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The Insane Lives of Players Who Miss the NBA and Play Overseas

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BOLOGNA, ITALY - JANUARY 06: The italian Police stands on the court to prevent contacts and riots between differnt supporters during the LNP lega basket of Serie A2 match the Derby of Bologna between Virtus Segafredo Bologna and Fortitudo Kontatto Bologna at Unipol Arena on January 6, 2017 in Bologna, Italy. (Photo by Roberto Serra - Iguana Press/Getty Images)
Italian police on the court to prevent riots during the the Derby of Bologna basketball game at Unipol Arena on January 6, 2017. (Roberto Serra – Iguana Press/Getty Images)


So you didn’t make the NBA, but you still want to make a living playing basketball. Happily, you have a lot of options if you’re willing to travel. Unhappily, most of these overseas destinations won’t offer quite the life of NBA level luxury you envisioned.

Thomas Neumann reached out to players who failed to make the NBA and wound up seeing the rest of the planet. And it is indeed the rest of the planet. (One player had played in Bolivia, Bosnia, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Finland, Honduras, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Montenegro, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sweden, and Venezuela.)

How are the experiences far away from LeBron and Draymond? The pay is still potentially substantial. There are teams in Europe and China that offer salaries in the millions: Former NBA all-star Stephon Marbury has found a lucrative new life on the Beijing Ducks. While a bust with the Knicks and many other NBA teams, in China, he’s not only made bank but won titles and received a statue, a museum, and a commemorative stamp in his honor. But it’s just as likely you’ll wind up earning $3,000 a month in Brazil, wondering if you should make a move to Serbia. (You might get a bump to $4,000.) And the grass isn’t always greener: One player reports clearing barely over a thousand a month in Finland.

Then there are the aspects of the sport overseas that are just different. For instance, if you wind up in the Philippines, you might have to do battle with this guy below.

Bocaue, Bulacan Philippines - Manny Pacquiao of Kia warms up before their game against Blackwater on the 40th season opening of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) on October 19, 2014. Kia won 80-66 with the Filipino boxing champion and politician playing over 6 minutes with 2 turnovers and 1 foul. (Photo by Photo by Mark Cristino/NurPhoto)
Manny Pacquiao of Kia warms up before their game against Blackwater on the 40th season opening of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) on October 19, 2014. (Mark Cristino/NurPhoto)


Yes, that is the iconic boxer, Manny Pacquiao. Back in 2014, he was drafted in the first round by the Kia Motors, Inc. team in the Philippine Basketball Association. This didn’t make sense for a few reasons. Among them: He was still focused on boxing; he was also serving in the country’s House of Representatives; he was already 35; and he stands roughly 5’5″. But Pac-Man sells tickets, so he was picked and even occasionally played, all while honoring his more pressing time commitments. (In general, other players should have been delighted he signed on: There are foreign leagues notorious for not paying their bills, so having a proven moneymaker around increases your odds of actually getting a paycheck.)

Then there are times you face danger unimaginable in the NBA or anywhere else in the United States. Neumann offers this account from Theo Little, a 6-foot-10 center from Arkansas State:

“In terms of intensity, however, Eastern European fans are in a category of their own. ‘It’s no holds barred over there,’ said Little, who has no difficulty rattling off incidents of poor fan behavior in Kosovo. He has been hit in the face with a cigarette lighter at the foul line. He has been on a team that was pelted with rocks on its way to the team bus after a game was suspended because of a wet court. He has seen fans hurl flares and pieces of broken chairs, prompting a response from police in riot gear. Once, hundreds of spectators taunted him with a racial slur.”

To read the full article and learn what happens to the players who just miss NBA rosters, click here. Watch the video below to see foreign fans at their most frenzied. (Yes, a surprising amount of things are set on fire.)


—Sean Cunningham for RealClearLife