Sept. 16, 2020

Shareef Abdur-Rahim – NBA G League President shares how the G League grew into the NBA's Secret Weapon

Shareef Abdur-Rahim – NBA G League President shares how the G League grew into the NBA's Secret Weapon

President of the NBA G League and 12-year NBA Veteran Shareef Abdur-Rahim join Tim and Jay on this week's episode of The Game Plan to discuss his journey from pro athlete to league executive. This episode places a special focus on the evolution of the NBA G League over the past decade including:

🏗 Strengthening League Structure;  realignment with NBA markets and team owners

🔁Two-way contracts; enabling a greater development capacity for NBA teams

🇲🇽Mexico City; the G League's expansion into a foreign market

✨G League Ignite; the G League's select team for high school graduates

In addition to going deep on the evolution of the NBA G League we also break down our guest's transition from pro athlete to league executive which included six years with the Sacramento Kings as both a coach and front office executive. Following his team roles, our guest went on to get his MBA at USC Marshall School of Business where he also interned for the NBA League Office. Our guest shares his perspective as to what it was like being a 6'9" former NBA All-Star turned intern.

Beyond his role as NBA G League President, Shareef Abdur-Rahim is best known for his career on the basketball court including 12 years in the NBA where he logged service time with the Vancouver Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trailblazers and Sacramento Kings.

In high school, Abdur-Rahim was a First Team Parade All-American and 2x Mr. Georgia Basketball, which led him to eventually star for the Cal Golden Bears as a First-team All-Pac-10 honoree. After freshman year of college, our guest declared for the NBA draft where he was the third overall pick of the vaunted 1996 NBA draft class featuring future Basketball Hall of Famers Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, and Steve Nash.

You can follow Shareef Abdur-Rahim on Twitter @ShareefAbdur_R as well as the NBA G League on Twitter and Instagram @nbagleague.

Follow co-hosts Jay Kapoor (@JayKapoorNYC) and Tim Katt (@Tim_Katt) for all things sports, media, tech, and venture capital.

Follow The Game Plan on Twitter (@thegameplanshow) and Instagram (@gameplanshow) for show news and updates, to recommend guests, and for bonus content!


*Please excuse any and all typos, errors and mistakes in the following transcript as we use an automated service to generate this text*


I kind of think of us in our core tenets as, as being three, one, we were a league  have development, right. And that's obviously that's where our players. NBA had cultures, you know, 80% of NBA officials now come from or have come from the G league and you know, more and more, you're starting to see general managers covering the G league.

Business presidents or folks that start their career tickets sell and so forth. So we have this, this place of development. We have this place of community and our connections to took community and being a more intimate field that you could add to your community. Or if

And then we are, I think, a lab for innovation and that's been everything from, No rules,  but then also on, on the business side. Right. So we have, we have a relationship with Twitch.

Where within our relationship with Twitch, the way towards broadcast our games, you know, two or three years ago, we have a lot, we had live chats going on in our game, right. yeah, I had extensions going on in our gang. Now, if you look at some of the newer features that you can get digitally with NBA games, you start to see some of that implemented an NBA game.



12 year NBA veteran, current NBA G league president I'm on the game plan.

All right. And welcome to the game plan with Jacob  and Tim cot. This is episode 33 with our guest NBA G league president and 12 year NBA veteran, Sharif, Abdul Raheem, Jay. I'm excited to hop into the conversation that we had with Sharif.

yeah, me too. You know, we learned a lot about the history and evolution of the NBA G league, and even had a bit of a breaking news moment when he shared about the launch of the G league select team. No, it is interesting how the Julie has become the secret weapon for the top NBA teams. And you mentioned a little bit in that conversation, how the alignment has really shifted with folks like Oklahoma city thunder and the Miami heat.

And now we're starting to see a much more close relationship, whether it's with the contracts or just how the league is starting to take care of these G league players. that's becoming a really, really cool thing to watch.

That's right. You look at these NBA playoffs and you see and hear about guys like Duncan Robinson and Lou Dort. And I think as fans, you really start to wonder where did this guy come from? I don't really remember him in college being a star, even if he was like, where was he? Those two or three years in between college.

And now. Having a great presence on the court. And it's because those guys got so much time playing with the development rosters, but also being able to switch over and be the two way contracts and get that opportunity at the next level.

you know, I was so curious to hear, especially just looking at my NFL experience about like what the interplay between the league office and the teams is to now hear what the interplay between the league office and like the G league is cause the G league is its own sort of like multi team property.

Right. You know, and, and Sharif said on the whole, it was a good relationship. Obviously there's always the conversation about how much resources are being dedicated to the, the sort of the main property versus something like this as a development and innovation property. But I do think that the idea of the NBA using the G league as a feeder system, but also using it as an innovation system to test out new rules, to train new reps, to try new markets.

That's a really cool thing to see, and I'd love to see how other leagues are starting to do something similar.

Yeah. And we mentioned this in our conversation, but Sharif is also a great example of how the NBA. Led by Adam silver as commissioner has really made a shift in the past decade to be more of a player led strategy, both on and off the court. I think that also explains why the NBA is so far ahead in its response to COVID and efforts around pushing for social justice.

