Welcome to the NBA.
I’m Andy Larsen, and I’ll be play-acting the role of an NBA human resources person putting you — the loyal Salt Lake Tribune reader — through the things you’ll need to know about working as an NBA player. Usually, NBA players go through the mandatory 4-day Rookie Transition Program at the start of their careers, but consider this a shortened version of some of the things you’d learn there.
Sure, being an NBA player is an incredible job: you’ll be making millions of dollars and have the opportunity to be one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, garnering even more fame and fortune. But it is definitely a job. You’ll have meetings, and consequences for not being at those meetings. There are paychecks, health plans, and retirement benefits. There is travel — a lot of it. You can and almost certainly will be re-assigned. And there’s a definite list of things you are and are not allowed to do in order to make sure you’re in tip-top shape for your team this basketball season.
All of what I’m about to tell you has been collectively bargained by the NBA’s teams and the Players Association, most recently in 2017. If you’d like more info, you can find the whole collective bargaining agreement here, but be warned: the whole document is nearly 600 pages, and you might be best getting your agent to help understand it all.
Ready to play in the league? Let’s get started.
First of all, you probably know your salary already. Heck, everybody does. If you’re a rookie drafted in the first round, that number is essentially determined by the league’s rookie scale. If not, you agreed to a contract saying you’d be paid a specified amount, and Adrian Wojnarowski or Shams Charania or one of the league’s newsbreakers announced it to the world.
Unless your agent and your team came up with a different payment plan, you’ll be receiving a check for that in 24 equal installments, on the first and fifteenth of every month. Any fines you accrue will come out of your next paycheck. If this is a new contract you signed, you won’t receive your first paycheck until Nov. 15 — the idea is that, in the old days, this gave the teams some time to make some money to pay you.
So, during training camp and preseason, you’ll make $2K per week — unless you agreed to a contract which gets you at least $10K of your money sooner. During this time, the team will also pay your lodging expenses, unless you already have a house.
The NBA’s retirement benefits are excellent. First, there’s the pension of $850 per month per year you’re in the league. If you make it to be a 10-year NBA veteran, you’ll be getting about $100K per year after you retire. The 401(k) plan is rated at 92 by BrightScope, and will match 140% of your contributions, according to Sports Illustrated.
You also get life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment benefits; disability insurance benefits; medical, dental, and prescription drug benefits for you and your family; vision insurance benefits; and access to a mental wellness program. Any doctor visits or injuries you suffer as the result of your work must be 100% paid for by the team.
You do have contractually obligated days off: 18 during the course of the season, plus the offseason time is yours. Of course, many players use that time to work on their games individually, so true days off can be rare.
Where you must be
You’ll also be attending several meetings at the first part of the year, and every year you’re an NBA player. I already mentioned the Rookie Transition Program — if you don’t attend that, you’ll be suspended for five games, so definitely make sure to get there. But the league also does Team Awareness Meetings, which cover, “substance abuse awareness, HIV awareness, and gambling awareness,” according to your contract.
In addition, you’ll also be required to attend one media training session, one anti-gambling training session, and one “business of basketball” meeting. If you miss either of the first two without a “proper and reasonable” excuse, you’ll be fined $20K; if you miss the last one, you’ll be fined $5K.
Of course, you also have to attend your team’s practices. The first one you miss will be a fine of $2.5K, the second, $5K, the third, $7.5K. Of course, at that point, there’s also likely to be significant playing time and other consequences, that's up to your team and coach.
There also will be player appearances you’ll be asked to attend. The CBA says that you can be asked to do up to 12 of these before fulfilling your contractual obligation: seven individual appearances and five group appearances per season. (Most teams, seeking to ease the workload of their players, will ask for fewer than 12 appearances.) Up to your 8th appearance, you’ll be paid $3,500 for each of them. Subsequent appearances will earn you $4,500 each. If you miss one, you can be fined up to $20K.
They’re only allowed to ask you to do one offseason appearance — every other one has to be between the start of the season and the NBA draft. They can’t interfere with your practice or game schedule, and they have to give you at least 14 days notice of your appearance. The primary purpose of the appearance can’t be signing autographs — you can give your hand a break.
They also don’t want any surprises about your own promotional choices. While the CBA requires they give you permission if the event is reasonable, you must deliver written intent of your own appearances or sponsorships to the team.
You’re also obligated to make yourself available for interviews under the NBA’s media regulations: after every game, before every game at either shootaround or pregame, and on practice days.
