February 22, 2010

Why you don't want to be an NFL running back

From the AP:
LaDainian Tomlinson, who became one of the NFL's best running backs during a nine-year career, has been released by the San Diego Chargers, the team said on Monday.

The 30-year-old, who is San Diego's all-time rusher, had expected the move for some time since he was due a $2 million roster bonus on March 5. He would have earned $5 million in total salary this year.

Contract? What contract? The contract only applies if you, LaDainian, hadn't turned out to be worn down by nine years of being slammed by opponents while carrying the ball for the San Diego Chargers franchise. Your contract merely says, in effect, that if you were still in prime form, then we would have paid you to play another year for us, not for anybody else. You, on the other hand, turned out to be over the hill at age 30, so don't let the doorknob hit you on the way out, LaDainian.

Question for Toby Gerhart: Are you sure you'll never learn to reliably hit the split-fingered fastball? They have guaranteed contracts in baseball for big, fast, strong guys who can. And in baseball, all-time greats aren't used up and thrown away by age 30.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's weird how NFL contracts aren't guaranteed as in other sports. How did they get that concession from the union?

Anonymous said...

He's earned enough to retire at age 30, hasn't he? Beats working the assembly line till you're in your 60's. Now he can devote himself to winning the Nobel Peace prize.

Vernunft said...

"He's earned enough to retire at age 30, hasn't he?"

I take the point to be that a QB, as long as he doesn't get his head knocked off, can make more for a longer period of time. LT was the best for years, and now he's not even worth retaining. If he HAD played for 5 more years, he'd be lame for the rest of his life.

jody said...

folks, i don't have ESP. i merely have ESPN.

mel kiper demonstrates the extremely strong, widespread, and persistent discrimination against white athletes in america:

http://tinyurl.com/ycdurd5

toby gerhart is not even among the top 5 running backs going into the draft, according to "expert" mel kiper.

so slower, weaker, less athletic, less intelligent black players who performed worse in NCAA football, are actually better?

of course. this is standard procedure in the NFL for running back and cornerback. blacks only, please. no potential lawsuit situation here. no, definitely not. it's strictly a matter of putting the best players on the field, and gerhart is not among the best. it's so obvious that he's slow, unathletic, and can't play. i mean, look at his skin! it's white!

Anonymous said...

Jody, Couldn't agree more- numerous GMs and coaches would rather play less qualified black rbs and cbs than win a Super Bowl. You are onto something , my man.....where can I subscribe to your newsletter?

Dan in DC

DYork said...

Two words - Kirk Gibson.

Concerned Netizen said...

I'm surprised you haven't commented on the huge # of medals won by US athletes at the White, uh, Winter Olympics.

I'm surprised that you haven't drawn a Sailerian correlation between discouragement of white participation in the major sports (esp. football) and the black-dominated summer Olympic sports, and the surprising and recent US dominance in the Winter Olympics.

Michael said...

I think that the owner's refuse to agree to guaranteed contracts due to injuries in football. No doubt the players want them.

I think it is really interesting to note the disparities between sports in demand by fans vs. the benefits to the athletes. Football is the most popular spectator sport in America by far & you would think this would generate the most benefits for the athletes. However, given the particulars of football, it is actually the WORST deal for the athletes vs. basketball & baseball. There are no guaranteed contracts, there are a lot players to pay (which reduces $$ for all players, there are less games to generate revenue, the careers are typically short, you face debilitating injuries, etc.

Honestly, if I'm an elite athlete, football is the last sport I need to play - popular demand be damned.

Of course, my other options have their issues as ell. Basketball is the hardest sport to play professionally due to the limited number of roster spots and is likely the sport where most of the athletes want to be so you have the most competition. I would guess that a lot of football players would prefer to play hoops if they could, but they just don't have the talent. Sports like baseball, golf, & tennis have limited appeal to inner city youth (blacks) so they are not really even options.

OneSTDV said...

He's hit the 30 year-old wall for running backs. He's actually somewhat lucky he hadn't worn down before now. Most backs with such a heavy workload (Priest Holmes, Jamal Anderson, Larry Johnson, Michael Turner, etc...) had maybe a year or two at their prime.