There's a ton of alignment between the PA the league, but then also just on an individual level with guys like LeBron, Chris Paul, and the Adam silvers of the world. And I think that's why the league has increased in value so much over this past decade.

it certainly feels like the NBA more than any other league has like a much bigger voice and presence from former players. Right. And mean, we just saw last week with Steve Nash, going from being a former player, a legendary former player to now being a coach, Michael Jordan, who obviously when he became an owner and became a voice in those board of governor meetings.

And now we're starting to hear interest from players like LeBron and KD and others that want to become team owners. and that's sort of their aspiration. One day, you see this more in the NBA than really any other league. And so I don't think it's surprising to see how much of an impact the players have had not just in taking care of themselves now, but also looking to the future and hopefully taking care of some of the, the players.

Cause 50% of the NBA right now. Has played in the G league and spent some time there. So there is really a critical mass of those players. It's really exciting to see how the players are speaking up for it.

All right. Good stuff, Jay. I think that's enough from you and me for this week. Let's get right into it without further ado. Our conversation with former NBA, all star and NBA G league president Sharif. I'm doing Raheem.

Terrific. You had this amazing path, over 12 year NBA veteran. Then you went on to become an assistant coach for the Kings. You spend time in their front office as a GM. then you even went to the NBA league office and their rotational program, which leads you to where you're at today as president of the G league throughout that transition.

What was really the most surprising thing to you as you move from player to where you're at now?

In all of this stuff, I think, you know, one is, is all, you know, and, and, you know, I just started both, you know, Jay and Tim, thank you for having me. And I hope you, you know, hope you're well, you know, obviously these are crazy times as we were just discussing, you know, I'd say, you know, as a, as a player, you're really.

You know, sheltered in a lot of ways from, you know, you know, from, from everything, but, you know, really the business of sports and, you know, all of what goes on, you know, really behind the scenes or as I would think of, you know, once I left the arena and went home from practice or left shooter out.

Right. And you know what I mean by that is when I, when I stopped playing, I transitioned and, you know, to the point first I started coaching. You know, I feel like in that experience, it just blew my mind, the things that coaches were saying about players. And I would sit there my first year here, like, wow, you guys used to talk about me like this.

Right. So, you know, just those conversations of, you know, just how bad everybody was. And then they go out and, you know, you know, rally them up and get them going. Right. to, you know, when I worked in the, you know, when I was in the front office with the Kings. You know, just, you know, the process of going through the draft or being so close to making a trade or drafting a player, or, you know, feeling like if you could just get this player, he would make a different for you, but just how complicated, you know, those transactions were and, and, you know, take that, you know, to go into business school.

And, you know, one correction, I didn't, I didn't work in a rotational program. What I did is I interned at the MBA, in TiVo and to just see all of the dynamics of, you know, everything else that you making a digital marketing analytics, just, you know, every part of dynamic price, all of this stuff that goes on in every other sphere of business, is connected to sports.

And, and not having, you know, not having insight into that, the player, like all of these experiences, just continue to be extremely rich or, you know, were rich for me. So, yeah, I think it's just all of it. Just, just from, from everything on the court, off the court, just how everything comes together.

You don't have a great appreciation of that when you're in your career.

Yeah. Were. you know, thanks for the correction on the bit about doing an internship with the NBA. So here you are, you're this six foot nine larger than life, although I'm sure the NBA league office has a lot of, you know, former players, tall guys that you're working 

Actually, no, it's like, it's like, it's like me Kiki. and before Mike Batam was there, he recently retired and Rory Sparrow over there, they both recently retired. So it was like, Two of us, three of us there. And you would think, right, you think he was walking in and like Larry Bird is walking around the though.

Yeah, but I'm sure that, you know, we've talked about this with some of our other guests, as they made a transition into more of a. Corporate role post playing career. I'm sure that took a little bit of humility for sure, because you're no longer Sharif the NBA, all star, you're now a colleague and you know, you're being, there's just different things that are expected of you.

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this is a learning curve right now, you know, being at the, you know, being at the lead office, you know, firms. Yeah, six months or so my head was spinning, you know, it's everything from, you know, the transition into living in the city and, you know, commuting and everything to just actually the pace of, the work and, you know, processes that we had to go through.

it is, I, you know, just learning in general is, is, It's humbling, you know, and you have to have some form of a few ability I think, to learn. And then, and you know, I've been lucky to have good people there, and been around good groups first working in league operations. you know, my time, you know, interning in teen bowl with Amy Brooks, like you just have good people that you can, you can learn from.

And now my experience with the G league and, you know, everything that we're doing, No, you, you, you take all of these experiences and bring them together.

Yeah, that teamwork piece is really interesting because I'm even thinking back to my days at the NFL and how difficult it could be for the league office to manage its relationships with the member clubs, you know, how much do you really push down to the clubs versus let them operate on their own and be there for support.

And that team bow model is something that I think a lot of leagues, including the NFL have tried to learn from, help me understand for you. Now you're in this position where you're managing your relationship with the NBA. Is there anything from your time at Timbo that helped you learn how to better communicate with NBA HQ?

Well, we were lucky in, in our relationship and our tie to the NBA, they were able to borrow those resources and leverage those resources. I think it gave me. you know, insight. I, I ran a, but Julie, when I was in Sacramento, I ran our, our G league team, you know, at the time it was a hybrid. so, and then the time of teen bowl, it gave me insight into, you know, how the business is ran.

