Read Your Contracts and Avoid the Groupies: My Advice for the Overseas Baller
This is by no means my Shonda Rhimes version of how to get away with bad behavior. But I have spent 8 years observing the good and bad of this lifestyle and I’ve given the side eye countless times. Many times I’ve wanted to offer my opinion because, well, I’m just that helpful (or possibly nosy) but I have learned to mind my business. I’ve seen mistakes made that were certainly avoidable, and I’ve seen good people taken advantage of. I have also learned a good deal myself, some of it the hard way, and it would have been nice for us to have had some tips from those in the know. So from personal experience and my general observations, here is my unsolicited advice for the young overseas player.
- Don’t fall for every pretty woman with an accent. There is such a thing as a European groupie. They may not be as obvious as your standard NBA groupie, but they are certainly just as ruthless (Don’t get me started on the stories I’ve heard about groupies in Russia for instance). Being an American and a basketball player is a big draw for some women, and many of their intentions are less than noble. Some want the money, some want that ticket to the United States, and others want the notoriety they perceive will come from becoming a basketball wife. Now, my American father met my Finnish mother when he was stationed in Germany while in the army, so understand there is nothing wrong with finding a woman in whatever country you’re in. I know multiple players that have fallen in love with amazing women overseas. But make no mistake, groupies come in all shapes and sizes, so don’t be fooled into thinking that friendly woman at the game, with her adorable accent, who offers to “help” with translations isn’t just (insert country here)’s version of your standard groupie hoping to catch a baller.
- Along the same vein, please don’t disrespect the woman you love, if you have one, by flying in hoards of women from different area codes and country codes or gallivanting around town with local women. It is inevitable that not every girlfriend/fiance/wife can travel with you abroad each year, but please, don’t start living the single life just because you’re far enough away to potentially get away with it. It embarrasses that loyal woman and makes you look like an asshole. The other WAGs will notice and talk and that behavior will follow you for all your years. If you’re bored, read a book.
- Please do try to learn a little of the language. I have met very few players and wives who are fluent in the language of their playing countries, with the wives usually knowing more, but a little effort goes a long way. Those few words and phrases you do learn will be helpful to you in maneuvering throughout the day. It will also go a long way in fostering some goodwill with the people there. In many countries most people will try to work with you and the language barrier, but in some places, such as Italy and France for example, many people will be downright rude and refuse to help if you’re not speaking the language.
- Travel! Don’t just go from your apartment to practice, and from practice to your apartment. Take advantage of that one day off a week and see some sights and explore. Not many Americans have the opportunity to see the Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower, or the Dead Sea without spending crap loads of money. You have these sights in your backyard and it would be a shame to not take advantage of it.
- Get a good financial planner and tax preparer who understand the tax credits and special rules for Americans working overseas. Make sure they stay on top of the team for important documents that you will need in order to file. Teams aren’t always so willing to produce these documents, either from sheer laziness or because it will impact their bottom line.
- You know who can and should help with this? Your agent! Make sure you have a good agent who understands your needs and truly works for you. Not all agents are created equally, and not all agents are willing to put in the work necessary when dealing with foreign clubs. There is no need to stick with an agent who isn’t getting you what you want and deserve out of some blind sense of loyalty. Your agent may be brilliant in his or her dealings within the NBA, but unfamiliar, and therefore inadequate in their representation of you with overseas clubs. I’ll go into this more in another post, but for now just make sure you’re with your agent because they are actually putting in good work for you, and not because they sold you a dream in college
- While it may seem uncouth in other professions to talk about contract details, I suggest you do talk about these things with other players. There are things we never even thought to ask for in our contracts that other players were asking for, like baggage allowance while flying and tuition for schools. I only learned of many of these things by speaking with other WAGs. Depending on the team budget and how willing they are to work with you, you can have almost anything you might need provided for. You’ll already have an apartment and a car, but you can specify a minimum number of bedrooms, pet requirements, etc. You can also ask for baby accessories like cribs, high chairs, and car seats, plane tickets for your family/friends, with options for business class seats depending on the number of tickets, and other amenities that will make you comfortable in your new country. Things like washers, dryers, and dishwashers may seem standard to some, but in many countries they are not, and if you don’t include it in your contract, you may have a hard time convincing a club to provide one.
- Read, re-read, and understand your contract. Your contract may say that it is fully guaranteed for the length of the season, it could be partially guaranteed, it may give options. Understand the terms and what could possibly violate the contract. Many of these overseas teams don’t mess around with money, and if they’re giving you hundreds of thousands of dollars and don’t feel like you are performing to their standards, they will find every loophole available to them, even creating terms and conditions if they can. Make sure you have that great agent/lawyer on hand to make sure you aren’t taken advantage of. Also, have any vitamins or supplements you are taking cleared with the team because if you fail doping because of them, you are going home.
- Lastly, and somewhat randomly, get a proper converter for your clippers before you leave the US. You more than likely won’t be able to find a good barber and if you don’t have a good converter you will destroy your precious clippers and you’ll be pissed. The same is true for your woman’s curling iron/flat iron.
So there you have it, my unsolicited hodgepodge of advice. No one asked for it but I hope it helps nonetheless!