We need our just as former athletes, and, especially, as former basketball players. In the United States football is king. And a lot of shows that you see Monday through Friday , they all feature former football players. And this is not, like, since last night, this has been for the last 25 years. Think about it: [Mike] Golic, Cris Carter, Marcellus Wiley, Shannon Sharpe, Michael Strahan, Nate Burleson, all former football players. Since 2011, I’m the only former basketball player to be on a show like that. My name is on the guide.
Why do you think that basketball players can’t crack that ceiling?
Because we’ve been minimized by corporate America to believe we need to latch onto somebody or something to have staying power, or that we are replaceable once we get to a certain price point. In football, we’ve been conditioned to believe there’s so much money in the game that they should give it to Troy Aikman. But in basketball? Crickets…
The next part of this is ownership: athletes make a lot of content, but own very little of it. It reminds me of record labels. You get a salary, you do your content and you don’t own anything. You see what just happened with Pat McAfee?
Yeah, he got paid. [McAfee, the former Indianapolis Colts punter-turned-content creator, recently inked a $120 million deal with FanDuel.]
I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I’m happy for Pat, that’s my guy. I played in Indianapolis and worked with him here at ESPN. He came in and got that in three years. He worked at ESPN, what? One or two years? It didn’t take long. He works hard, he’s talented, he’s good at what he do.
But what we have to do, as former athletes and Black people, is always ask: who’s the Black version of that successful picture? When you’re watching your favorite basketball or football game, very minimal Black play-by-play folks, very minimal Black hosts, very few former basketball players are getting paid top dollar.
What do you want your legacy to be? You’ve been so specific about what you want to leave behind and what you want to give to the game that I’d think you already know.
Being the founder of JRLA—and being the first Jalen. I like to say I’m best known in barbershops and delivery rooms [laughs]. I’m so very fortunate that if somebody havin’ a baby, the name “Jalen” is gonna get mentioned at some point. And that ain’t a shotgun decision. In the barbershop, folks say they need to get a cut like mine. Me giving back to people and changing lives, especially with JRLA, that means something to me. That’s the number one thing…
Love or hate from the public has nothing to do with stats or championship rings. Ask Scottie Pippen. That’s my OG, he’s got six rings, but he looks back in the rearview mirror at the journey and it’s a lot of turbulence. He looks at it and says, “You know what, instead of these six rings, they could’ve gave me $60 million dollars.”
I don’t want to minimize what sports has done to my life, because it has changed the dynamic of my family and the trajectory of my goals and dreams. It means everything to me that I got a chance to play basketball. But it ain’t a top five thing in my life, if I were to seriously think about it. Not compared to my love of God, or being a great father, or a responsible human being.
So, what I’ve learned to do is try to master the game of life. I’ve been around public figures that are disliked, and I’ve always appreciated that my energy was the exact opposite. And, I can’t front family, that’s enough for me. I don’t know what I did, but I wanna keep that!