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NBA Players Enroll in Harvard Business Courses

Recently, Hawks players Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari became two of the 10 National Basketball Association players selected to participate in the “Crossover Into Business” program at the Harvard Business School.

The virtual, semester-long program, taught by Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse, is “built to help professional athletes be better prepared for business activities during and after their active sports careers,” according to Harvard’s course description.

It begins on January 30 and matches the athletes with second-year Harvard Business School MBA students. The students are mentors and assist in developing business plans, as well as working on ways to help the players with current business endeavors. The players’ have a final presentation due in April, displaying their plan to the class and professor.

“It’s a program I have been looking at for some years now,” said Gallinari. “Now you can do everything online so it’s a good time to do it.”

Bogdanovic learned about the program after receiving an email from the National Basketball Players Association and quickly applied.

“I really liked the idea; learning about the NBA and NBPA and the benefits we can get is pretty exciting,” he said. “I believe this will be a great learning experience.”

This class can prepare him to take over the financial side of his career after he decides to retire.

“I hear a lot of stories about players struggling –financially and socially– after their careers are are over because the NBA spoils us,” he said. “It’s the top sports organization in the world, and this opportunity with Harvard, one of the top academies in the world, is proof of that.”

A prime example of a player struggling financially after their career includes Allen Iverson. His successful career ended in 2010, and by 2012, his $200 million in earnings had been depleted. When he couldn’t pay a $900,000 obligation to a jeweler, his bank account boiled over. He then declared bankruptcy. 

​​Gallinari also understands that basketball doesn’t last forever. With this program, starting a business of his own can be an option.

“It’s about getting the education, I want to be prepared before I do anything in business,” he said.

The pilot program partnership began with the NBA in 2017 and now includes many athletes who have participated in the program, including Paul Millsap, Zaza Pachulia, Terrence Ross and Spencer Dinwiddie; as well as former NFL tight end Martellus Bennett and other athletes from the WNBA, Major League Soccer, UFC and the American Ballet Theater. 

NBA all-star Chris Bosh was one of the first to join the program. The Georgia Tech legend was intrigued by the chance to study at HBS after studying management in college. According to The Harvard Gazette, his time there was profound and impactful.

“This whole experience is amazing, not only for me, but I’m pretty sure all the other guys feel the exact same way,” he said. “You get out of it what you put into it, so while I have the opportunity to be speaking to these guys, really picking their brains, just asking questions, I really just want to be a sponge and learn everything.”

More and more players today are deciding to enroll in these classes, as they see the benefits of a financial education.

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