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The Ultimate Assist: How the NBPA Guides Players Into Life After Basketball

Former NBA players can take advantage of the Off the Court program from the NBPA, which addresses topics like health, finances and career development.

Bailey Knecht




Photo via the NBPA

The moment they step off the court for the last time, NBA players experience a series of life changes, both professionally and personally. In an aim to address those changes, former NBA player Antonio Davis and the National Basketball Players Association have spearheaded a player program called Off the Court to assist those players as they make the transition.

Off the Court, which has been in place for just over a year, helps players with themes like mental health, finances, career goals, health and wellness, and philanthropy.

“That’s why I called it Off the Court — it’s everything when you step off the floor,” said Davis, who serves as the director of Off the Court. “There are a lot of different aspects. Older guys can tell you what they were feeling now, but as you’re going through that, you don’t understand what you’re going through or what you’re feeling.”

Although the NBPA as a whole provides guidance for players as they enter the league, and the National Basketball Retired Players Association assists former players, the idea for Off the Court arose when Davis realized there was a gap in the support for players in between those two stages of life.

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“You know, in reality, and it’s nobody’s fault, but the system is just broken,” he said. “In any situation, you take a kid from 19 to 23 years old, and you do everything for him, so he’s not really exercising that decision-making muscle. You give him a ton of money and access to things, and then when he’s done, he’s done. There’s no real training on life.”

“I see this program as kind of bridging that gap,” he added. “The NBA and NBPA do a great job while they’re actively playing, then the retired players association, under the new guidance of Scott Rochelle, is doing a phenomenal job of recreating themselves and providing value.”

Speaking from his own experience as a 13-year NBA veteran, Davis said that most players don’t think about their post-playing careers while they’re still in the league.

“The average time in the NBA is four years,” he said. “For some, they come in at 19, 20, 21 or 22, and they’re done by 26 or 27, so they’re really young. Hopefully, they’ve saved some money, but that’s not always the way it happens. It’s hard. I was in those same shoes — it’s hard to fathom constructing a plan for not playing when you’re still focused on playing.”

Davis also explained that athletes who are nearing the end of their playing careers feel a mix of emotions, so Off the Court looks to support them through it all.

“There’s a loss of self, the mental part of it, plus physically taking care of yourself, and there are roles you have to step back into whether you’re a father or a husband, so they’re wrapping their mind around all those things,” he said. “It’s normal, but you should have a plan.”

A key part of Davis’s job is determining which players are in need of the Off the Court services.

“What I try to do is identify guys at the end of their careers, who’ve played so many years, or younger guys not playing in the NBA but still trying to play, so they’re in the G League or overseas,” he said. “For this program, we say transition — it’s identifying guys who are in that process of two things: you’re going to decide not to play anymore, or you’re not going to get another contract. So, the NBA decides, or you decide.”

Players then undergo a series of examinations from physical exams to financial assessments so Davis and his team can decide how best to help.

“We try not to pry too much, but we’re finding out where they are before we help, with health and finance,” Davis said. “We give a full assessment then pull resources like career development, mental health, player benefits and player programs. We want to be resources so players know as they’re transitioning, they have support and they have someone they can call who they can trust and who has answers.”

Financial literacy is a major focus for the group as it helps players understand their benefits, health insurance, 401K and pension plan.

Equal emphasis has been placed on mental health, according to Davis.

“I think a lot of it — and I’m speaking for myself — is because of the culture,” he said. “As males, we don’t talk about it much. It’s refreshing that more guys are stepping up and saying, ‘I’m not Superman, I don’t have a cape. I’m a man who’s struggling with things, and I have these heavy feelings.’”

“We’re always connecting to the NBA, from healthcare partnering, to total wellness screenings, to access to different therapists in the system,” he added. “Guys are really excited about the resources.“

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Since the implementation of the program, Davis has made a concerted effort to work with the players in person. In October, Off the Court held a two-and-a-half day workshop in New York called OTC 23.2, named for the 23.2 hours in a day that players spend outside the 48-minute time frame of an NBA game.

