Back in the '90s, some NBA teams weren't as well-off as they are now. The New Jersey Nets (now called the Brooklyn Nets), in particular, barely had a well-established training center or even facilities to cater to their needs. It sounds like a crazy thought given how NBA teams operate these days, but back in the day, it even got to a point where the Nets had to share a restroom with the public.
The public restroom experience
According to former Nets assistant coach Hal Wissel, who spent many years in the NBA, the Nets used to shower with truckers. Apparently, in 1995, the team held their training sessions at the truck stop since they didn't have an exclusive training ground. As a result, the team had to resort to public restrooms to freshen up after their sessions.
"In those days when I was with the Nets, that was 1995, my first year with the Nets. We had the Colonial Arena. The Meadowlands as they call it right in East Rutherford, and our offices weren't in the Meadowlands arena. We had our office in East Rutherford about half a mile from the arena. Where did we practice? We were practicing at a truck stop. I mean we practiced and there was one court there and it was incredible. The truckers would come in after the player's practice and shower in the same shower room. And the truckers would say to our players you guys are awful," Wissel said in his interview with The Handle podcast.
In defense of the truckers, the '95 Nets squad had an overall record of 30-52, so it's hard to blame them for calling the team "awful." This was the same squad led by Armen Gilliam, Kendall Gil, and Kenny Anderson.
Of course, these players didn't control where they could shower and train back in the day, but compared to how teams operate these days, this is a pretty bizarre experience.
The impact of the NBA's growth
According to Basketball References, the NBA's salary cap in 1995 was $23,000,000 — a far cry from what it is right now, 112,414,000. For context, the highest-paid athlete was Patrick Ewing, who earned $18,724,000 that year. The Nets' payroll in 1995 was ranked 20th in the league, which means they weren't the most wealthy, nor were they the most unwealthy.
Why did I mention this? Because over the past years, the NBA's overall payroll has increased, which meant teams received more benefits as the years went on. Thanks to expanding their coverage globally, the rise of their superstars, viewership, and every significant income they received, the NBA's growth impacted the development, privileges, and benefits of all 30 teams like the Nets.
So now it makes sense why you won't hear any NBA team shower in public restrooms anymore as most organizations have grown richer. Thankfully for the Nets, they now have their training center and executive office to cater to their organization.
Unless something outrageous happens, you probably will never hear about a million or billion-dollar organization allowing their players to shower in public restrooms.