You know, how tickets are sold, you know, how we market our teams, and. You know, at the G league levels, the same mechanics, obviously much, much smaller in, in different. But I think the, the, the beauty and real, value of Timbo is like, you have this group and I call them rock stars of, you know, really smart people that are help able to help our teams.

Pull together the best practices from around sports. And, you know, obviously with our teams, that our teams aren't operating in silos that, you know, it's the one place on the basketball side you can't get in and they try to pull together the basketball people, but it's impossible to get the basketball people to pull back and tell you what they're doing and how to have a success.

That's really difficult. Right. Whereas business. I mean, we're all in. We all want to see the business do well. So businesses will we'll get on calls and they'll share. And you know, this is working for us. No, this is how we're doing this. And it's, it's unbelievable. But Timbo is really like the, the linchpin that brings all of that together.

And it works for our league. You know, it really works for our league again, cause we were like 28 small businesses that, that need that resource that wouldn't have the ability. Many of our teams wouldn't have the ability to go out and pull together, say. You know, an outside consultant to come in and teach them how to sell tickets better.

Right. So we, yeah. Yeah. That's, it's just really helpful for us, for sure.

Yeah. You know, I've heard it said that the G league is almost like the MBAs innovation partner, where if there's an initiative that the NBA wants to test out or try out for themselves, they test it with the G league first. How do you manage that relationship when you've got goals that you want to accomplish at the G league level for your own member clubs, but then also have these responsibilities for what the NBA wants to accomplish on the innovation side.

Yeah, I think it, I think this is a, is a really, That was a great relation. It was a great dynamic, you know, we, you know, I kind of think of us in our core tenets as, as being three, one, we were a league to have development, right. And that's obviously that's where our players. we have coaches now. So guys like Nick nurse and, and, Chris Snyder that came from the G league go to now, NBA had cultures, you know, 80% of NBA officials now come from or have come from the G league and you know, more and more, you're starting to see general managers covering the G league.

Business presidents or folks that start their career tickets sell and so forth. So we have this, this place of development. We have this place of community and our connections to took community and being a more intimate field that you could add to your community. Or if you're a San Antonio spurs fan, you can go to and watch a game and have a different experience than what you might have if you were in San Antonio, for example.

And then we are, I think, a lab for innovation and that's been everything from, No rules, you know, so, you know, now you see a coach's challenge in the NBA. That role was in the G league for, you know, five to six years before it got to the NBA. Just testing how we respond to us to the game this past year, we had a really interesting rule of one for two first, right.

And, you know, know, more and more, you know, early in the season I had like all of my basketball friends. You're really upset with me. Like, what are you doing? And, but then more and more, they saw it. When you get to see it, you see the flow of the game. you know, we went back to a traditional, two free throws or three free throws.

It was in the last two minutes, but you know, you get to see all of these things so that innovation and you can test it. And yeah, we can go back to the competition committee and talking about how folks responded, you know, how to gain respondent, but then also on, on the business side. Right. So we have, we have a relationship with Twitch.

Where within our relationship with Twitch, the way towards broadcast our games, you know, two or three years ago, we have a lot, we had live chats going on in our game, right. yeah, I had extensions going on in our gang. Now, if you look at some of the newer features that you can get digitally with NBA games, you start to see some of that implemented an NBA game.

So it's really, it's really interesting. It's a fun dynamic that we have that we can test out and be. You know, kind of forward thinking and take chances and in our business and then offer back to the MBA. You know, one thing I think we come from a G league standpoint, we can do, we can do a better job of initiating.

Those innovations. So within our group, reach out to, you know, push the envelope through, say ourselves, okay, like this is something new and different that we want to do. Just, you know, separate whether it ever got to the NBA or not, you know, could we put, you know, ebook ending in the G league, you know, and that just be a G league rule.

Right? Like, so, but as far as it's interesting, it makes our league a little different.

Yeah, I remember it was a really big deal. When you came on in your role in the G league, it was definitely a statement from the league. To show, they really wanted to bring the player perspective to the forefront. What, from your playing days has been the most helpful in your role now. And, and also what's been the most challenging, like you mentioned, for example, your, your basketball friends, Jim shore are former players giving you a tough time about some of the innovation you're doing.

How has that perspective played a role in your, in your job?

Yeah, it's been great. You know, I think, you know, our, our, our league in a lot of ways you on, you know, our players and, and I have that experience, but then, you know, I have the experience that I had. coaching experience, I have, you know, working in the front office, and, and the be able to pull all of that together to help make decisions.

Think about our league. think about what players are going through at certain points, has been really helpful. I, I lean on it and try to add perspective a lot, you know, to, to, you know, to my colleagues at the NBA, but then just as I'm thinking about our young players and what we want to do with the G league.

Yeah. And going back to your point about seeing coaches like Nick nurse. In the NBA succeeding, thriving as coach of the year, he has G league experience. I saw a stat that said something like half of active NBA players have some G league experience. And I'm sure that changes, you know, each year and as fans, you see it too.

You see guys like Lou Dort and Duncan Robinson, these guys who have had more opportunity to be seen. And now here they are thriving. In the playoffs, help us understand, and help our listeners understand what were some of the biggest or most important decisions the G league made both during your tenure and, you know, right.

