NBA Teaches John Wall and His Rookie Class to Avoid Gilbert Arenas' Mistake

Ro ShiellAnalyst ISeptember 15, 2010

This is only the begining
This is only the beginingAl Bello/Getty Images

Would Gilbert Arenas, after finally getting healthy, have had to forego almost an entire season because he thought it was safer, for his daughter, to store guns in his locker room rather than at home, if he had paid attention to the lessons taught at the Rookie Transition Program (RTP)?

Every year since 1986 the NBA teaches or warns all the incoming new players the dangers of becoming an overnight millionaire and how to protect themselves, and enjoy a fruitful career.

Evan Turner, drafted second overall out of Ohio State said, “You can only play until you are like 35 years of age, you have another 50 years to live after that and have to find a way to support your family.”

After suddenly becoming a millionaire it is so easy to take advantage of a lifestyle that is not available to ordinary folks. Buying expensive jewellery, extravagant gifts, do you really need five cars!

"I went from the pinnacle of having it all, to the pits of having absolutely nothing, and seeing no light at the end of the tunnel,'' said 1995 Orlando first round draft pick David Vaughn. "I was a mess, but I didn't want to end up in hell. And now I'm on my way back.''

The 6’9” forward from the University of Memphis spent four years in the NBA but became homeless after his career did not pan out. He did not graduate from college as he jumped straight to the NBA after three years.

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This is the type of statistic the RTP is trying to negate. Most players concentrate on getting to the NBA so hard that they have little time to develop any other life skills that may make them appealing to prospective employers. Outside of becoming a commentator or TV personality like Dennis Rodman, without the money earned the future is bleak.

Most people are said to live from pay check to pay check, but the concept that someone who makes $10 million a year does this, is a little hard to digest, yet this was the case when they had the lockout in 1999.

“We learned a dirty little secret in the last lockout: An inordinate number of NBA players live pay check to pay check. Yes, even the guys making eight figures a year,” said the sports guy, Bill Simmons.

“You're asking yourself, "Wait, how can a dude making $8-10 million a year live pay check to pay check?" Easy. First, he's only banking 40 percent once the IRS and agents are done with him. Second, he's probably overpaying for multiple houses and luxury cars just to keep up with everyone else.

“Third, he's buying expensive clothes and dinners, chartering planes, buying expensive TVs, going to casinos, and paying for friends and family at every turn. Fourth, there's a decent chance he's supporting a bunch of people back home -- family and extended family -- and not just that, but he might have gotten roped into funding at least one dumb "investment" by a loser family member.”

These are the types of scenarios rookies are taught to avoid from 9am to 9pm for six days at the RTP every September. Rookies are taught how to invest wisely, handle relationships or drug issues and the type of people to associate with.

Normal people do not have to suffer the tag of guilty by association, however if as a public figure you happen to associate with known criminals it will damage your reputation.

A player can put himself through a rigorous training program, and be in the best shape of his life but one mistake and their season or career is in jeopardy. Like Arenas who was on the verge of a Hall of Fame career before deciding to store guns in his locker room.

The Washington Wizards Guard narrowly avoided a jail term and was sentenced to two years of supervised probation and had to spend 30 days in a half way house on top of 400 hours of community service and contribute $5,000 to a fund for victims of violence. But even worse David Stern suspended him for the rest of the season without pay.

"I feel very badly that my actions have caused the NBA to suspend me, but I understand why the league took this action," Arenas said in a statement through his attorney. "I put the NBA in a negative light and let down my teammates and our fans. I am very sorry for doing that."

It is better to be safe than sorry, this is the message being taught to all the new players whether they are coming from abroad or straight out of college. Some of these guys have only spent one year in college and are still teenagers like Washington Wizards number one pick John Wall.

"It's a lot of stuff you have to learn," Wall said. "Everybody say they think they know everything, but we really don't know nothing."

One of the greatest thing about the RTP is that the NBA gets former players who have been through it all to enlighten the Rookies about their experiences.

"The easiest part of being a rookie is on the court," said the former player Tim McCormick, now a regional representative with the players association. "They'll handle themselves fine on the court. But all of the outside influences that could derail them - that's my primary concern.

"The world of professional sports is a cold, cutthroat business. In high school and college, they were in a warm, nurturing environment where people were looking out for them. It's not like that anymore."

Wesley Johnson at 23 is one of the older rookies and was drafted 4th by Minnesota Timberwolves out of Syracuse was asked what his number one concern was going into the NBA and he said it was the lifestyle.

 “It is going to be a big jump from college and high school,” he said.