Former NBA point guard Brandon Jennings discussed his decision to go pro out of high school and the future for prospects now that they can benefit from their likeness with host Michael Scotto on the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast. Jennings also discussed what he thought of his career, what his career could’ve been if he didn’t hurt his Achilles, his latest NFT drop with Ballislife, and much more.
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:45 Reminiscing about Milwaukee’s championship parade
Jennings: The parade was crazy. That whole Bucks experience winning in six. The parade is something I’ll never forget. I think I had about 30 beers, so I’m still recovering, but I’ll be alright (laughs).
1:10 You’re doing an NFT drop with Ballislife. What are some more details you can share about that?
Jennings: I’m doing it with Blockparty. It’s digital, where you can collect collectibles on the platform. I felt like with my business partner, it was best to start with my high school highlights with Ballislife. They have everything from my career since I was in the eighth grade all the way through high school. I feel like with the way the world is going right now with digital art and everything like that, we’ll be able to sell my high school highlights, and you’ll be able to get some personal surprises.
2:23 Is this a one-time NFT, or will you do more?
Jennings: The first one we’re going to do is my high school highlights, and then we’ll bring Tuff Crowd in, which is my clothing line. You’ll also get one piece from Tuff Crowd that people won’t ever be able to get. Then, we’re going to bring in my 55-point game against the Golden State Warriors my rookie year. It’ll come with my jersey and the shoes that I wore.
3:10 What made you get into the NFT and Blockparty?
Jennings: I felt like Blockparty is committed to helping empower brands from a different connection with the fans. Me and my business partner felt this could be a perfect opportunity with this platform. They have to launch Tuff Crowd and the Ballislife partnership and sell the physical product too. With Ballislife, you’re going to get the tape that comes with it.
4:13 For those who may not know about NFTs, what are the benefits to collecting those moments from your past?
Jennings: It’ll be a one-of-one piece that you’ll be able to have of things I’ve done in my career and things from my clothing line, Tuff Crowd. It’s art. Everybody loves art. It’s a great way to be able to create a new platform.
5:10 For other young players, how do you see these mixtapes and merchandise NFTs helping them gain visibility?
Jennings: I think it’s just the way the world is going. Every year the world is getting better with technology. I think it’s a great opportunity for those kids. When I was 18 overseas, there were already kids at 14 or 15 years old who were already getting paid to play professional basketball and were signing contracts until they were 18. With these highlights and the hard work they put in, I think it’s great for the kid to get paid because they’re putting in the work and time. They should be able to benefit from that.
6:11 Now that college players can profit from their likeness, what does that mean for those kids and the game of college basketball?
Jennings: It’s changing. You go back to the O’Bannon days with Sonny Vaccaro when they stopped the NCAA from being able to make money off kids without them getting paid. I think a lot of the other players that didn’t go to college like myself, LaMelo Ball, and some other players that skipped it forced their hand.
7:00 If you could profit off your likeness, would that have changed your decision, or were you set on playing overseas?
Jennings: During that time, I did want to go to college. I was committed to Arizona, and then Lute Olson had retired. College was always in play, but I always had dreams of going (pro) straight out of high school. That was always my dream to be the next LeBron James, Sebastian Telfair, and all those types of guys.
7:50 What went into the decision to go overseas at 18?
Jennings: I felt like I had good advisors. Sonny Vaccaro was the one to orchestrate everything and get the deals done also with Bill Duffy during that time. Those guys really orchestrated everything for me and made sure I was put in the right position. They got the deal done with Under Armour. Everything kind of happened really fast.
8:45 What do you think your decision meant for those future prospects who decided to go pro overseas?
Jennings: At first, I was like, this is a big risk. What if this doesn’t work out? I was watching the news and a lot of ESPN on my decision. Now that I’ve looked back at it 12 years from then, I’m happy I did make that decision. I’m happy for the kids that followed and that it did work out for them. That means it does work and can work. We’ll see what the future holds.
9:55 What was it like living life overseas as a teenager?
Jennings: I wasn’t by myself. I had my mom and my brother with me. My brother was in seventh or eighth grade at that time. My mom was driving me around and making sure I was always good. I had teammates like Andre Hutson, who played at Michigan State, and Allan Ray, who went to Villanova. I had American players on the team who were good teammates.
11:00 After beginning and ending your career with Milwaukee and being a part of the championship parade, what does Milwaukee mean to you?
Jennings: Milwaukee is a blue-collar state that’s tough. They just keep going no matter what. It’s a place I can call my second home. It’s a city that embraced me in the younger days of my career, the four years in Milwaukee. We made the playoffs twice, and we had some good times.
12:20 What did you think of your career overall? Is it what you thought it would be?
Jennings: Honestly, my career was up and down. There was a lot of inconsistency. That was just through a lot of things outside of basketball that kept me away from my focus and from being able to come into my own. Yes, the injury happened in Milwaukee with the Achilles. But, overall, to me, I think it was chaos.
13:21 Did you ever wonder what would’ve happened if you didn’t have that injury?
Jennings: I would’ve been an All-Star for sure if I didn’t tear my Achilles, and I believe we would have made the playoffs that year in Detroit, and then I’d end up getting paid. That probably would’ve happened. Then again, who knows what happens after that? I feel like with the injury, that’s when the chaos started happening outside of my career. I felt like with the money, it would’ve probably been more chaos.
14:26 When you had that 55-point game, what stuck out to you about it? Was that your favorite NBA moment?
Jennings: The 55-point game was still something I can’t explain. I just got hot, and the ball was just going in. I only scored 10 points in the first half, and I had a terrible first quarter. I just came out in the second half hot. I’m sure everybody is like, that should be your favorite game, but one of my favorite games ever was my first game in the NBA when I almost had a triple-double in Philly. I didn’t know if I was going to start. He told me I was going to start the day before.
15:27 Were there any things about the NBA that surprised you on or off the court?
Jennings: There’s a lot of ego. It takes a very strong leader to be able to sit there and control the locker room. Everybody’s getting paid. Everybody thinks they should be this, and they’re better than this or that. You start to realize it’s a business.
16:07 What was your experience playing in New York with the Knicks?
Jennings: Playing with the Knicks was cool. I was coming off the Achilles injury, so I was really excited to be back on the court and playing with guys like Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, and guys like that. I had a great time. Overall, putting on the Knicks jersey and being a part of that Knicks nation, which is crazy. I had some great times. I wish things would’ve worked out better as far as how things went down.
17:26 What have you been up to after the NBA?
Jennings: My clothing brand, Tuff Crowd. Growing the brand and trying to take the next steps with my brand. It’s my third year.
18:02 Anything new coming with your clothing brand?
Jennings: I have a couple of big collab meetings with some shoe companies. That’s all I can say on that. We have a couple of big shoe companies who may want to collaborate next year, so stay tuned for that.
18:31 Have you ever had the itch to play again overseas or with the BIG3?
Jennings: Not really. I told myself I was probably going to get back into shape, but I’m not going to force it. I love what I do right now. I have my own brand, and I’m able to experience some things in life that are taking me to different places.
19:15 Have you ever thought about going into coaching or something in the front office?
Jennings: Maybe be an ambassador for a team or a creative director since I’m on the design side right now in my life.
You can follow Michael Scotto on Twitter: @MikeAScotto