What you can do
There’s a laundry list of activities you can’t do while under NBA contract. Here’s the full list of things to avoid: sky-diving, hang gliding, snow skiing, rock or mountain climbing, water or jet skiing, whitewater rafting, rappelling, bungee jumping, trampoline jumping, mountain biking; fighting, boxing, or wrestling; using fireworks or participating in any activity involving firearms or other weapons; riding on electric scooters or hoverboards; driving or riding on a motorcycle, moped, or ATV of any kind; riding in or on any motorized vehicle in any kind of race; operating an aircraft of any kind; or participating in any game or exhibition of basketball, football, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, or other team sport or competition. Phew!
If you go to a non-team doctor, you have to tell the team. Ditto if you go to a non-team physical trainer or strength coach, provided you plan on going at least five times.
But the good news: there’s a list of stuff you are expressly allowed to do! That’s jogging, road bicycling, swimming, yoga, Pilates, dance, golf, tennis, handball, swimming, hiking, softball, volleyball, and any other sport that doesn’t expose the participant to a “substantial risk of bodily injury.” Have fun out there, kid.
Do you drive? If so, your team will request a copy of your driver license, vehicle registration, and insurance information at the commencement of every season.
On the road
Speaking of getting on the road, as an NBA player, you’re going to be asked to travel — a lot. While away from home, the team will pay for your hotel and airfare expenses. Any hotel incidental expenses, though, will be paid by you. If you don’t pay those expenses, the team can fine you up to $100 for the first two incidents. At these hotels, the team must arrange for you to stay at a “first-class hotel,” for porters to handle your baggage, and to have extra-long beds available to you in your room. If they willfully violate these rules, the team will be fined $5,000.
Your flights will be on chartered air travel unless something goes wrong, in that case, you’ll receive a first-class seat on a regular flight. If not enough first-class seats are available, the team must reimburse you the difference in cost between a first-class seat and a regular seat.
For each full day you’re on the road, you’ll receive a per-diem in cash for your dining expenses. For the 2018-19 season, that amount was $133 per day, but each year the amount changes, tracking the government’s Consumer Price Index to account for inflation. If you’re on the road for a partial day, you’ll receive a partial per diem: $24 for breakfast, $37 for lunch, and $72 for dinner.
NBA locker rooms must be set at the same temperature as the court itself — no freezing or boiling locker rooms like in the old days.
You’ll typically get two free tickets for away games and four free tickets for home games, to be used how you like. The league also must give League Pass Broadband to you, the player, unless you’re on a 10-day or two-way contract.
If you’re traded
Of course, the NBA gets truly nutty if you’re traded, or waived and picked up by another team. In that case, your contract mandates that you move to your new team’s city and play to the best of your ability for this organization that you didn’t sign on the dotted line for. It’s a little unusual.
But they generally try to make the best of the situation. The CBA requires that the team informs you of the trade during or immediately after the trade call with the league. They must give you at least an hour notice before officially announcing the trade as well.
Your new team has to pay for “reasonable” moving expenses to get you to your new home — most teams will help you find movers and handle many of the logistics of the move. The team is only required to pay for one car for you and one for your spouse to be moved to a new location — if you have more vehicles than that, your team can make you pay to get them to your current home.
They’ll also pay for your living expenses for the first little while after the trade. Immediately, they’re obligated to pay for a hotel room — in one of those “first-class” institutions — for you for up to 46 days after the contract officially goes to the new team. They’re also obligated to pay rent and or mortgage expenses for up to 3 months after your trade or waiver pickup. Don’t go too fancy on the home decision, though: they’re only obligated to pay up to $4,500 per month.
Well, that concludes your new employee orientation — hopefully that was a refresher for all of the things your agent and the Rookie Transition Program already taught you.
Ready to play some basketball?
JAZZ VS. Wizards
At Capital One Arena
Tipoff • Sunday, 1:30 p.m. MT
TV • AT&T SportsNet
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 26-12; Wizards 13-25
Last meeting • Jazz, 128-124 (March 29)
About the Jazz • Mike Conley is still officially out with hamstring soreness, but he made the trip with the team, so a return to the floor could happen soon. The Jazz injury report is otherwise clean... Jazz are 13-1 in their last 14 games and have won eight straight... Jazz hold their opponents to the fewest assists of anyone in the league (20.4 per game)
About the Wizards • Bradley Beal did not play in the Wizards game on Friday against the Hawks, he is considered day-to-day... John Wall is still out with his Achilles tendon tear... C.J. Miles (wrist), Moritz Wagner (ankle), Garrison Matthews (ankle), Rui Hachimura (groin), and Thomas Bryant (foot) are all out for the Wizards... new signing Davis Bertans is shooting 43.2% from 3-point range this year for Washington