I don't think people realize just how much of a beating RB's take. LT is only 30 and he's basically done as even a decent starting NFL RB. (Look at Brian Westbrook the past two years for evidence of this). Then think about what Jerry Rice did after the age of 30. Hell, most lineman don't retire until their mid 30's and many are still at the top of their game all the way up until then.

Anonymous said...

LT is a prime example of why two-back rotations are actually better for the running backs in this era. A back who has 20+ carries per game takes too many hits from linebackers and linemen at high speed. It beats up the connective tissues between the joints. You can feed the muscles protien and work them out to make them stronger, but the cartilage and bone trauma adds up over time.

LT probably actually has another two decent years in him if he got picked up by a team who has a back he could platoon with (Seattle, Tennessee, Jacksonville, New England, Washington). Asking LT to "give it your all" for 30 snaps a game, featuring him on 8-10 carries and 2-4 pass routes could extend his career, but telling him to tote the ball 25 times, go out for 10 pass routes, and play 45 snaps is too much.

Only the really squat-big-boned guys are going to be able to be workhorse backs for any length of time in the modern NFL. Even Jamal Lewis, a 230 lb, 5-foot-11-inch tank of a man (who has bench pressed 475 lbs) wore down before 30.

SF said...

Then there is the sad story of Bo Jackson. He was a two sport athlete until a football injury prematurely ended both careers.

SF said...

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=1858275
News reports from 2004 said the contract had $21 million guaranteed with $50.5 million maximum. Since he played five of the six years, he did OK.

Truth said...

"Jody, Couldn't agree more- numerous GMs and coaches would rather play less qualified black rbs and cbs than win a Super Bowl..."

Dudes, I'm with both of you! I felt so much pride seeing all of those white running backs on the Saints last month!

Ted Frank said...

That contracts aren't guaranteed makes no economic difference: because contracts aren't guaranteed, the athletes instead negotiate up-front signing bonuses that you don't see in baseball or basketball. If the contracts were guaranteed, they'd be shorter, a lot smaller, and wouldn't have the signing bonuses. Nobody expects those back-end years to be paid: they seem to be purely for bragging rights and publicity and are invariably renegotiated or result in cuts.

That isn't to say that it isn't better to be a mediocre outfielder than an excellent running back (I'm looking at you, Bo Jackson): Tomlinson was lucky to get nine years of pay out of the job, since most running backs are pretty much done after four (and the Chargers would have had legitimate reason to release him a year ago).

Moreover, if football teams ever engaged in Moneyball tactics, they'd see that most starting running backs are overpaid. I see little evidence that the seventh-round picks are substantially outperformed by the first-rounders. The Redskins have been paying Clinton Portis a fortune, but when he's been injured, the second- and third-stringers do just as well as he does. Back when the Denver Broncos had a top offensive line, they'd plug in a no-name fourth-round pick who'd gain 1200-1500 yards without fail.

Steve Sailer said...

"I see little evidence that the seventh-round picks are substantially outperformed by the first-rounders."

I'm guessing that investing in star receivers has more of a payoff these days.

Is it just that the passing game has gotten relatively more effective? Or is something else going on that keeps running backs from being quite the stars they used to be?

In college football, for example, USC has gone from being Tailback U. to just using a bunch of running backs and putting all their emphasis on their quarterbacks.

Anonymous said...

NFL contracts aren't guaranteed because the union is so weak. That moron Bryant Gumbel got one thing right when he lambasted them for rolling over for the owners.

If the union were strong, we'd have a lot more 30 year old running backs in the league. Or, if the basbeall union were as weak, a lot of players---especially closers and injured catchers---would be cut following two or three bad outings, much like kickers.

Strong unions lead to baseball's fabulously strong contracts, which led to owners playing over-the-hill stars to "get their money's worth."

People who think that its the demanding physical presence of football that causes union weakness are seeing cause and effect reversed. The cause of short, tenuous NFL careers is weak contracts, not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

That's all well and good, but how do Iran and beta males fit into all this?

Anonymous said...

Truth- I honestly thought you were sharper than that- my mistake.

LT was a big reason San Diego has been bounced in the playoffs the last few years- if they run Darren Sproles they beat the Jets this year and possibly the Colts last year. LT will mainly be known for that pissy sour look he gives after a dissapointing performance in numerous playoff games.


Dan in DC

burger flipper said...

