As soon as the NBA announced that the season had been suspended indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic, Blazers star CJ McCollum was at the forefront of players voicing their opinions. In fact, he was in the middle of recording an episode of his podcast "Pull Up with CJ McCollum" alongside Carmelo Anthony when they both found out the news.
One of the first things he said in reaction was that in this time athletes would have to "educate [themselves] on financial literacy, what it means to save money [and] what it means to start portfolios" amid a crisis like this (video above). Now, nearly a month later, McCollum informed ESPN's Jay Williams on "The Boardroom" that several players are going through exactly that financial issue he had hinted at (h/t Cassandra Negley of Yahoo! Sports).
150 NBA players is an overwhelming amount, but when you consider all of the people that they are likely to be taking care of and the factor of giving back to their communities, as McCollum noted, it's not overly difficult to say how even a highly-paid athlete could be struggling during the work stoppage. We hear heroic tales everyday from NBA stars, such as how Al Horford donated $500 thousand to the Dominican Republic and to other locations where he's played basketball. Given his lucrative contract, he should seemingly be able to "spare" that much money and made the personal choice to do so.
However, for players on minimum contracts or rookie deals who are tasked with the lift of supplying family members and friends, paying off their own expenses -- which may have become quite lavish after making it to the NBA -- and working to support the overall NBA community, you can begin to understand why such an unprecedented stoppage is taking a toll on such a large portion of the league. McCollum has an inside look at all these issues as the vice president of the players association, and so has likely been confronted directly with players struggling to get by and change their lifestyle habits during this time.
While the average salary in the league is slightly above $6.9 million, according to Basketball Reference, the median salary is significantly lower, at around $2.9 million. Thus, for stars in the upper echelon like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Zion Williamson and Horford whose contracts make the average salary so high, the news we hear about them helping to donate to various causes is heartwarming. What we don't hear, however, are the stories of players struggling to help even their own families. Now, McCollum has brought this unfortunate truth to light.