Shumpert: “I saw NBA rookies take $2M loans during the lockout”

Imagine someone told you the COVID-19 restrictions would be done by April 15h. You set an internal timer for that date, and then on April 15th news breaks, it’s going to be longer, and no-one can tell you how much longer. Now imagine that the wait wasn’t a few months but years. That’s how the 2011 Draft class felt.

Iman Shumpert was drafted 17th in the 2011 NBA Draft by the New York Knickerbockers. All the hard work and dedication was worth it, but unlike most rookies, Shumpert still didn’t have much to show right away. He and his draft class had the misfortune of getting drafted during the lockout.

That meant they couldn’t sign their contracts until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was agreed upon between the owners and the players union. No contract equals no money. The problem being, there was no indication of when that might happen.

Most NBA players come from underprivileged families and communities; they play in college and watch the NCAA make billions while they get no money. If they do, it’s under the table and implies some sort of debt. Their families rely on them to provide existential means, and oh, by the way, they are athletic young men that suddenly get a lot more attention and adoration. Here’s how Iman Shumpert explained it.

“I got drafted, the crowd goes crazy, everybody’s like ‘Oh man, you made it!’, and I’m still broke.”

Iman Shumpert, Vlad TV

People would ask Shumpert, “What’s the first thing you bought?” and he’d tell them he is still broke. He was lucky that Jarret Jack and Tony Allen called him all the time to check up on him, make sure he wasn’t doing anything stupid. They stressed two things: don’t take out any loans and don’t tweet. Jack invited Shumpert to stay with him in Atlanta, and they spent the lockout working out together. A lot of people asked Shumpert why he didn’t take out a loan, knowing he was good for it.

“I’ve been broke my whole life; I can be broke until it’s [the lockout] over. I was already broke, I’ll figure it out.”

Iman Shumpert, Vlad TV

Jack and Allen saw that Shumpert was doing it the right way, so they decided to help him out. Getting drafted by the Knicks isn’t the best thing for your basketball career, but New York gives you a lot of promotional opportunities. They helped Shumpert get promotional deals: $3.000 here, $5.000 there. While most of his draft class was taking out major loans and posting photos of new cars and parties, Shumpert was happy with making $40.000 on small promotional deals.

“You lived on a $12.000 grant that stretched you through college. Why 40 bands can’t get you through a lockout? How dumb you livin’? That’s easy coming from broke. … They taking a loan on a couple of Ms just off what they slotted on their salary.”

Iman Shumpert, Vlad TV

Players were taking out 2 million dollar loans on rookie contracts they are yet to sign, under a CBA that wasn’t yet agreed upon. At that time, it’s not likely someone explained the salary structure, taxation, and payout dynamics in the NBA. Shumpert was lucky to have Allen and Jack in his life; not every NBA rookie has that. That’s why the league is doing a lot more to educate the players about financial management in the draft process.