The passing game hasn't just gotten relatively more effective, since the pass interference rules were altered following one of the Indy/N.E. playoff games, all you need is passing.

The Pats run game stunk for much of their run. Indy was the SB favorite with the statistically worst run game in the league this year (and that is not what cost them the game). The number of 4k yard passers is through the roof. Elway's qb rating from his prime wouldn't match many current journeymen.

It is strange though. Chris Johnson had probably the best year running the ball anyone has had since Barry Sanders was around, and I'm not sure if he's even got a Chunky Soup ad yet.

DCThrowback said...

I'll offer a contrarian argument:
Non-guaranteed contracts have made the NFL the most popular sport in America.

1.) When players sign their contract, they are guaranteed their bonus payment and the first year of their multiyear deal. FAs sign huge bonuses because teams can pro-rate bonuses over the length of the contract. Of course this leads to teams like the Redskins having money on the cap for players who were waived 4 years prior, but whatever. Players receive all bonus monies up front.

2.) Players, like contract workers, tend to perform at an optimum level when their job is dependent on performance. When jobs are guaranteed, you get this: (http://www.laweekly.com/2010-02-11/news/lausd-s-dance-of-the-lemons/). Extreme, yes. But players who shame at stake perform at a high level. And lots of NFL players are not 1st or 2nd round picks. This leads to who-dats (Pierre Garcon) stepping up and trying to get more of the NFL salary pie.

3.) Draft position matters. Being taken in the top 5 means a player is set for life. A top 60 drafted player generally gets up to a 4 year contract. This encourages players to leave college after 4 years OR when their value is highest.

4.) Bryan Gumbel is an idiot. The working relationship between Tagliabue and Upshaw led to a growth of the salary pie that has been unsurpassed in the history of sports leagues. NFL Salary values have tripled in 15 years. NFL players done extraordinarily well. The average career is 3 years - the minimum salary is $450K. The average minimum player should leave the game well set for his future.

Obviously it's a violent game and the realities are scary. If you really want to advocate for people like Tomlinson, advocate for RBs to be eligible for the NFL at age 19. That makes a sh*t ton more sense than any of the cockamamie ideas here about guaranteed contracts.

MQ said...

Basketball is the hardest sport to play professionally due to the limited number of roster spots and is likely the sport where most of the athletes want to be

People get together after work to play basketball for fun. Very few people would ever say, hey, let's play some tackle football for fun!

Basketball is the greatest American sport. Note how it's going global; American football never will.

Aaron said...

What this would seem to tell us is that experience isn't much use for a running back. If it were, teams would platoon them or try harder not to use them up by 30. But if success at RB is basically a function of speed and raw talent, and not experience, then teams might as well recycle them every few years and use them up as quickly as necessary.

Don't feel too bad for the players; those non-guaranteed contracts work both ways. Albert Pujols became one of the best three players in baseball and was still making less than a million a year for a while. Had he been a football player, he could have sat out and demanded a new contract. NFL contracts mean about as much in the out-years as federal budgets, so the money just gets front-loaded into bonuses.

Aretae said...

Steve,

I think you don't go far enough. Read Robin Hanson on decimation, for the rest of the story.

josh said...

Concerned Netizen,Bryant Gumbel wants to have a word with you. (thats the 2nd time in my life i have seen the word 'netizen". First was yesterday. Something about the Chinese are very concerned about their "netizens" who are greater--acc to this article--than the entire pop. of the USA.)Hmmm. Note to self:that Chinese porn site idea,lets put it back on the front burner...

Anonymous said...

Bo Jackson probably isn’t the best example to use to gauge the challenges a contemporary NCAA Heisman-candidate running back would have switching from football to baseball. Jackson’s career was ended by avascular necrosis in his hip. The necrosis was blamed on a hip injury, but it was a very common side effect of steroid use, and Bo Jackson played amateur and pro sports in an era where steroid use was more common than most folks would care to admit.

A better parallel for Toby Gerhart might be Ted Kluszewski, just ten pounds lighter and one inch taller than Gerhart. “Big Klu” was more of a football player than a baseball player through college, and he struggled for about three years in MLB before learning the strike zone in his age 25 season, and it took him three more years for him to develop the home run power for which he is most remembered. He had his last star-quality season at age 31, after which back problems limited him to just 34 home runs in the last five years of his career combined.