“They all left with a plan — here’s where I am in life, these are the action steps to take, I have a follow-up, and then I’m going to tackle the next thing,” Davis said. “The guys seemed to love that. Everybody got something different out of that.”

As a former player who has gone through the tough transition, Davis is aware of the importance of forward-thinking, as well as the potential benefits of a program like Off the Court.

“All they’ve done is played basketball, and they’ve spent a lot of time doing that, then we’re telling them to go find something else totally different to do,” he said. “There are only so many coaching or broadcast jobs, so you might have to do something totally different, and that’s scary and it’s tough, especially when you don’t have guidance. We try to do what we can to listen to what they need and want, and provide it.”

Bailey Knecht is a Northeastern University graduate and has worked for New Balance, the Boston Bruins and the Northeastern and UMass Lowell athletic departments. She covers media and marketing for Front Office Sports, with an emphasis on women's sports and basketball. She can be contacted at


Major League Soccer Seeks Digital Innovation Through Four-Pronged Approach

Digital is the future for Major League Soccer, and a multi-faceted strategy could one day take the league to new heights.





Photo Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

For Major League Soccer, the pathway toward innovation begins on the pitch.

“Look in the stadiums, the fan experience is different than any other professional sport,” Schlosser said Chris Schlosser, MLS senior vice president and general manager of MLS Digital at a South by Southwest panel. “How do we lean into that and make it come alive? How do we translate that if you’re at home the couch?”

He expects the answer to come through digital thanks to partnerships with companies like Twitter and R/GA, a company helping connect MLS to emerging technology companies. In fact, Twitter Sports Partner Manager Will Exline believes social media could eventually lift MLS to unprecedented heights.

“If you look, you see how radio helped baseball, TV helped football and basketball,” Exline said. “MLS has lived in the digital world. As fast as platforms are evolving, MLS is just as quick to try new things.”

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Schlosser said MLS Digital works with a four-pronged approach: Fan connection, on-field talent, stadium experience and media quality.

According to R/GA Global Chief Operating Officer Stephen Plumlee, there’s a current push to better connect fans to the teams and each other in order to better develop content ties. It isn’t that fan attention spans are necessarily shorter. Consumers just have so many options at their fingertips.

Consequently, Plumlee says, “The challenge is personalization. There has to be an authentic experience delivered to what the fan wants.”

Along the same lines, Exline said Twitter will continue to move towards individual user personalization to help the league and individual teams better target users and fan bases. He cited last years all-star voting process as one prominent example, which allowed users to tweet their vote, which returned a reply with a video of the player thanking a user.

That personalization also extends to viewership habits. Schlosser believes it’s important for MLS to provide fans the capacity to watch from any device. Within those device boundaries, they also hope to offer custom angles and other individual-choice options like advanced data and sports betting.

Schlosser also brought up the future, and current use, of artificial intelligence to generate user-specific highlight packages of specific content.

“I can give you a highlight of just your team’s play without having a human cut the highlight,” he said. “I can give the favorite player’s best goals. Maybe [the fan] misses a game and has four minutes and wants a recap, maybe 20 minutes.

“We’re starting to open those opportunities.”

Eventually, that could even feed into talent evaluation. Schlosser wondered aloud whether augmented reality could one day present skill challenges and judge a player through those ratings without ever scouting someone in person.

“That would allow a team to identify them and bring them into the academy to start the formal training process,” he said. “It could result in seeing thousands of more players than we could see today.”

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MLS took plenty of lumps when it was starting for being different than the global game of soccer. Now, the league is embracing that differentiation and will keep building on it with digital, Schlosser said.

“One of the big shifts is this idea we have to be authentic to the global soccer community,” he said. “There were these crazy rules when MLS first started … we very quickly learned that’s not the right way. But we are also finding North American soccer is a different thing. Soccer here is a little American, European, South American, and that changes from city to city.

“We can lean into that and we don’t have to apologize. We have to celebrate the unique differences and let them come through the atmospheres in the stands.”