As you were kind of coming into the fold to help enable what we now see today with the G league thriving and G league players. Now moving on to the league.

Yeah, well, I think first you have to go and we have to, you have to look at it. And that's a great question. I think, you know, you do get an iteration of the G league. I think what has brought this closer connection and probably more as you, as you said, he's like over half the NBA having, G league experience, right?

I think you have to start one with the close connection between Julie and David BA you know, you know, before Deanly where we started off, we were just all of these different tax. Team's not even attached to the league office. So I think they're closer connection between, I mean, our, our teams and. Or do you think things are going to be 18?

So we're 2018, 2016 are owned by the VA teams. All of our teams have a one to one affiliation, because the other two teams have a hybrid agreements where NBA teams run the basketball. So I think that's the first thing that teams, or take it a more personal approach in the development of their players and coaches and staff and so forth.

So that's more, more recently we've we, We implemented rules, like the two way contracts where, you know, a player could be, could be an undrafted player or just be a free agent. And he could sign a, like a flex contract where he's paid a league rate when he's playing in the G league. And he has so many days that he could play and the MBA.

Right. Right. And you talk about, you know, players like, And Robinson that could start in the G league or start on a two way contract with, Miami and Sioux falls and play there for a year or two and Miami have a personal relationship and seeing him develop because they have him. Yeah, he's in the G league, but they have him under this flex contract.

I think that's the second, you know, that's another way. And then more and more teams are here able to sign players and bring them to camp, bring them to summer league. And attach them to this. They're a G league team. So you can give a guy a little bit more money to come to your, your training camp and then, you know, have the chance to go and be a part of your genomic team and even graduated to a two way contract.

So these, these rules that we put in place, have really helped. So, you know, first again, starting with just a closer connection ownership operations between NBA teams, the G league teams. Are players having more opportunities on the Hill. It's two additional roster spots to be connected to NBA teams.

And then just more and more touchpoints, opportunity across the board. That integration has really, really grown and been, I think, responsible for the proliferation of, players in the NBA with G league experience.

I'm glad you mentioned that point about the realignment of the NBA markets with the G league teams. And I think on the whole, obviously there's a positive exposure there for the G league players before they come into the NBA. But I do wonder from a. Gili experience from a viewership experience and an end game experience.

Do you feel like there's ever a conflict between what the NBA teams are doing in that market versus getting fans to really show up and buy into what the league team is doing? Do you think overall it's been positive or negative for the G league 

I think he's experienced. I think it's been great. You know, I think being connected to live, you get from being connected to. You know, Atlanta and they have a team in college park that's near the airport. Right. but the lift that college park Scouts get being connected to, the NBA team being connected to mental health is tremendous.

Right. And the ability for them to send young players to their G league team, you know, in college park and, you know, To possibly, you know, a segment of the city segment of fans that otherwise don't get to go to Hawks games and they can see a young player, you know, you know, arrive or start making progress before he ever becomes a star on the big scene.

Right. On the big, on the big screen. Right. I think that that dynamic has, has, has been really exciting for us. And I think it's experiences, right? Like the teams are teams that. You know, do a really good job, creating these experiences, connecting with community, you know, so much of our experience and our ticket sales are connected to, you know, groups and communities.

So our teams that we try to focus our teams. That's the power of team Boulder. They give us that insight that we try to, you know, connecting in orienting our teams, our teams towards community. They have do a really good job. We see success. and just in those experiences, but w that connection, the connection for, to the MBA had been really, pivotal first.

Yes on the point of international expansion. I think that's a really interesting thing because it's been on the mind of NBA owners for many years, and now we're starting to see with obviously Mexico city being a big push at the G league is making, where does that come from? Does that come from the NBA saying we want to test out a new market for you, or is that an opportunity for the G league to lead and say, Hey, we're going to go and really expand our platform.

Well, I think, I think it's an opportunity for us as the G league to leap. You know, usually you have so much of what's going on and starts at the NBA. And then we follow, I think in this scenario, we have a team in Mexico city that was an existing team and they wanted to come and join us in the G league.

And to be able to add that to our portfolio of teams. It's also, to be able to, from a Jeannine, stay appointed, to be able to be a part of the continued development of basketball in Mexico and Latin America, is, is huge that I I'd be remissed if I didn't acknowledge, like it's a ton of great learning for the NDA.

Right? Mexico city has been, a city that the MBA has gone to and come for for many years, held games there. But I think now. You, you really, you know, dig in and have the opportunity. We need to have a, a team there and be able to learn there. So, you know, the opportunity is, is, is great, but I think it, you know, it's kind of, you know, our G league opportunity to do, you know, make it something special.

And we can see if that graduates into like an NBA opportunity or an NBA team down the line.

Yeah, I'm really excited to see how that franchise and market develops for you guys. I'm also excited to talk to you about the G league select program. certainly, have a personal affection towards. these guys, since I'm an investor in overtime and we've seen guys like Jalen greens, Hey, Todd, you know, grow up before our eyes.

This is also I think really interesting because now here you have, I think, you know, every day it seems like a new guy committing to this program, where you're really offering a professional path for that gap year. And you know, you, you introduced it a year ago. There weren't any initial commits, but now you have.

