Ex-forward: After injury I failed to smoothly transition to post-NBA life


dwight-davisNot every NBA player is able to make a smooth transition to the post-NBA life. A recent study even indicated that about 60 percent of former NBA players go bankrupt after just few years of retirement.

Former NBA forward, member of NBRPA Board of Directors, Dwight Davis had a different issue – a career-ending injury that forced him to hang his sneakers for good.

Davis recently spoke with Legends of Basketball about the NBRPA and his own transition from playing the game to living his life beyond the court.


Why did you get involved with the NBRPA and its Board of Directors?

I’ve been involved with the NBRPA since the mid-1990s as a member. My Dad was a union guy at Southern Pacific Railroad and – being a student of history – I always felt that when a group is united they can achieve more. So that’s what drew me to the NBRPA … I liked the idea that we, as former players, could accomplish more together.

As I became involved in the organization, I thought I could offer a unique perspective to the Board. I am guy who was not a star player in the NBA and I did not make millions of dollars over the course of a long career. I had a career cut short by injury and I had difficulty transitioning into life after basketball. I thought I was smart enough to make the transition smoothly, but I failed at it and went through some very difficult times.

For a long time, the NBRPA Board of Directors largely consisted of former star players. That’s not the case anymore, as we have a diverse mix of people and playing careers on the current board. But for a long time I didn’t see anyone representing “ME” and that is when I began to consider running for the Board. Finally, in 2013, I ran for and was elected to the Board by my peers.

Where I can be helpful to the NBRPA is my ability to empathize and understand a player facing transition, my experience in business development, nonprofit governance and fund raising combined with years of developing camps and clinics for underprivileged youth. I believe that my connection to business leaders throughout the country can have a positive effect on the organization by way of sponsorships. Additionally, I have been the celebrity sponsor of a high-profile golf tournament, bringing many sponsors to the table to help finance the event, and to put money into New Heights, a non-profit organization for at risk teens. At the end of the day, I am not afraid to roll up my sleeves and work.”

Dwight-davis-2How have you used those experiences to help the NBRPA in its community mission to give back?

Two summers ago, I spearheaded a signature NBRPA youth event that took place in Sandy Hook/Newtown, Conn. – a community where a horrific elementary school shooting had taken place. I helped organize two youth clinics for the community, I solicited sponsors to support the event and I worked with my fellow NBRPA members to give back to several hundred elementary school children.

This wasn’t just a basketball event or a fun day out … there were life lessons learned (on both sides) and we were able to leave a check behind to help the community support the vitality and education of young people. Our members’ desire to rally around communities in need makes me very proud to serve the NBRPA.

The NBRPA also supported my community endeavors during All-Star Weekend in 2013 in my hometown of Houston, as my wife Gayle and I put together a youth empowerment event at my alma mater – Worthing High School. This event included speaking to the entire student body in a general assembly, visiting dozens of classrooms alongside my fellow NBRPA members and other successful Worthing alums, was dear to my heart. Worthing High School … that’s my neighborhood!

Once it was a fabulous school, but in the last couple of decades the neighborhood became rundown, infested with several gangs and the dropout rate increased. I wanted to go back to Worthing and bring back great and successful alums such as NBRPA Member David Lattin and former NFL great Cliff Branch, as well as graduates who became physicists, fire fighters, a State Senator and successful businessmen and women to get the students acquainted with their legacy.

This was important to me because I relate to these kids. I came from a time in America when there weren’t a lot of opportunities for people of color. I grew up in the segregated south. I had to ride in the back of bus until age 10 … I couldn’t go to the Houston Public Library. Even as a kid, I knew I wanted to help make changes and impact others as an adult community events such as this allow me to do just that.”

What are your other goals for the NBRPA as a Board Member?

As Board Members, it should be our obligation to use and leverage our outside relationships for the betterment of the RPA. For me, having had a chance to work on a number of other boards, I know how professional boards should operate and I believe we can do a better job. As a local United Way board member and capital campaign leader, I’ve been a part of million-dollar fundraising campaigns and we can do that here at the NBRPA. We can raise the NBRPA Board to a higher level functionality for the benefit of our membership.

This is an exciting time for the NBRPA and it’s so pleasing to see our partnerships with the NBA and Players Association growing stronger. Recently we stood alongside the NBA, the NBPA and President Obama to announce a commitment to the ‘Your Brother’s Keeper’ mentoring initiative for young men of color and that was an amazing moment for all of our organizations.

