With new CBA approved, big winner could be retired players

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A new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) doesn’t get approved more than half-a-year before any lockout could start unless both sides could claim victory. The owners got to keep the revenue split from the last CBA, plus they got a way to make it harder for superstar players to leave the team that drafted them; the players got more money for the elite players at the top of the market, and they got a larger piece of the pie and control over player image licensing.

But maybe the biggest winner are the NBA’s former players.

Part of the new CBA sets up medical benefits for retired players, part of a much larger and improved player retirement package.

What spurred this was the surprise deaths of Darryl Dawkins’ and Moses Malone, both to heart issues that were undiagnosed. Several players spoke to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN about the retirement package.

“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, the NBPA executive committee president. “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.”

“(Malone’s and Dawkins’ deaths) sent shock waves through the whole basketball universe,” said Dwight Davis, who played for the Cavaliers and Warriors in the late 1970s and now serves as 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.”

“This is the first time in professional sports that this has happened,” Davis added of the NBA providing medical benefits for retired players and their families. “What it means, dollar-wise for a guy like me who is 67, steadily employed for a while, on Medicare, with this new plan, I am going to save thousands of dollars — in co-pays a minimum of $4,000 to $5,000 a year.

While some fans and media like to focus on players who made and blew 10s or 100s of millions of dollars, that is not the norm for retired pro athletes. There are a lot of guys that played three or four seasons, made good but not “retire forever on a beach” money, and now have jobs teaching, coaching, selling cars, or a thousand other jobs that pay close to what the rest of us all make. For those guys — for this majority — the insurance is life changing.

For all the other stuff in the CBA that we have focused on, that document tweaks the status quo for current players. There are not radical changes.

But this insurance is a change that matters.