The 2020 NBA Draft Class had a very unique experience being welcomed to the professional ranks. Instead of the usual four-day program in New Jersey followed by sessions in Las Vegas, LaMelo Ball and the rest of the 2020 rookies had an initial three-day virtual session with the players. The 2021 NBA Draft Class had a more personal, though socially distant, experience in Las Vegas this August.
No matter the logistical difficulties the league and players’ association try their best to provide a comfortable transition and useful tips to incoming rookies. The collaborative effort between the NBA and NBPA seeks to create an outreach curriculum that touches on many aspects of professional life to help players navigate the high stress and high-demand career they have entered from the day they were drafted until well after they retire. Players attended sessions on their off-days during Summer League, August 8-13.
According to the NBA’s informational sheet the Rookie Transition Program,
“is one of the most comprehensive introductions to life management tools in professional sports, teaching players essential skillsets to help maximize their potential and positively impact their teams. RTP features peer-to-peer panels with current and former players, world-class resources, and best-in-class education techniques to help players grow as athletes and individuals.”
This year’s sessions featured panels concerning professional development, finances, healthy relationships, character building, sleep, and nutrition. There were new sessions focused on mental health and wellness introduced this year as well as a session on social justice. The rookies heard from a variety of professionals as well as NBA and NBPA leaders who will assist and support the rookies from Las Vegas to where ever their new living room will be once they start the regular season. NBA veterans Robert Covington, Grant Williams, and Tracy Murray took the mic to give some personal insight into their respective and varying experiences.
As for the NBA RTP experience itself, sessions range from lecture hall talks to small “breakout” sessions which give the new rookies a chance to ask questions, share thoughts and hear some reflections in private setting discussion. In addition to the sessions below, the RTP class is introduced to current and former player mentors, league and NBPA personnel who will remain resources to them, and one another during throughout the week.
Session 1 Saturday, 8/12 – Program Tip-Off (hosted by Dennis Scott)
- Welcome – Former NBA player Dennis Scott will welcome the players to RTP. He’ll motivate them to make the most of this week, develop professionalism and consider the contribution they hope to make to the league and their own legacy.
- One-on-One with Commissioner Silver: Commissioner Adam Silver will speak with RTP class welcoming them to the league. Rookies will engage in an open dialogue and ask Adam any questions they may have about entering the NBA.
- Player Health Panel: player health representatives from the both the NBA and NBPA as well as doctors will speak with the players about a variety of topics related to their physical health this season and at-large, including injury and illness prevention, important COVID updates, vaccine questions and efficacy, and more. Building healthy habits and taking care of your bodies will also be discussed.
- Player Panel – NBA players Derrick White, Rob Covington, Tracy Murray will speak candidly in a players’ only session about what it takes to be a pro and make a career in the league. They’ll share their wisdom and open up about their greatest struggles during their own transition, how they maximize opportunity and their keys to success.
Session 2 – Sunday 8/8 and Monday 8/9
- Welcome – from former player Shawn Marion
- Mental Wellness – NBPA Mental Health Director Dr. William Parham and NBA Mind Health Director Dr. Kensa Gunter will explain the experiences and challenges with mental wellbeing players may encounter throughout their careers, especially transitioning to the league in a unique time. They’ll also share information on resources in place for all players from both the league, the union and their teams. Phoenix Suns player Cam Johnson will also join to add a player perspective.
- Healthy Relationships – certified counselors will explain the importance of building safe and strong relationships. Rookies will learn the benefits of open and honest communication, how to talk about consent, stats and facts about sexual health, how to prepare to make healthy choices and avoid risk, etc.
Session 3 – Tuesday 8/10 and Wednesday 8/11
- Welcome – from Dennis Scott
- Financial Management Players Panel – NBA players Antione Walker, RJ Hampton, Grant Williams will give players guidance on making sound financial decisions from the start of their career, and share advice on saving, investing, and managing the needs of family and friends.
- Financial Benefits – reps from the NBA & NBPA will introduce players to all their financial benefits, reiterating that its never too early to start planning for life after basketball.
- Relationship with Coaches – Rockets coach Stephen Silas will share insights on what coaches are expecting from rookies, and best ways to approach player-coach communication.
Session 4 – Thursday 8/11 and Friday 8/12
- Welcome – from Dennis Scott
- Drug Policy/Player Assistance Program – league and union doctors outline the NBA Drug Policy and explain the Player Assistance Program, designed to assist players and safeguard their well-being if needed.
- Career Development – the NBA and NBPA’s resources when it comes to goals for on-court careers and life after basketball. Rookies will learn about networking and brand-building tools they can implement early on in their careers.
- Security – leaders of the NBA Security team will discuss with players measures in place to keep players, teams and their families safe. They will also explore topics like safe driving and the NBA’s gambling policy.
- Social Justice – NBA Foundation Executive Director Greg Taylor, National Basketball Social Justice Coalition Executive Director James Cadogan and NBPA Foundation Executive Director Sherrie Deans will discuss current climate around social justice, different ways players can use their platform and the platform of the NBA to create meaningful change, as well as current initiatives that the league and union are working on together – including the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition and NBA Foundation.