Something like six or seven of the top 100 rated guys. committing, I think a lot of that's probably been driven by COVID and the desire for a safe and secure place to train it. And obviously this, this incredible thing you're putting together. I imagine too, it's it's near and dear. To your heart and experience, you were parade all American.

You were big time, high school recruit you, but you excelled at in college, you know, all American there as well. And you also have a son who's is a top recruit. I help our listeners understand a little bit about the purpose of the select program, how that came to be and where you see it going. And you know, like who these players will be competing against and everything.

Yeah. So first I would say, you know, we announced the day, so, you know, we called it a couple of different things, but we announced today that the team will be. R G Lee ignite team. So the name of the team will be G team ignites on, you know, I'm 

breaking it here 

Yeah, I heard it here first. We love those game plan. Exclusives.

but no, it's really, you know, this is, initiative that, you know, for a long time, the NBA has, you know, looked at and just having a closer relationship with, you know, make it up elite youth and there. you know, their, their pathway towards the NBA and towards professional basketball, we've seen over just the last number of years we saw, we've seen players take gap years and just, you know, take off and train.

We've seen, go to, Australia, other places to start their professional career. And I think what we would say from a genomic standpoint for, you know, for these players that, You know, are you ready to start their professional career that, you know, probably in a different world, NBA rules were different.

They would make a jump directly to the MBA, you know, for those players ready, we have an opportunity to help them start preparing for. The NBA, to, you know, start understanding professional life. you know, we, we have a track record of developing NBA players, as you know, 50, as you pointed out, you know, some 50% of NBA players come through our league.

So we feel like we have the pedigree to do that. and, and not, you know, really for Austin, that's what we want to do. We think is good for, for basketball. And these players are connected to, you know, our league and, and, and, you know, our teams. our NBA personnel can see them and we can just really be a part of their journey earlier.

They'll play, you know, some number, you know, 25 or so games. And we have a plaque, we have infrastructure and a platform for them to play, you know, our teams, our players, you know, in a normal year we thought that we could, you know, travel some, you know, we have, the NBA has academies in Africa, Jeremy's in Latin America.

So we thought, you know, the Academy in Australia that, you know, those would be opportunities for them as well. But, you know, we're really most interested in just helping and seeing these young men start their path of develop and growing into 

We have a lot of entrepreneurs and investors that are listeners to the game. Plan. And we like to really dig in on how things come to fruition and are developed over time. And again, I think this select team's really interesting because you did announce it and not originally initially have any commitments, help our listeners understand a bit what that's been like from your perspective, the balance of.

Hey, let's take a day by day approach to continue push things forward and develop some, nothing new, but also like, let's see, keep in mind, mind, or like let's have a plan or a North star of what we're, where we're trying to go. And I'm sure there's a lot of different ways that this select program could go.

Whether that's earlier youth development or more markets, you don't have to talk about any of that specifically, but how do you balance the progress that you need to make with a grand vision to go accomplish big things?

Well, I mean, I think you, you have to, you know, to your point, you had to start day by day. You know, you have to have a, you know, you have to know where you want to go. What do he want to accomplish? But you gotta have the start. Any in these baby steps because it's, you know, it's almost no one, you know, goals from a to Z, in turning on their business, you know, in our case when we started, you know, kinda, and it predates me, but we just started with again, you know, like an idea and we saw a need and, you know, I poured it out.

You know, the players take a gap years. I'm leaving and going to play over, you know, more and more. I think what we see, you know, in all walks of life, you just see young people taking a little bit more control over there. their lives, their careers, their, their direction, be it, you know what mean university they're going to go to less parents have less and less say over the university of acumen will go to right.

And you know, same. Like they're just not taking. traditional routes when I was in, you know, when I was in high school, I would have thought you were crazy to say, you know, don't go to college, you're going to have to go pro and, now you see, you know, young men that are doing it, they're they're ready.

So some of it is driven just by, you know, just by the market and what you, what you see and being able to kind of respond and, and have a place. And then, you know, as learnings. Within that. I think what you, what you see now is like some of the learnings that we've had and how we've had to iterate an opportunity.

That's been presented to us.

Yeah, I really liked him framing there about the idea of risk taking. And that's something that I think we as investors think about a lot, which is the idea of risk and risk assessment. Now I'm sure in your position as Julie president, you are looking at some initiatives that may or may not have worked out, help us understand some of those.

Where were some of the ones where you came in and you really thought, okay, this is one of the biggest risks that we are taking. And now looking back, how have some of those panned out.

Well, I think of us, I think of our league is as an emerging league. Right. And, you know, is, is, is full of opportunity, but you know, to your point is full of risk, but you know, it also, we are also not without competition. Right. And I think the biggest risk we have is, is like, is a Nosha right? So like not doing it, you know, so if we just said, okay, we're not going to be a part of these young players journeys, is too risky.

You know, we don't know what's going to happen, or we're not going to try to expand or grow to Mexico. you know, someone else is going to do it. You know, and, you know, I think feel that that risk to be would be more detrimental than, not try it, like not trying. Right. So I think, you know, obviously you, you understand, the landscape and what you're going into and, you know, to go to all the different iterations and scenarios of, of your business and the opportunity you're looking at, but.

