Mason Plumlee

Center for the Detroit Pistons. Former center for the Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers and Brooklyn Nets.

Athletes and entertainers face unique wealth management opportunities, considerations and challenges. The athletes and entertainers we interviewed shared their personal stories and perspectives to highlight the need for more financial education in the sports and entertainment world. We thank them for being strong advocates of financial literacy.

Mason’s advice

“It’s truly an advantage to come into this level of wealth early in life. Managing your wealth is never going to be your full-time job. It’s your responsibility to find advisors who are really good at it.

Partner with them to invest with the end in mind. Don’t take anything for granted—you’re one injury away from your career ending.”

Strong principles

Mason comes from a long line of basketball players. His parents, grandfather and uncles all played college basketball. His brothers Miles and Marshall have also played in the NBA. Despite his basketball pedigree, Mason had a conventional middle-class upbringing in Indiana. His parents, Leslie and Perky, met at basketball camp and went on to pursue careers as a pharmacist and attorney respectively. “Both my parents worked full-time. They were financially conservative and responsible.” Mason’s grandfather, a retired professor, owned a working farm where grandchildren helped with chores.

A strong work ethic was instilled in Mason early on. “On a farm, you don’t punch a clock—you work until the task is complete.” The principles he learned at home helped Mason to stay grounded in the heady world of the NBA, where the 30-year-old has earned over $50 million in career income.

Basketball dreams

By middle school, Mason was traveling across the country with his summer Amateur Athletic Union basketball team. The experience gave him a taste of the NBA lifestyle. “I now fly 50,000 miles per year.” Mason and his older brother Miles left Indiana to attend Christ School, a boarding school in North Carolina renowned for its stellar academics and competitive basketball program. A few years later, legendary Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski recruited Mason.

Some athletes are taking care of entire communities of family and friends, sometimes for 10 to 15 years. They have really good intentions but fall into financial hardship because so many people depend on them for support.

The Blue Devils won the 2010 NCAA Men’s National championship during Mason’s first year at Duke. Although Mason considered going professional during his junior year, he stayed in college to complete his degree in psychology. The Brooklyn Nets selected him as the 22nd overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft.

Know your wealth

As a rookie, Mason learned that it is important to ask questions about one’s wealth. “I remember the first check I got. I thought it was a bonus for playing in the summer league, but it was actually an advance.” Athletes also need to be mindful of fees and taxes. “Between agent negotiations and taxes, $100,000 is really $60,000 net.” Mason credits a serendipitous internship at a wealth management firm with helping him understand key investment concepts and shaping his perspectives on money. “It was a quick education to go from a college stipend to an NBA salary. You have to understand what money means.”

The right mentors

Some NBA players believe it is taboo to discuss money, while others welcome these conversations. “I benefitted from older players who shared both their good experiences and pitfalls. The most valuable lessons came from veteran players who got caught up in Ponzi schemes and scams. I avoided some financial mistakes that I could have easily made early in my career.” Mason has also been inspired by stories of players who grew their wealth through relying on their business acumen. He recalls hearing Junior Bridgeman talk about his experience as a franchisee. Although Junior never made more than $350,000 a year in the NBA, he went on to build a fast food empire, owning over 250 Wendy’s and Chili’s franchises.

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