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The Story Behind the Giants’ New $10 Million Scoreboard

Ahead of this year’s MLB season, the Giants are set to unveil a new scoreboard that at over 150 ft by 70ft, will be the third largest in the league.

Front Office Sports




Image via the San Francisco Giants

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

With Spring Training underway, baseball is inching its way closer to the start of another season.

Although we don’t know if the Giants have the inside track to signing Bryce Harper, we were able to sit down with Senior Vice President & CIO Bill Schlough to take a look at their brand new scoreboard and why the team invested $10 million into the product.

$10 million is a lot to spend on a scoreboard. I’m assuming much of the cost will be recouped through increased advertising opportunities. Outside of fan experience, was that one of the other driving factors when it came to making this investment? 

“If you think $10 million is a lot to spend on a scoreboard, you should see how much it will cost to deliver 4K content to that board!  But I have to be honest, for the Giants, “increased advertising opportunities” was NEVER part of the discussion. This is all about the fan experience, 100%. Our board was the second oldest and fifth smallest in MLB, and after 12 seasons it was definitely due for a refresh.  Our fans deserve a first-class experience at Oracle Park, and we’re going to give it to them. And with our new 4K board, it’s not just baseball games that will be enhanced.”

“We’re confident that all events at Oracle Park will benefit from this new screen—from private screenings, to corporate event branding, to convention gatherings, to public event enhancements and beyond. So if there are increased revenue opportunities from our new Diamond Vision, I’d say they will come from increased attendance and incremental events more than advertising. We didn’t invest $10 million for a glorified billboard, this is all about enhancing the experience for our fans.”

How much did the impact of landing outside events play a role in going forward with this decision? Does having this open up new opportunities? 

“Events that are complementary to our baseball schedule – both in-season when the Giants are on the road and during the off-season – are a huge source of pride for our organization, not to mention a fantastic way to develop new partnerships and opportunities. Giants Enterprises, the entrepreneurial arm of the San Francisco Giants, hosts more than 250 events per year, including concerts, private corporate events, international sporting events like Rugby World Cup Sevens, unique activations such as Topgolf Crush and more.”

“The Giants Enterprises team does a phenomenal job filling our calendar with events on a year-round basis and by continuing to stay ahead of the curve in terms of technology and venue upgrades, we will undoubtedly be able to attract new business. Upgrading our scoreboard presents a multitude of opportunities for clients using our facility so it was absolutely a big consideration when moving forward with this project. We are currently exploring new innovative ideas that we can activate on for returning and annual events that will help take their experience here at Oracle Park to the next level. We look forward to pushing the boundaries and continuing to innovate in strategic ways to fully maximize the capabilities of our new scoreboard.”

When looking at comparable screens and different sporting venues, which ones did you look to for inspiration? What did you want to differently?

“We definitely did our homework and there are plenty of other venues that are worthy of emulation.  The Cowboys really started the “bigger is better” trend a decade ago with their record-setting massive DiamondVision display at AT&T Stadium. Vivek Ranadivé and the Sacramento Kings were also trendsetters, launching the first 4K video board in sports back in 2016.  In baseball, the Indians, Mariners and Angels are now the three biggest.”

“In our travels, we also visited the Rockies, Ravens and our longtime friend in Lincoln, the recently retired Godfather of HuskerVision, Shot Kleen at the University of Nebraska.  In the end, we figured that given that we won’t be doing this again anytime soon, we shouldn’t make any compromises.  So we went big (153’ x 71’, 3rd largest in MLB), high quality (1st 4K capable board in MLB) and chose to stick with DiamondVision from Mitsubishi Electric—who we consider to be the best video board manufacturer in the business.”

If you could play any video game on the screen, which would it be and why? 

“From a purely nostalgic standpoint, I would want to play Goldeneye 007 on N64. That said, the graphics and that game wouldn’t do our new scoreboard justice. A fun, competitive multi-player game would definitely be a joy to watch so perhaps a game like Fortnite. Above all else, playing MLB The Show 2019 and watching Buster Posey hit a homerun to centerfield while watching it on the centerfield scoreboard would be a total trip.”

