Money Matters … to the NBA player or the Brooklyn school kid

Buck Williams did well as an NBA player. Williams knows the “L” lifestyle. He was a one-percenter for 17 years between 1981 and 1998, spending his first eight seasons with the New Jersey Nets, his next seven with the Portland Trail Blazers, and his final two with the New York Knicks.

Williams, who finished off his NBA career as an assistant coach with the Blazers, says that he thought the importance of money management was underrated in the NBA. So much so, he saw it as part of his coaching duties in Portland.

“All the young guys that were under my tutelage when I coached in Portland for two years, Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, I had in-depth conversations with those guys about finances and trying to be an entrepreneur while you’re playing versus running the risk when you’re retired,” Williams told NetsDaily after a Thursday event aimed at improving financial literacy. The Nets brought 2,000 Brooklyn middle-schoolers to Barclays so Williams and actor Hill Harper could get them thinking about their future.

“I’ve always preached that message of trying to educate the young guys so they understand. You’ve got to take ownership…”

We often overlook the difficulties that come with being thrust into a completely different tax bracket overnight. In the NBA, you’ll find more millionaires under 25 than you will in most other walks of life … on Earth.

Think about it. No, really think about. You’re 19-22 years old, and by virtue of being draft into the NBA, you’re about to bank at least six figures over the course of your first season as a professional athlete, and in some cases, seven.

“Right now they’re (NBA players) in the mode of, ‘my agent is taking care of everything,’” continued Williams, belly laughing. “That’s not a really good place to be. I’m trying to get them to a point where they can take ownership of their finances and not rely on their agent to do everything. To really educate themselves about finances. I think if they do that, they’ll be in a much better position.”

So, if you even make it to the NBA, you’re not normal, you’re a one-percenter. Because of that, many of you reading this are probably hatin’, and that’s okay.

How does that square with talking with kids who are barely teenagers if that?

Gotta start somewhere.

That was the message at the MassMutual’s FutureSmart Challenge. Williams and Harper, actor author and Harvard Law School classmate of Barack Obama, advised: start saving your money now … or, at least as soon as possible. Good advice for kids …

We talk about getting money and what money is, but think about it, most of these kids come from families that never really discuss these issues that we talked about; time, value and money,” Harper said, as kids were chanting “Harper, Harper,” from the Barclays’ seats.

“Most of them come from families that don’t even have money invested – they haven’t even talked about that. They’ve seen check cashing spots and stuff like that, but they haven’t seen the smart side of that and how that’s not the smart side, they’re usually preyed on and not being proactive.”

Williams noted that lessons learned early in life may be simple but they can be long lasting.

“Well, when I first started, my dad kind of taught me, just in his actions, the importance of working hard, saving money, and I never forgot it, I made it part of my life,” said Williams. “I mean, really, your making decisions about your future every day when you buy something, and if you don’t spend time to educate yourself, understand comparison shopping, you could get yourself in financial waters.”

Harper said he appreciated the Nets’ role. The MassMutual Foundation has reached out to NBA teams around the league, helping to get the message out to 40,000 kids.

“It’s so amazing to partner with the Brooklyn Nets on this. Number one, they’re in an iconic arena, you could see how excited they get from being in this arena,” he said walking down the steps of a section in the 20’s as kids were screaming for selfies with the former Homeland star.

“It creates a new attention. If the Nets weren’t involved, it wouldn’t be as connected. The Nets raise the bar, that’s what this is. The vast majority of these kids have never been in this arena. They come from families that don’t come to games all the time. They know it’s here, but they haven’t been here.”

The Nets also added some pizzaz to the event, lending it Team Hype, and the Brooklynettes. Not surprising. The Nets run a lot of community events as a team and with players or “ambassadors” like Williams, whose No. 52 jersey is one of seven hanging above the arena floor.

It’s not the opening of a playground, or taking children shopping for Thanksgiving; not that photogenic. But it could certainly have an impact on the lives of the middle school kids in attendance, young NBA players getting into the league, or perhaps even you reading this right now.

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