Both Bo Jackson and Ted Kluszewski had trouble with the strike zone for about three years. Kluszewski, playing well before the steroid era, took even longer to develop home run power. “Big Klu,” though, enjoyed four more years of good health than Jackson did. Furthermore, his four best seasons were right in the range of years where MLB players sign their big multi-year free agent contracts.

I would really like to see Toby Gerhart succeed in the NFL, but if he’s not going to be drafted early in the first round, he might be better off taking a comparatively large signing bonus and dedicating his career to baseball.

- JHB

Anonymous said...

LT training regimen: "Every game is like a car wreck."

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/12/06/60minutes/main3585567.shtml

Anonymous said...

Steve,

I recently read "The Blind Side". I have to recommend this book to all of your readers and yourself.

In the book, Tom Lemming (top high school football guru) states that white running backs and receivers in high school have absolutely no chance of being rated highly and getting to a D1 school.

The book is really shocking, thinking how much money was spent trying to make Oher eligible in HS and college and worse, the neglect the Tuohy family (his white adoptive family) had for their own white son!

You need to read the book and then comment upon it for a Takimag article.

It showcases to a better extent how crazy white people are then the T. Boone Pickens gift of $165 million to Oklahoma State a few years ago.

By the way, that gift went south quick, losing half its value in the market downturn of 2008.

Svigor said...

I'm with Ted. I got this impression watching Emmit Smith and the Awesomeness of the Cap-less Cowboys. About the 20th time Smith ran for ten yards without being touched or even obstructed, it hit you.

Ben said...

I'll wager Gerhart's long term plan is to play five years in the NFL and then answer his true calling to become a coach. Consider the package he will be: he is smart and charismatic; he will be an ex-NFLer with real player credibility; he has grown up around football coaching; and either Stanford or Jim Harbaugh will undoubtedly take him on when the time comes.

This is the right move for someone who is planning to coach football.

Ted Frank said...

"NFL contracts aren't guaranteed because the union is so weak."

If the union is so weak, why are the billionaire owners who negotiated that union contract whining that they got taken to the cleaners and need to substantially renegotiate to reduce players' pay?

Again, players, on average, aren't hurt by the lack of guaranteed contracts: it just means that there's more guaranteed money paid up front. The reason contracts have all those years at the back end that never get paid off is to take advantage of salary-cap loopholes that allow the signing bonus to be averaged out over the length of the contract, even if no one ever finishes out a ten-year contract.

Steve, I think you're on to something about the passing game being more effective, but that's been true ever since at least the late 1970s, and perhaps before that. Having a dominant running back like Earl Campbell, Barry Sanders, Larry Johnson, or a Tomlinson never got a team anywhere since they opened up the passing game, and such teams inevitably pay the guy a huge salary for one or two seasons too many. (The one exception I've ever seen: the Denver Broncos turned Clinton Portis into a Pro-Bowl cornerback through trade. Portis was a #51 pick, by the way, and had exactly two good seasons, both with the Broncos' offensive line.)

A running back has some value if he has other skills like being a great open-field receiver or return man, but, given the salary cap, it would seem to me that most teams would be better off taking the $3 million above the minimum wage they give their star running back and instead spread it around their offensive line: the minimum-wage running back will likely do better with a good offensive line than the star will with an average line.

keypusher said...

People who think that its the demanding physical presence of football that causes union weakness are seeing cause and effect reversed. The cause of short, tenuous NFL careers is weak contracts, not the other way around.

I think it's you that has got cause and effect reversed. NFL players, to a much greater extent than baseball players, are readily-replaceable interchangeable parts. That's what makes the union weak. A good quarterback and a good coach (for example, Brady and Belichick) are 9/10 of a dynasty.

Anonymous said...

"People who think that its the demanding physical presence of football that causes union weakness are seeing cause and effect reversed. The cause of short, tenuous NFL careers is weak contracts, not the other way around."