Yeah. Ultimately like you have to, you know, I think you have to try, you have to put yourself out there. You know, we live in here, like, you know, very uncertain times. you know, but you know, it's also, you know, people, some people will go, you know, well, rise through opportunity. We don't see opportunities come out of these times too.

And you have to, you know, in a thoughtful, educated way, you know, make, make a, you know, I guess in basketball terms, check your shot.

I love that. One of the ways that, Tim and I talk about, you know, things are different these days, especially in the social media era, is that players are becoming bigger brands than the teams or leagues that they play for. And we've certainly seen over the last few months how these players have used.

This platform to shed light on topics that matter a lot to them specifically on topics of social injustice. When you think about the G league and you have, you know, a lot of players who, for whom this matter is also very personal, but maybe have less of a platform. How do you think about them getting involved in these conversations and how should they get involved in these conversations?

Yeah. Yeah, we see it. Like we've said in our league, we've seen it, you know, just, it's not as visible. Right. And they don't have to sing, you know, they don't have millions of followers, but I think their, their, their interest is the same. And I think, you know, we're in just in this moment of time, what we've seen.

It has, you know, the guys want to leverage their platforms to call attention to, you know, injustices, but, you know, first and foremost, they just feel compelled that, you know, they see something that's wrong and they want to, you know, be a part of change. And our G league players are the same, you know, the same way, you know, it just, again, they may not have the resources or the platform.

I think he calls, you know, it kind of puts the onus on us as a league a little more to like help them that way. And, you know, the NBA has a long tradition of doing it with the NBA and with our players. You know, I think in this moment in time, the NBA players have just as big of a platform as the NBA, but even, you know, in years before that, you know, the NBA great job of always helping players that way.

And, you know, that's the same thing we want to do, for our, for our players in the G league.

Yeah, I'm sure you're itching to get the G league teams back on the court. But I imagine it's all hands on deck just to, for the NBA to continue to get through their season. And then they're obviously going to have to sort a lot of things as it. As they look to next season, not sure how much you can share, but help us get an understanding of where your head is at with the G league and coming back to basketball, whether it's in arenas or a bubble environment, you know, there's a lot of guys out there that want to play there's teams that want to get them back.

And this is, I'm sure something that kind of keeps you up at night. So help us understand a little bit, where things are at.

Yeah, I think, I think first and foremost, you have to think of it as my people. Right? You have to dig out or people you want to, whatever you're doing, you want to do it in a way. Yeah, it's keeping people safe and healthy. So, you know, we, we start there, you know, and then you understand the resource in the platform that we are for so many, you know, so many guys and for our teams and you want to, we, we want to figure it out how we, continue that, you know, again, our, our, our, our GV player, they need a place to play.

they need a platform, they need it, they need to work, you know, in many cases. so we're, we're, you know, working hard to figure out what that looks like, you know, for, you know, for the coming season. Is there something creative that we can do? Is it something different that, that we could do? you know, how do we continue to think about it?

Our, our, our teams, you know, in, in this environment, you know, we've seen so much new. technology, you know, how teams are there and their partners are implemented into the game, how fans are being included in the game in a different way. So we want to think about, you know, all of that. you know, again, I, I, I just start priority being one.

People are making sure they are. Safe and healthy. And then to being able to continue to provide a platform because it is, it's going to be, you know, a good collection of player that need to continue playing, continue working as they pursue their, their, their dream of playing in the NBA.

Yeah. So I think just to wrap on the topic of the G league, where do you see the league five years from now?

Yeah. No, this is a, it's a great question. You know, I want to S know, I heard, you know, at first, came over, I heard someone make the case that somebody, I really respect that they thought the G league was the second best basketball in the world. And, you know, and, you know, I w in a, compared to like NBA G league, you know, like Euro league, and then.

you know, college basketball and I think that's, that's, that's great. but you know, I really see us be in a place where you have, disconnection between our teams and the NBA. So we're 2018 now I think we're, you know, obviously really close to 30 teams where you have this one to one connection. and within, within our communities, we can provide, you know, one, the opportunity for fans to get to know basketball, the NBA, the next generation of players in a more intimate way.

from a business standpoint, we have the opportunity to continue trying things and innovating and adding a different element, to, to our business. And then, you know, work our young players. I just see us, having an opportunity to really have the best young players, in the world as a part of our li and you know, maybe even being their first step to.

Professional basketball. So, you know, the growing connection to the NBA, growing connection and being creative and innovating and finding new ways to do things. And then talent wise, having, you know, not just domestically, but even, even this year, we have, a young player from the Philippines, Kali Soto.

We had, you know, our first player from our NDA academies and crystal Paul's seeing from India. that will be on this, our, our first team ignite. And you heard it here first. but yeah, they'll be a part of our team. So just young players from around the world, viewing the G league, he has a place 

to get their start. 

Yeah. I mean, you're so right about that. Even thinking about family that I have in India and how big the NBA is there. When you look at giving a pathway to some of the best players in these countries, a pathway to the NBA, which they've now grown up watching and been a part of this global phenomenon that is the sport.

