- Ric Bucher, NBA Reporter, ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer
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LAST YEAR, AFTER MY second season, I felt we were going to have a lockout, so I started thinking, How much do I have to put away if we miss a whole year? Every meeting we have with the players' union begins and ends with a reminder that you don't want to become that guy who's out there bagging groceries. I don't have the most to worry about, but losing a whole year of pay is a lot of money for anybody. We have a lot of young guys on rookie contracts without big shoe deals, so it's not going to be easy on some players. And a lot of guys have been living paycheck to paycheck, as if a lockout would never come. It's different for us compared to the younger guys at the last lockout, because they signed big deals coming in.
I started putting away money my first year in the NBA. My parents still live in the house I grew up in [in Lake Oswego, Ore.], so I bought it and renovated it over the past year. It improved my parents' quality of life, but it's also a great investment, much better than selling it and buying another house. So we basically gutted it: new roof, windows, plumbing, heating system, light fixtures. Now when you're in the house, it feels like 2011, not 1990. The only things left are my trophies and my old room. My parents wanted to keep it pretty much the same. I also bought them a couple of really nice cars. And I bought my first car -- a new 2009 Range Rover, the one I still have -- and got a nice apartment. Then I sat down with my agent, my financial adviser and my parents and told them I had a number in mind I wanted to put away every paycheck. They said I should enjoy myself a little and tweaked it down, but I still put away 75 percent of every check my first year, and the percentage has gone up the past two years. It's generating interest.
A year ago, I was planning to buy an off-season property in Southern California. I talked to Tyson Chandler about it when we were on Team USA together in Istanbul. He showed me photos and a video of his house in Rancho Santa Fe. I looked into a couple of houses in Santa Monica and Brentwood, but I decided to hold off until after the lockout and see what my options are. I don't know what's going to happen, and I want to see where I'm at financially before I invest. You just have to see where the numbers will be for the league. Are there going to be guaranteed contracts? Are they going to grandfather in existing deals? I look at some of the deals guys signed before the rookie salary scale and sometimes wish I were born earlier so I could've really cashed in.
But I've already set myself up for the summer and next fall. I'll get a place on a short-term rental near the beach -- I was born near the water, so it's in my blood -- work out with my trainer in Santa Monica, weight train at UCLA and do my yoga in Brentwood. I've talked to veterans who went through the last lockout. They all say you have to find a routine that is going to keep your mind and body solid, because you don't want to come back and get injured right away.
I don't have anybody on my payroll other than my agent, my trainer and my personal chef. I live by myself. With the threat of a lockout, I wanted to get my monthly nut down any way I could. I cut out some nonsense spending -- you know, going out to dinner three or four times a week with friends and picking up the bill. I hired my chef instead, which becomes a tax write-off. If people want to come over and eat, they're welcome, but this way I save money and I'm taking care of my body by eating all the right things. My agent says all the time, "You're so frugal." I know it's because he wants me to enjoy life too, and knows how responsible I am. And I do splurge a little. I buy first-class plane tickets whenever I fly, and I have two Rolexes, although I did get them at a heavily discounted price. But, otherwise, the things I like -- sweats, shoes, gear -- I get for free. I'm in sweats whenever I can be.
I'm hoping that my endorsements help a little. My agent is working on my next shoe deal with the Chinese company Peak, and it's crazy how much more I might get now that I'm an All-Star. They're talking four times the value of my deal now, which would put me in the top 10 percent of player shoe deals. What a lot of people may not know about Minneapolis is that we have as many Fortune 500 companies here as any city outside New York. I have some local endorsement deals with Target and Best Buy and Right Guard, and some of those could go national in the next six to eight months. I'm set to shoot some commercials and sign some new deals this off-season. I have to play a certain number of games to get paid on my shoe deal, but on the other endorsements I get paid no matter what. That will help if there does end up being a lockout.
I'm not rooting for a lockout, but there is one thing I'd like to try that my current contract prohibits: I've always wanted to jump out of a plane and try skydiving. You might not know it, but I'm somewhat of a wild man. Now, I'm not going to do something illegal, and I won't do it if the contract terms still apply, but if they don't, I just might.
Who knows how long we'll be out. But I've got a Plan B, two of them actually. I'd like to pursue my broadcasting career. I'll probably go back to UCLA and finish my communications degree. Obviously there wouldn't be NBA games to call, but maybe I could work some college games. Or I might do a little Ochocinco route and go play another sport. When I was little, I wanted to be a pitcher. Maybe I'll go try out for the Twins. I still think I can do it. I last pitched when I was 15 and had a fastball [reportedly clocked at 90 mph], curve and changeup. I really thought that was going to be my sport. I'm sure I could still throw the ball around for a living if it came to that.
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