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

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Mesh Seats Help Showcase Innovation at New Las Vegas Ballpark

The Las Vegas Ballpark is set to open this year with brand new mesh seats that promise to keep fans cool and comfortable in the Las Vegas sun.





Photo via Las Vegas Ballpark

When Las Vegas Ballpark opens on April 9, more than three decades of stadium advancements will be on display.

The old stadium, Cashman Field, opened in 1983 and was already out of date by 1993, said Don Logan, president and COO of the Las Vegas Aviators, the recently rebranded moniker of the AAA team. The team also signed a development agreement this fall with the Oakland Athletics, after its agreement with the New York Mets expired.

Despite stadiums quickly surpassing Cashman, it took another 25 years to break ground on a new venue.

“Cashman, I hate to bash it, but it just outgrew its usefulness,” Logan said. “The world changed and it didn’t.”

Enter the Howard Hughes Corporation, a major land developer in Las Vegas — specifically behind the Summerlin neighborhood. The company purchased the Las Vegas 51s in 2013. With more than 400 acres at its disposal for Downtown Summerlin — about half of which is developed — a space was reserved for the Las Vegas Ballpark, an approximately $150 million project right next door to the corporate headquarters and practice facility of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.

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The two sports facilities are at the center of a master-planned community meant to provide an idealistic “live, work, play” environment in Las Vegas. More than 4,000 urban residential units can be built around the stadium in the near future.

“Even in 2011, I’m not sure we’d see iconic sports facilities in downtown Summerlin,” said Tom Warden, Howard Hughes Corporation senior vice president of community and government relations. “It’s a lot of opportunities for the team and also for Summerlin; we view this as an amenity for the Summerlin community.”

The new stadium has greatly improved amenities in all aspects, largely focused on player development and fan amenities, with a capacity for 10,000.

The centerpiece might be the video board, which Logan said is in the top 25-largest in all of organized baseball with 3,930 square feet of digital space. On off nights, movies might be played on screen for community residents.

A big consideration behind much of the Las Vegas Ballpark design was the high heat of Southern Nevada summers. The seats in the stadium are mesh, which greatly reduces the heat on spectator backsides. Logan said when a summer day reaches 110 degrees, plastic and metal seats can reach near 200 degrees. The mesh seats maintain temperatures below 100 degrees.

Likewise, there are giant fans from the company Big Ass Fans circulating air throughout the concourse. Fans can navigate the stadium 360 degrees with various destinations throughout to keep fans occupied and in the stadium, Logan said.

In the outfield, a swimming pool will look out at the field. A kids splash pad is also found in the stadium.

“This is all a tribute to the Hughes Corporation being willing to spend money where it matters and improve the experience,” Logan said. “We want to make people more comfortable and want to come back more often.”

The suite level will have two end caps with walkout party decks with capacity for 350 people.

Logan also said the food and beverage program will be much more aligned to modern minor league baseball than Cashman was and more indicative of the Summerlin community. They’ve even built in a show kitchen to bring in celebrity chefs to cook for fans.

“What other Triple-A team has the ability to do that?” Warden asked.

For players, they too get a respite from the baseball season heat. Cashman Field had no indoor batting cages, weight training or rehabilitation center. The facilities were regularly regarded among the bottom of organized baseball.

READ MORE: The Minor League Baseball of the Future

Now, there’s three indoor batting cages under the right-field stands, as well as greatly improved player facilities for better development.

The organization is already in talks with college conferences to host tournaments, and it plans on hosting more MLB exhibitions than the one or two a season at Cashman. The Aviators’ former stadium is still home to the Las Vegas Lights, the city’s United Soccer League team.

Las Vegas Ballpark is one of two Minor League Baseball stadiums opening next season, along with Advanced Class-A Fayetteville Woodpeckers.

“We’ll be the belle of the ball,” Logan said. “The good thing is we had 35 years to learn from and improve on, and we’re benefiting from all of it.”

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