leagues, creates a health insurance program that offers low cost, tiered health coverage based on how long the player was in the league.
Unlike the NFL, which saw many of their former players sue the league over traumatic brain injuries and claim that they had little money or health care to deal with the fallout of their playing days, the NBPA is taking proactive steps to help their retired members. Since becoming Executive Director of the NBPA nearly two years ago, Michele Roberts and her new executive team have instituted a cardiac screening program for retired players and other initiatives designed to prepare current players for life after basketball and provide opportunities for retired players. The heart initiative came after a number of players, including Moses Malone and Anthony Mason died of heart disease. The health care proposal was unanimously approved by the play representatives. “Providing health care security for players who came before them has been on the players’ minds for the past year and they worked closely with us to make it happen,” said Roberts.
Many players face chronic injuries after their playing days are over. Fans have seen countless times where young players’ careers are derailed by a knee injury or a broken bone and suffer a lifetime of pain due to the stresses that they put their bodies through. This program will also be retroactive to include players who played before salaries ballooned into the millions and may be living much closer to the poverty line.
“The game has never before been more popular, and all the players in our league today recognize that we’re only in this position because of the hard work and dedication of the men who came before us,” said Chris Paul, NBPA President and nine-time All-Star. “It’s important that we take care of our entire extended NBA family, and I’m proud of my fellow players for taking this unprecedented step to ensure the health and well-being of our predecessors.”
This generation of players is willing to share a little bit of the profits with those who helped to create the game and who fought for a strong union that has allowed this generation of players to play for contracts in the tens of millions of dollars.