Whatever.The fact is football is a tough sport. After 3 or 4 years of hard hits and a couple knee surgeries, most running backs are over the hill. Guaranteed contracts would lead to teams keeping around ineffective players, and who wants to watch that?

jody said...

i never said an NFL team needed to field a white running back to win a superbowl. what i said was, every team in the NFL would rather lose games than put a capable, qualified white athlete into the game at running back or cornerback. it is absolutely, positively a myth that "the best players play" and that "winning is everything". wide receiver is in even worse shape, but at least a few white players are allowed to play wide receiver. the NFL is addicted to less capable black athletes who can barely play the position at the NFL level. it keeps out, literally, 20 to 30 white athletes who could come into the NFL right now and immediately outperform many of the black receivers.

i've been watching NFL football for 30 years. it did not use to be this way, but in 2010, this is reality. black american athletes have been given an artificial monopoly on these jobs, which are among the best jobs in the world. 1 million dollars a year to play a sport? almost any adult man in the world would gladly take that over any other job.

why should capable employees be deliberately discrminated out of these excellent jobs? if this was happening to any other group, they would be screaming bloody murder, and the lawsuit would have been filed decades ago.

jody said...

i do chuckle at how ESPN and SI and other US sports media outlets are now trying to hold toby gerhart's baseball ability AGAINST him. as if being not only more athletic than most of the black players, but SO much more athletic that he could also play MLB baseball when they can't, is some kind of detriment! as if he played too much NCAA baseball and already has too much wear and tear on his body to play NFL football. i wonder if these same guys would have also said that john elway was TOO athletic for the NFL, had played too much baseball already, and should opt for MLB, so that black athletes could have a chance at his NFL job.

like almost everything in american sports, something which is great and awesome when a black athlete does it, is a major detriment and big problem for a white athlete. it's great and awesome when a black athlete has two sport ability. when it's a white athlete, then the "experts" want to know why the stupid white guy can't figure out which is the right sport for him. hint hint, it's not football or basketball.

Anonymous said...

Tomlinson will sign with the Cowboys. You heard it here first.

DCThrowback said...

The Cowboys already have Choice, Barber and Felix Jones, all of who are under 28 (and Choice and Jones are under 25). Common sense says a probable destination is Philthy - where he'll spell LeSean McCoy. Just a guess.

Anonymous said...

"The average career is 3 years - the minimum salary is $450K. The average minimum player should leave the game well set for his future."

Let's see, 3 years at $450k/yr is $1.35 million career earnings. The tax man (Federal, State, and local/city) will take about 40% of that, so that leaves $810K after tax. Now, we don't want to eat into the principal, so let's say we earn an average income of 3% on that. That gives us $24,300 per year. I guess you can live on that, but it wouldn't be luxurious. If you want more, I guess you'll have to work.

If only you hadn't failed to get a degree because you either left early or used up your eligibility and didn't have enough credits to graduate (as if there's much demand for underwater basket-weavers anyway). Oh well, maybe you can get a job in construction. Oh wait, you're crippled from all those joint surgeries. Oh well, you can still flip burgers.

Now, if instead of investing all that money, you bought yourself a fancy car, a lot of bling, wined and dined the shorties and, maybe, bought a house for yo mama, you probably ain't "well set for the future."

DCThrowback said...

@Anonymous
Is that better or worse than your average non-football playing graduate from Penn State graduating with a degree in Marketing in 2010? Forest from trees, please. Yes some dudes will blow through their money. Some dudes will not. These guys are incredibly talented athletes who are paid to play a game. The risks inherent in the game are known.

My initial numbers were off a bit; the rookie salary was $310K in 2009. After one year, the min rises to $385K, then after 2 years $460K. That assumes to higher raises as a result of stellar play - young undrafted FAs who make teams can reach FA quicker.

John Seiler said...

The smart ones quit early: Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Robert Smith.

Stuff Black People Don't Like said...

Robert Smith is a shining example of a Black football player who cared about his future.

He sat out a year a Ohio State and left the Vikings (of the NFL) at an early age, transitioning nicely into the ESPN broadcast booth.

I watch a lot of football, and he was one of the more vocal, pro-Gerhart voices on ESPN. He stated Toby deserved the Heisman Trophy.

DCThrowback said...

While checking to see if Robert Smith was pre-med at tOSU, I found this. Pretty incredible guy - his friends call him "Copernicus". Just a cool piece. Well done, Plain-Dealer.

http://blog.cleveland.com/sports/2008/07/once_a_star_at_osu_and_the_nfl.html

Anonymous said...

Steve is assuming that running backs like LT have other appealing options like Silicon Valley high-tech startup, brain surgeon or Wall Street hedge fund manager.

