It’s great when other former pros give back to the game, and Acie Earl has done so in a big, big way. He’s used to that. Earl is Iowa basketball’s No. 2 all-time leading scorer and all-time leading shot-blocker. He played in the NBA for four years before embarking on a pro basketball career overseas. But like so many of us that played and stayed for a number of years and in a multitude of countries, it wasn’t easy.
After being the first NBA player to ever play in countries like Australia, Kosovo, and Poland, Acie also experienced being cut many times, and at a very young age.
“I almost quit.” Earl explained in his interview with Mike Hlas.
I’ve tried not to steal too much of Mr. Hlas’ thunder because the interview is a must hear! … but Acie shares a number of gems for which every aspiring pro basketball player at every at at every point in his/her career must take heed to. I listened to it (for a third time) over thirty minutes ago, and I still got goosebumps.
As explained by Coach Acie, some of the topics covered in the book are; learning as much as you can about the team you are negotiating with, how to deal with phone bills, wire transfers, getting the most money up front, guaranteed contracts, fitting in, not being the ‘dumb American’, adjusting back into the ‘real world’, the benefits of having a strong spouse, and of course, the groupies.
I also learned alot from the interview. I can only imagine how much knowledge can be found in the book. Acie is a few years older than me so it was interesting to know that guaranteed contracts are an NBA term that was established back in 1997 during the first ever NBA lockout. While things got sorted out in the U.S., NBA players went overseas, ‘and they weren’t going to go over until their money was guaranteed.’
Acie went on to say that, “Guaranteed money doesn’t really exist.” And he talked about how he and his friends still get together and talk about all the teams that still owe them money. Doesn’t that sound familiar. Hi Palencia. Hi Ferrol. Hi Benfica.
“You’re money is only guaranteed as long as you’re winning, as long as you’re playing well..as soon as one of them things don’t happen, your money is no longer guaranteed.”
He also talked about learning alot of life lessons first hand, that helped mold him to being the well-rounded, well-spoken cosmopolitan that he is today. Alot of those life lessons were learned the hard way, and after being cut.
As mentioned, Acie was the first NBA player to play in many countries and he also retired after winning many MVPs. But the reality is, you’re only safe in your contract until they find someone who is better than you.
“When you are former NBA player, 28 years old, and in the best shape of your life, that is a really hard thing to understand.”
There is so much in this interview that it is hard for me to put a hard stop on this post. One of the best places he played was Australia…for alot of reasons… and they didn’t have to do with the money.
“Everyone spoke English. The weather was great. It wasn’t very competitive.. meaning there wasn’t alot of pressure to perform (like in Europe).”
One of the worst places was Russia. He talked about it as if it was very chaotic. “Every week you had pressure. I played for 3 coaches in 3 months. People come and go, there’s pressure to getting your money…Always something going on. ‘We’re not gonna pay you. You can sit behind the bench.’ ”
And for veterans in the game.. the guys with multiple years under their belt..and in their prime. and still collecting big checks, the interview (as I’m sure does the book) have some gems in there for you too.
“You can’t stay overseas too long!”
My take on the statement above is that if coaching (or any career) is something you are thinking about doing when you retire, you really want to be getting started when you are at least 29-30 years old. I’ve learned this lesson firsthand. Starting a career, whatever it is, when you are 35-36 is a real gut check. You have to be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up. When you are starting at the bottom as a coach, that sometimes means being the coach that ‘stays in the dorm with the kids.’ After doing what you want for so many years, and making really good money, that’s a really hard pill to swallow.
Check it out on this week’s Mike Hlas Podcast. Earl talks about his as written a book called ”How to Play Overseas – 31 Rules Every Player Must Know to Make It Overseas.”
Purchase the book online at: http://www.amazon.com/How-Play-Overseas-Rules-Player-ebook/dp/B00HJANI30/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1391655489&sr=8-3&keywords=acie+earl
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