Zach Randolph recently announced his retirement from the NBA. Z-Bo is a Grizzlies legend, a core player of the grit-n-grind era, and was the soul of that team. Not many people know that while playing for the Grizzlies, Randolph was still getting checks from the Portland Trail Blazers.
We often hear stories of players who went bankrupt relatively quickly after their careers. According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article, an estimated 60% NBA players go bankrupt within five years after leaving their sport. The biggest reason is that players develop spending habits during their peak earning years, and they don’t adjust when the checks stop coming in. They have a short professional career and need to have a long-term perspective, something most of them don’t. That’s why Z-Bo’s agent, Raymond Brothers, tries to convince most of his clients to use the deferral clause.
“My thing is I like to have an automatic savings plan for the guy, so if the wheels fall off the bus, he’ll have the money coming in. If he gets another contract, he’ll be even better off.”Raymond Brothers, via LA Times
Randolph signed a six-year, $84-million extension with Portland in 2004. But $25 million, or about 30%, was scheduled to be paid between 2012 and 2017, while Z-Bo was playing for the Grizzlies. This is a way players can hedge their spending impulses and make sure money will be coming in after they play out their contract, but there’s more to that.
These kinds of deals involve an interest rate that’s negotiated, in most cases, to outpace inflation and might even insulate it against future tax hikes. Effectively it is a very safe form of investment. The NBA started educational programs to help young players manage their money better, and deferrals should be in the curriculum. They could have professor Randolph as a guest lecturer.