I think it is really exciting for them to sort of see a path to get there. I know we've taken up a lot of your time today, so we're going to let you go soon, but we'd like to wrap on two questions that we'd love to ask. I'll ask the first, you know, now that you've been in a corporate role for a little bit, What are some of the things that you've seen from your time on the court that have helped and translate it into your success off the court?

for sure. there's just no, no replacement for working hard and being committed to what you're doing. I think being creative, and, and, you know, you gotta try things. and, and in, in, in last, you know, you, you gotta trust your instincts, you know, you gotta, you know, so. More times than not, you know, you think of things that you think you're looking at things, and you look and you say, wow, like this is this.

And you know, when you pause or you don't do it, you second, guess yourself, what time is it? Not to me. Like, like I had it, I knew, you know, you knew that was the right thing. And I think, you know, I, that was in my, you know, when I was on the court, that was true and, you know, in business has been true. So I think.

Those things, working hard, you know, continuing to be creative and look for new ways to no add value and do thing. 

And then just trusting yourself. 

Well in a lot of ways, that's your younger self giving advice to your today? Self? So our last question is what's some advice you would now give your younger self. If you could tell yourself anything.

Wow. you know, enjoy yourself, really enjoy it. Cause it's going to be Mona. you know, you will learn a lot. You're gonna make mistakes. But you're going to be okay. I think younger, you worry so much and lasting in all seriousness. And I say this to all of our, you know, our genie guys, you know, you don't really do try to do a good job of cultivating relationships.

you know, as young players you come across, so many people, you know, want to be connected to you that from, from university through your, your career. And that's whether you're an NBA star or one of our G league guys, you meet so many people. you have no idea, you know, how you can help them or how they can help you.

So, you know, enjoy yourself, relax, you know, take it easy, stop and smell the roses. But also, you know, get to know people and cultivate relationships.

Well, Sharif, we really appreciate your perspective. We know that your time is limited, so we appreciate you coming on. Especially as we were joking before we went live about maybe zoom back to backs, being a little bit more stressful or tough than an NBA back to back, or at least there's definitely more of them.

So we appreciate it, man.

Thanks for reading. 

All right. Welcome back to another partner rundown on the game plan. Lastly, get into today. Let's get right into it. So Tim, this week's guest on the game plan is president of the NBA G league and former NBA, all star Sharif, Abdul Rahim. We discussed with Sharif how the G league has become the NBA secret weapon.

Why do you think that is. 

Yeah. I think fans that have been watching the NBA playoffs and NBA bubble closely are wondering where some of these guys have come from. Like. Duncan Robinson on the Miami heat, Lou Dort on the Oklahoma city thunder, I actually wrote a Twitter thread about Dunkin Robinson's kind of rise to the incredible success he's had here early in his career.

And the key part of that was the fact that he played for the heat's G league team. And they got an extended looks at him in a role where he could be that lead score or that. Number one or two option, which years ago wouldn't have existed, even though there was G league teams around, they weren't affiliated with the teams in the way they are now.

So NBA team owners actually didn't own the G league teams. They weren't close to the NBA markets. And that all started to change about five years ago when actually Oklahoma city was one of the first teams to do this, where they relocated their G league team. In the home teams market, the NBA also introduced two way contracts, which allowed for some more of that back and forth again, to get a better development view.

So I think it's been great to have the MBAs focus on this. It was great to hear from Sharif, how that's come to be. And I think that the G league is only going to continue to become more of a development asset for the league, especially with the introduction of this new select team they have for 19 year olds called G league ignite.

Yeah, Tim, the point that I really want to hit on that you touched on, there is the interplay between the NBA league and the G league, right? So it's kind of fascinating that the G league has effectively become this innovation studio on behalf of a major sports property. They're testing out things like the G league night, which you mentioned, which is the, you know, alternative potentially for the way the NCAA is a feeder system into the NBA, and they're going to home grow their talent.

They're going to grab talent from around the world. Places like India and China. And that's actually really fascinating. Meanwhile, on the topic of international expansion, you're seeing how Mexico city was, which is a property that the NBA has really had ion and they want to expand their, because of the demand there they're using the G league to sort of dip their toe in the water and see what it's like to have live games there.

What it's like to have a real fan base there. So I love the idea of a league actually having a focus on innovation. And then investing behind a property. Sure. There's going to be some conflict on the team level as they align, whether where the resources were allocated between a G league team and an NBA team.

But at the end of the day, if they're going in it with the idea that they're going to test out new things at the G league level, I think it's a really great opportunity for the NBA to learn and stay ahead of the curve.

so it's fantastic to have NFL games back in our lives, but with empty stadiums and fans at home, plenty are wondering why VR in sports. Isn't quite a thing yet. Jay, would you slap on a VR headset to watch a game?

So I absolutely would. I just think the problem is right now, VR is too cost prohibitive from both the fan standpoint and the production standpoint. So on the production side, you know, we saw the next VR when they were doing NBA games back in 2019, it costs them about 75,000 to a hundred thousand. Per game to create an NBA game.

Now the NBA has 82 games and you know, you've got 30 teams, so that's a lot of games to be producing at the cost of a hundred thousand. Take it to an NFL stadium. Sure. There are only 256 NFL games over the course of a season. But there's also a lot more vantage points. It's a much bigger field. There's a lot more players.

So even if we are in conservatively, you know, what the cost would be per season, that's almost 50 million. They have to invest in or to produce content for an NFL season. I mean, how many fans do you think would have to go up and pick up a VR headset to go do it? I would be one of the first of them. I just don't think it's feasible right now.

