“I don’t know how many slots we’re talking about [for elite G League players with special contracts], I don’t know what additional conditions are attached to it,” Roberts said. “This is not something we’ve [the NBPA] negotiated. [The prospects] are not members of the union. I have more questions about that contract. The six figures will get some guys’ attention.”
Roberts believes, though, even the promise of the money may not be enough to sway the best players to go that route. “You’ve seen some of these practice facilities and arenas these Division I players have access to, not bad. Not a bad life. The training, the coaches,” Roberts said. “The G League is making it a harder decision for kids to make, to have the option of going to a Division I school, but if I had to bet, I’d think kids would still go to a Division I school.”
And at the very least, it can provide a path for those who’d rather play in the states than go overseas for a year to play professionally, as was the case with Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay. “Everybody wants to stay at home. That’s natural instinct,” National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts told Yahoo Sports. “Going overseas is lonely. The G League, at least historically, has been a more profitable option … most of the time, guys are making more money, having access to family and friends.”
However, the well-respected power forward could not have foreseen what happened when he hung up his sneakers after the ’06-’07 season. “When I finished playing, I started feeling some bouts of depression, and I didn’t even know it was depression,” he says. “Just waking up, feeling bad, feeling sad, feeling lost. “Some days I’d be in the shower and just crying for no reason, and I never thought to tell somebody.”
“I think these guys are really embracing the fact that they don’t have to save the world, they don’t have to be superman or what you want me to be. They are literally going and talking about that now,” says Davis. For Davis, the program—or process as he calls it—is more of a mission than a job. Currently, he’s running Off the Court with an assistant and consultant in tow, but he’s working on hiring more former players to fill out the staff.
“I’m not giving them money that could go to my kids,” Smith told ESPN. “I was looking into (my rights), but the Players Association just texted me, and you know what? I’m not going to put money in their pockets. Not a chance.”