It has been my desire since I have been involved with the RPA that the NBA, NBPA and NBRPA become a three legged stool – equal parts in our work of; successfully transitioning our players, building our communities and branding our great game – to share our unique experiences and set of skills to do more. It goes back to that union mentality – together we can do more.”

nbrpa-logoYou mentioned having a tough time in transition after basketball, but today you are a success in business and have a special role leading the New Hampshire Workforce Youth Council. How did you get involved and what does that work consist of?

Recently, my wife and I bought a Senior Helpers franchise, a national non-medical home health care franchise which we will launch this fall. However, I have a full-time job with Southern New Hampshire Services, which is the largest private non-profit in the State of New Hampshire. In my position as Manufacturing Career Pathways Facilitator, I am the evangelist for educating displaced workers and students about advanced manufacturing employment opportunities in the state. This new method of manufacturing incorporates technology and a high-level training that results in good paying long lasting careers.

Manufacturing is stereotyped as an old-age thing, a male-dominated place where diversity is not appreciated. It is no longer the 3 D’s: Dirty, Dark, and Dangerous. Advanced Manufacturing is totally different, filled with a diverse, computer literate workforce that operate sophisticated technological machines, operate robots, and execute specialized trades such as mechatronics, precision welding and much more. The United States Department of Labor sent $20 million to New Hampshire’s seven community colleges and the colleges are retooling their manufacturing labs to bring them up to speed according to today’s advanced industry standards.

I get to speak about and explain all these wonderful opportunities to our young people and displaced workers in New Hampshire. It’s very rewarding. We can take a kid who dropped out of school and give them an aptitude test to see if they are equipped for these specialized fields, and many are. If so we can lay out a path toward long-term employment through education and training and provide the tools necessary to climb the ladder. Or take an older manufacturing worker who needs a skills update, then train them so that they can continue employment. For me it’s all about helping people and helping communities … the same as my work with the NBRPA.

In 2007, I was appointed by New Hampshire Governor John Lynch to join the New Hampshire Workforce Youth Council. Governor Lynch saw my connection to youth via my NBA experience and the free clinics I held for youth provided me the latitude and ‘street cred’ to be an ambassador for education throughout the state. Youth connected with me in a way that many youngsters could not connect with either their parents or educators.

It allowed me the opportunity to impress upon them the value of completing high school (diploma or GED), going on to post secondary education opportunities and becoming a meaningful contributor to their success and our state’s economy. As a member of the council, my colleagues and I work to ensure our state remains economically healthy through investing in New Hampshire’s workforce.”

dwight-davis-2You’ve talked about how you used your board experience to promote the NBRPA brand in the community. How have you used your experience on non-profit boards to impact the NBRPA board of directors?

As I mentioned, I believe it is the responsibility of each board member to bring resources to the table that benefit our mission and membership. Those resources can be in the form of revenue, product or services. By the end of this year, I will have brought over $42,000 in revenues to the NBRPA while helping to establish relationships with some key sponsors. Also since being elected to the board I’ve been assigned to be the point person as the board looks to do a deep dive in how governance operates in similar non-profits such as the MLB Players Alumni Association, the NFL Players Association, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and a few others.

What I found out was not a surprise to me. The boards operate efficiently, purposefully and transparently. The most successful boards have fully-engaged board members that are counted on to be ‘rainmakers’ and work in sync with a good staff. We are fortunate to have a great staff led by Arnie Fielkow – a staff that continues to produce new opportunities for the NBRPA. Even though we are losing talented board members as of the 2015 NBA All-Star weekend, we are privileged to have a strong group of leaders, as well as several talented, selfless people running for election to the board. Our membership deserves the best board and staff possible. It may take six to nine months to get the board where it needs to be, but I believe my fellow board members are determined to get it done.


Dwight Davis is a community activist, motivational speaker and a businessman in life after basketball — joined the NBRPA Board of Directors in 2014. Davis starred at the University of Houston from 1969-72 and was inducted into his alma mater’s ”Hall of Honor” in 2006. He still holds many records for his rebounding, blocked shots and scoring at UofH. Davis has a BS degree from Houston and is a member of the Bauer Business School Circle of Honor where he has a scholarship endowment for athletes working towards a degree in business.

After his college career, Davis was selected as the third overall pick of 1972 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 6-8 forward played for 5 seasons in the NBA, three with Cleveland Cavaliers and two with Golden State Warriors. He played in total of 340 NBA games, averaging 8.6 ppg in 23.6 mpg. He was voted to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1972. Nicknamed “Double D,” Davis suffered a career ending injury in 1977.

 



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