Marcus Smart sat there, listening to Antoine Walker, as one former Celtics guard passed along advice to another, the newest member of the franchise’s family.
At the Rookie Transition Program held in New Jersey this week, where incoming players took part in a four-day orientation to help prepare them for life in the NBA, Walker shared his own cautionary tale, namely losing more than $110 million in salary that he earned during a 13-year NBA career before filing for personal bankruptcy.
Walker was just one of nearly 20 NBA players – both current and former – who attended and participated in the nearly 30 seminars and workshops with subjects ranging from drugs and alcohol, legal issues, media training, ethics and, of course, finance. But Walker’s tale left an impression on Smart, the Celtics’ No. 6 overall draft pick in June, a bullish guard out of Oklahoma State.
“It was kind of weird, a little bit, seeing someone like that, because everybody knows,” Smart said in a phone interview Wednesday. “You see him and he was a good player, he was a [three-time] All-Star, a superstar in the NBA, and now he’s here talking about his story and the things that happened to him. And it’s like – it can happen to anybody. But a lot of guys, they feel invincible.”
Personal finance was one of the main talking points, for obvious reasons.
“We’re young and we’ve come into a lot of money,” said Smart, who will make about $3.3 million in his rookie season. “A lot of guys tried to help us in learning how to do that.”
Any specific advice?
“Just make sure that you know what’s going on with your money and you know where you money is coming from and how much is coming out and going in,” he said.
Started in 1986, the program is the longest running and most extensive of its kind in professional sports, made up of a series of presentations developed by the league and the NBA Players Association. Along with being designed to teach players how to cope with stress and utilizing resources available to them, it’s also intended to teach them about dealing with the constant spotlight in which they find themselves.
“You’ve got to dress well, you’ve got to act every day like there is a camera on you – just the simple stuff that we all know that and we’ve known since we were little,” Smart said.
“Latch onto a veteran. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
“Make sure you’re building your brand early and make sure it’s a good brand so in life after basketball, you have an option and you have resources to help you with that.”
For Smart, the program was just another stop on a hectic travel schedule that isn’t quite finished yet.
He’ll head to Otisfield, Maine, on Friday for a charity event: Seeds of Peace’s 11th annual Play for Peace program, in which NBA players – including Smart and Philadelphia rookies Joel Embiid and Jermi Grant – will take part in a basketball clinic for 180 young leaders from the Middle East and South Asia.
Smart also recently spent time in Las Vegas, where he was a member of the USA Select Team, which trained against Team USA’s National squad.
“It was fun,” Smart said. “It was an honor. I got to play with some of the top players in this league and learn from them and I got to learn from it.”
Smart said the experience boosted his confidence.
“It just helped me more and more with my confidence and showed me that I can play in the NBA,” he said. “A lot of guys have doubts if they can play here and that just kind of took all the doubt out of my mind, if I have any.”Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.