The NBA will be the first professional sports league to offer medical benefits to its retired players, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com reports. The benefits will be part of a comprehensive and enhanced retirement package for former players. Youngmisuk adds that both the owners and the NBPA were unanimous on the decision to take care of retired players.
After the passing of Darryl Dawkins and Moses Malone, commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts agreed that something had to be done in regards to helping retired players maintain their good health.
“[Malone’s and Dawkins’ deaths] sent shock waves through the whole basketball universe,” said Dwight Davis, the vice chairman for the National Basketball Retired Players Association. “Some of the deaths of retired players could have been avoidable because guys didn’t have insurance and weren’t doing yearly checkups.”
Davis added that the new health insurance plan will provide much needed financial relief to many retired players. “Some of my younger counterparts are guys in their 40s, some of those guys are paying $30,000 a year for health insurance for themselves and families because of preexisting injuries. The abuse our bodies take, it is hard to get affordable insurance as a retired player,” Davis continued.
Michael Jordan was a key advocate of providing benefits to retired players, as were current stars, such as Chris Paul, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
“I’ve said it a number of times: the biggest thing is the health insurance that we got for some of our former players and stuff like that,” said Paul, who is the president of the players’ union’s executive committee. “No question. That was a huge priority. Well, I mean, it was a huge priority to keep the game going, first and foremost, for the fans. But at some point, one time or another, everybody out here is going to be a former player. You know what I mean? I think that shows how connected we are as a body of NBA players.”
The NBA and the players’ union will jointly fund a new health insurance plan, an education/career development program and the increases in pension benefits for retired players. The pensions for former players will increase by as much as $300 per month and players with at least 10 years of service will be eligible to receive health care coverage for themselves as well as their family, Youngmisuk adds. Retired players will also be eligible for tuition reimbursement and career transition programs.
“You have to look at the different decades, and you look at guys who are in their 40s, guys who have been away from the league for 10-15 years,” Davis said. “They were not making an average of $5 million a year like some of the guys now, and if you have a significant medial issue, a heart problem or organ problem, like the average American, you can become bankrupt.”
Prior to this new package, retired players received a pension from the league, but did not receive health insurance. The new CBA provides this benefit for retired players, but also includes includes other changes to the NBA landscape. Check out our CBA news archive for the latest updates on the new labor deal.