Yeah, I just could not disagree more. I think what gets lost as people talk about VR and its potential is actually just how incredible the TV production is. You mentioned having multiple vantage points. Well, what's a better way to experience multiple vantage points. It's with a producer, that's cutting a game live and you can see all of those different vantage points versus the very isolating experience of VR.

And so in a lot of ways, The way I see live sports in VR is like when movies first started being produced and it was literally just the filming of action onstage. And that's where VR as it relates to sports is right now, I think VR might have a ton of applications in non live content for content that's developed specifically for the VR experience, where you can be immersed.

You can travel within a certain three 60 world, but the end game experience just doesn't cut it for me.

certainly we're divided on this one time and I think we might be on the next one too. It seems to be like, there's a divide between whether investors like to see an exit slide when a company pitches them. So tell me, have you ever invested in a company that's pitched you with an exit slide in their deck?

Yeah, I feel like I've seen it at a time or two. I'm a seed and series a investor. So it's not necessarily the focal point of any of the pitches we're having. I don't mind it. I'm not looking for it. I don't mind having that conversation of. Seven to 10 years from now when it's time to exit, what does that look like?

Are you going to attack a big enough market where your goal and vision is to try to IPO and go public someday? Or are you going to raise capital in a, maybe more conservative and strategic manner where a smaller, multiple exit could be attractive to you? So again, I mean, really anything in a pitch deck, I would say I don't mind because it's just the founder showing different ways that they're thinking about the future and growth of their company.

so I'm not against it.

See, I'm exactly the opposite. I don't want to talk about an exit in the first couple of conversations that I'm having with the company. What I'm looking to do with the companies that I'm talking to is hearing how you're going to build a category defining business and a category defining business typically is one that gets to a pretty massive IPO or exit down the line.

Look, we know exits are going to happen. That's the only way that the founder and the investor are going to make money. And actually, as a matter of fact, 65% of companies are going to exit. they're just going to exit without returning the initial capital. They borrowed. That's the data that we've seen from the last decade.

So. Exits, aren't something that's taboo. I just don't want to make that the focus of it, any of our conversations when we are deciding whether we want to get into business together, what I want to hear about is how are you going to go out and acquire customers? Why are you different? What is your super power?

All of those conversations have nothing to do with. The multiple you're going to exit at, who's going to acquire you, what you think you're going to exit for the assumption we're coming in. When you're pitching me is you want to build this into the biggest business possible, and that's going to hopefully be rewarded by a pretty large exit and a pretty meaningful return for both.

Well, speaking of the category that we all thought was defined, but it's changed a ton lately. Let's talk about baseball trading cards. This market has gotten really hot during the pandemic for completely different reasons than the nostalgia that we had as kids. Jay, I know you've been exploring this recently, 

what exactly is happening? 

Yeah, let me contextualize this with a couple of stats first. So earlier this month, Mike trout, rookie cards sold for 3.9 million, which made it the all time record sale, even beating out LeBron's $1.8 million card. Also the PWC index, which tracks this like the S and P 500 actually outperformed the S and P 500 by almost two times.

So you were better off putting your money in trading cards. Look in the nineties, sports cards were effectively saturated because the leagues didn't have any exclusive deals. So tops, panini, upper deck, they were all creating cards for all the leagues. And you as a collector, didn't know what you could invest in and where your money would actually appreciate.

I think now the nice thing that's happened is the league has exclusive deals. So you're seeing big collectors, like our friend, Gary Vaynerchuk, back up the Brinks truck and try to actually get into this collecting business and see the value that they're going to put in. Appreciate over the next decade.


Well, this is just absolutely fascinating. And I love to see something that's been around for a hundred years, just completely change. And I certainly think the pandemic's been a key part of that when you think of people looking for ways to connect a ways to potentially share beyond just through their computer screen.

So when you get that physical card, whether it's through opening a pack or maybe something you purchased online, There's a feeling that comes over over you and you can't necessarily put a price on that. But to hear some of these prices, three, $4 million is just absolutely wild. And it also ties back to the conversation we had on a recent partner rundown about fractionalized assets.

So we talked about companies like rally road and masterworks, which is doing this in art. And in a lot of ways, I think trading cards are. Art for a different generation. So I love the fact that the league has gotten smart about it with the trading card companies going to exclusivity like you mentioned.

And I think that this whole category is going to continue to grow.

yeah, it is fascinating, right? Because we're seeing millennials start to trade stocks on Robin, or like it's a game. And now we're trying to trade things that we used to be games as stocks. So there's, there's gotta be something interesting to follow over the next couple of months and we'll make sure we talk about it again on the rundown.

So thanks so much for joining me this week, Tim.

Thanks, Jay. 

Hey everybody, that's it for this week's episode of the game. I just want to hit on a few things before you go big. Thank you to our guests, Sharif, Abdul Raheem for sharing his journey from NBA, all star to NBA G league president special. Thanks. Go out to our producers will Richardson as well as Megan Rojas for all of their hard work in packaging up and promoting the game plan.

And finally, thank you for listening. If you've made it this far, you must really like the game plan. So find us on Twitter at the game plan show and leave us a five star review on iTunes. We'll see you next week on the game plan.