NBA Rookie Transition Program

[Written by Greg Kelser].
Greg Kelser graduated from Michigan State University and along with Earvin “Magic” Johnson captained the Spartans to the 1979 NCAA basketball championship defeating Larry Bird and the Indiana State Sycamores. That same year Gregory was named both All-America 1st Team and Academic All-America 1st Team, the first in MSU’s basketball history. He would become the fourth player selected in the 1979 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons and played six years. Gregory has served as a television broadcaster for the Pistons since 1988 and the Big Ten Conference since 1987.
I recently attended the NBA Rookie transition program which is designed to help all incoming rookies with the arduous transition from being a college or international basketball player to competing in the greatest league in the world.
This is a program that is mandatory for today’s young players but one that did not exist when I was embarking upon my first year in the NBA. I wish that it had been in place because the information that is shared during this four day seminar is invaluable not just to life in the league but life itself.
I must say that everything is covered. The pitfalls, the hurdles to get over, the challenges to succeed and survive, and most importantly, how to go about being a professional. The seminar addressed the importance of maintaining healthy diets and lifestyles. The athletes were given concepts to proper hygiene and grooming of one’s self. There was excellent instructions on how to dress for success and how to best represent your own individual brand through proper presentation.
The sessions also included great information on saving and investing money and ways to use your NBA careers as a springboard to even greater success after basketball. The four days included many demonstrations, interactive exercises, small group discussions, and real life testimonials from former NBA players both from a positive and not so positive perspective.
I was there to serve on a panel that dealt with image and life after basketball. I wanted to emphasize to the young athletes how it is so important to not wait until their careers are over to start thinking about the things that they would like to do later on. I shared with them how they can begin building those inroads to their second careers while playing and also how sometimes they will find many more open doors during their careers than if they were to wait until afterwards.
I found it very enlightening that the NBA also included as part of the seminar presentations from a few former athletes who had made incredible sums of money during their careers but somehow lost much of it through bad investments and poor choices. The stories shared and the honesty with which these players demonstrated while opening themselves in the effort to help others was revelational. It was not hard to see that the young athletes in attendance were riveted to these stories and I believe that many of them will remember these examples when faced with similar challenges in their careers.
This program has been in place for several years now with the idea that if you bring the young players in and isolate them from other distractions over a four day period that the chances of providing them with as much insight into what they are about to face perhaps increases their opportunity for success and longevity. Some of the rookies will go on to have great careers but history has shown us that the larger percentage may only spend a very short time in the NBA but whether their careers are long or short the information shared during the seminar transcends basketball because they will be able to take what they have learned and apply it to any career or future endeavor.
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