The NBA is experiencing a serious youth movement in recent years, with star talent beginning to emerge earlier and earlier in their careers.
This emergence of talent has placed increased value on youth across the league, with teams often rounding out their roster with unproven young players, whose perceived upside often outweighs their lack of experience. While not a religiously followed blueprint throughout the league, this development has displaced some of the league’s veterans, who currently stand on the outside looking in.
Most vocal recently on this was J.R. Smith, claiming that the league had “blackballed” some vets. Still, some have a more sanguine view on the situation.
Speaking exclusively to The AllStar, former Milwaukee Bucks star Brandon Jennings has a more practical message for veteran players: Be realistic and start thinking seriously about life outside of basketball.
Life outside the NBA
When asked about the NBA’s youth movement, and specifically J.R. Smith’s comments, Jennings said: “I think at the end of the day, you gotta be willing to understand the situation that we’re in right now. These young guys, they’re coming in young, hungry, and everything. I just take it for what it is.”
Still just 32, Jenning said he isn’t fighting to get back into the NBA, having found pursuits outside of the league including his own streetwear brand, which he launched in 2018. Jennings urges other veterans to look beyond their sport.
“I think vets today, we just gotta start thinking about life outside of basketball right now,” Jennings said. “Once it’s over, it’s over. Or go overseas and try to figure out something else, but if your goal is just to stay in the NBA, and you’re mad about this and that, don’t burn your bridges. That’s how I feel.”
At 32, Jennings is younger than every player Smith claimed was “blackballed” from the NBA.
Having spent time overseas before pursuing other passions including his clothing line, Jennings does provide somewhat of a blueprint for veteran players who are not yet ready to let the game go. And there seems to be a middle ground that still exists for ageing stars.
For veterans still awaiting a call from the NBA, other professional basketball avenues currently exist that were not always this prominent. With international basketball being one of these, other professional leagues like the BIG3 have given former NBA stars opportunities late in their careers.
While such leagues do not guarantee an NBA comeback, Jennings doesn’t believe this needs to be the goal. Whether it be summer pro-ams, local professional leagues, or international basketball, multiple opportunities to continue playing are likely available to most former NBA players who are trying to find their way back, or lengthen their careers.
This seems to be the middle-ground that isn’t always emphasized. If such opportunities become unfulfilling for former stars who are used to brighter lights, pursue other passions, Jennings suggests.
Like starting a clothing line.