Ask yourself what most NFL running backs would be doing in the world if not playing sport. Many would be at very high risk of even not being in the workforce in these times.

No, I think many would jump at the opportunity to be an NFL running back for even a few years. Besides the nest egg it could provide you, the fame could launch you in a lot of careers from local sportscaster to politician or marketing front for a big corporation or local developer/auto dealer.

Hell, some guys would do it just for the fame and camp followers in every city throughout the US.

Truth said...

"Steve is assuming that running backs like LT have other appealing options like Silicon Valley high-tech startup, brain surgeon or Wall Street hedge fund manager."

The stark irony there is that LT would have a MUCH better chance at accomplishing two of your three examples than your average 22 year old Taiwanese Stanford Computer Engineering or Business grad.

Anonymous said...

""Steve is assuming that running backs like LT have other appealing options like Silicon Valley high-tech startup, brain surgeon or Wall Street hedge fund manager."

The stark irony there is that LT would have a MUCH better chance at accomplishing two of your three examples than your average 22 year old Taiwanese Stanford Computer Engineering or Business grad."

Would he? How so?

OhioStater said...

Slightly off topic. Based on the news coverage there is unfortunate looting in Chile, but there was reassuring order in Haiti. Maybe there was looting in both places, but the media doesn't mind reporting looting in Chile.

By the way, on topic, Tim Tebow jumped really high at the NFL combine, 38.5 inches.

Truth said...

If you were investing in a hedge-fund or Silicon Valley startup, would you invest in a famous pro athlete who has earned 100 million dollars, is sponsored by the largest corporations in America, is idolized by wealthy and influential politicians and entrepreneurs, and will get your startup on the front page of USA Today, or would you pick a guy with a pocket protector and $100,000 in debt?

Jim Barksdale said...

If you were investing in a hedge-fund or Silicon Valley startup, would you invest in a famous pro athlete who has earned 100 million dollars, is sponsored by the largest corporations in America, is idolized by wealthy and influential politicians and entrepreneurs, and will get your startup on the front page of USA Today, or would you pick a guy with a pocket protector and $100,000 in debt?

Finance and Silicon Valley runs on numbers, results, and raw talent. Connections matter and reputation is only important in how much it directly relates to the task at hand. The government and big corps are big enough to be insulated from fiscal reality so they can support a lot of wind bags in empty suits as you image.

Even in low-tech small local startups like restaurants and bars, famous atheltes are notoriously bad investment bets.

Your homework truth is to compare the number of CalTech, MIT and IIT grads who have successful Silicon Valley Startups or careers in Wall Street with those who have played in the NFL.

Anonymous said...

"If you were investing in a hedge-fund or Silicon Valley startup, would you invest in a famous pro athlete who has earned 100 million dollars, is sponsored by the largest corporations in America, is idolized by wealthy and influential politicians and entrepreneurs, and will get your startup on the front page of USA Today, or would you pick a guy with a pocket protector and $100,000 in debt?"

Well just addressing hedge funds and not start ups I can say that you clearly don't know how hedge funds work. LT if he hasn't frittered his money away is probably well set to invest in a hedge fund (or a private equity firm or whatever) or technology start up, but I doubt he'd make a good fist of being a hedge fund manager or technology entrepreneur. He's good (was good!) at running around with a ball or running around not with a ball and then catching a ball and then running with a ball, there is no evidence to suggest he is good at handling other peoples money.

"and will get your startup on the front page of USA Today"

So? Neither hedge funds or technology start ups look for investment from the kind of person who buys his newspapers from a coin operated box.

Truth said...

"Your homework truth is to compare the number of CalTech, MIT and IIT grads who have successful Silicon Valley Startups or careers in Wall Street with those who have played in the NFL."

Well Jim, I think the "homework" is a little misleading, as most ex NFL players do not consider Silicon Valley startups to be where their future lies after football, they'd just as soon make $500,000 a year talking about football once a week in an air conditioned studio. Look at the assignment another way; I would say the number of NFL players who has started failed Silicon Valley Startups compares quite favorably with that of CalTech, MIT and IIT grads

Conversely, here is some homework for you:

Please research the post retirement careers of Dave Bing, Hakeem Olajuwon and Magic Johnson.