PSG: Tell us about your sports career.
Pops: I was born and raised in London England, grew up running track and playing soccer. At the age of 13 or 14, I was introduced to basketball. I loved it because I was an athlete and I enjoyed it. My older brother played, I always wanted to be like him, so I picked the sport up.
I was more interested in track and soccer but more so track because it was like my first love
I always wanted to go to the Olympics to be a track star in the high jump. When I moved over here I was a two-time state champion in New Jersey, and I was getting highly recruited to run track more so than basketball at the time, so I always thought track was going to be my focus.
When I became a junior in high school, I realized that I had to make a decision between basketball and track and I felt basketball gave me more direction as far as my life was concerned. That’s when I started to take basketball a little bit more seriously.
I attended George Washington for four years and had a decent career there. I was fortunate enough to sign with the Dallas Mavericks my rookie year and went on to have a ten-year career. I played about five years in the NBA for the Rockets, Mavericks, Raptors, Hornets and a brief stint with the Wizards. Also, I played five years in Europe as well. I played in a few different countries, such as Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, Russia and France.
Recently I was offered a job with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), which kind of forced me to retire. It was difficult because last year I had my best season. When they offered me the job and explained the opportunity I had to help today’s players better themselves I had to think long and hard about it, but eventually, I came to the decision to step away from playing. I felt I had a social responsibility to help today’s players with some of the mistakes I may have made on and off the court or mistakes, my generation may have made. I just wanted to give them the knowledge and education to better themselves as much as possible on and off the court.
PSG: When you first left college and became a professional athlete, what plans did you have in place in terms of managing your expenses when you were a rookie?
Pops: None what-so-ever. You know like most of the guys in the NBA I didn’t come from…
I came from a difficult background. We didn’t have much money growing up, so I didn’t really know how to handle myself. Whenever I could learn something, I would listen. It didn’t really dawn on me, maybe until later on in my career, how to go about that the right way. Like how to live underneath your means and even though we are professional athletes, we should always live under our means just to get used to it. Careers may end in the drop of a dime. We never want that to happen, but it’s apparent, and it can happen, and you always want to be prepared for that.
With about three or four years left of my career, I just started living like I was a retired basketball player. I was never into jewelry, cars and all that other kind of stuff.
I was the guy that didn’t like to shop. I started lowering my habits so when it came to retiring or stepping away from the game I was kind of hitting the ground running. I did not have to get that culture shock that a lot of players get when those checks stop coming in. So when I did retire it was like I had been in this financial position for years.
PSG: What would you do differently around managing your finances if you could be a rookie again?
Pops: What I would’ve done differently was pay attention to the guys who are in my position now.
I am in the NBPA, and we have the opportunity to work closely with and for today’s current players and I probably would have loved to be able to take advantage of some of the financial programs that they have in place now, even though they weren’t available then. I also would have just been a little wiser with some of the things I did financially I always had an issue with saying no, so I always felt I had that responsibility to help others. It wasn’t until later on in my career that I learned how to say no and learned how to start taking care of family first or myself, and I probably would’ve been a little better off.
PSG: What was your last “money mistake” you had while playing professionally?
Pops: Not taking more control of my money at a younger age. Learning to understand taxes or tax breaks, and investments. Being more mindful in general about money. You have so much free time as professional athletes that we don’t take advantage of, and I would’ve used my time better to just learn a little bit. Learn about financial terms and taxes and different investments that we could do.
As professional athletes, it is very important we can take advantage of our money because you make the bulk of your money at a young age.
So if you learn how to utilize that at that a young age then you are able to thrive after the fact
So that’s what I would have loved to have done, just make the most of my time when I made that money so that when I did retire I would have put myself in a better situation.