After being selected 13th overall by the Toronto Raptors in last month’s NBA Draft, former Kansas sharpshooter Gradey Dick received a DM that read “welcome home” from Drake, the rap icon and the world’s most famous Raptors fan.
“He’s on tour right now, so I haven’t put a face on it, but when [Drake’s] back, maybe we can get together and just talk for the first time,” Dick, who was recently in Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League, told Front Office Sports. “I’m excited to meet him and pick [his] brain. He has a background in all this financial stuff.”
Drake — who according to Forbes earned an estimated $49 million in 2020 alone — became a global ambassador for the Raptors in 2013, and his record label OVO acquired naming rights to the team’s practice facility in 2019. Kentucky men’s basketball team recently practiced at Drake’s $100 million Toronto home gym, and his other sports interests span OVO’s FC Barcelona apparel collaboration and his investments in Italian soccer club AC Milan and Overtime’s OTE basketball league.
For now, Dick, who signed a four-year, $21.4 million rookie deal with the Raptors, is leaning on the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program, held over four days in Las Vegas. New Orleans Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr., who recently bought a stake in English soccer club Leeds United, was among the veterans to talk to the rookies in Vegas.
“Larry Nance talked a lot about being smart with money, the things people don’t think about with taxes and different places where they take a large sum of it away, where guys might not think about it when they get their paycheck and be surprised by the number that actually comes through,” Dick said. “Personally, I’m a big saver, so it was helpful to hear from [Nance] how he keeps track of his money.”
As an American in Canada, Dick and his teammates who claim US residency will not only be federally taxed by the IRS on all income, but will likely be taxed at Canada’s maximum 53.53% rate (federal and provincial combined) for all game checks at Raptors home games. When the Raptors played home games in Tampa for the 2020-21 season due to the pandemic, saved millions of dollars in taxes by playing in Florida, a state with no income tax.
“One of the things I quickly had to understand was the different tax rules. I’m honestly still learning about it,” said Dick, who is repped by WME Sports.
In Kansas, Dick had NIL deals with Beats by Dre, Addias, clothing brand Charlie Hustle, Tommy’s Express Car Wash and Continental Tire. Now as a professional, Dick has resumed Adidas and partnered with Chipotle and Philips Norelco. The 19-year-old Wichita native credits NIL with giving him a head start on business savvy.
“The things I was able to learn with NIL throughout college — not just making cool commercials, but learning the background of a business and how to take care of money at an early age — I was able to carry that over to some of these discussions out here [in the NBA].”
The Rookie Transition Program is led by Jamila Wideman, the NBA’s SVP of Player Development. She is also an original WNBA player, having played in the league’s inaugural season 1997 through 2000.
“I think NIL is a really good example of a recent emergence that we’ve had to turn around very quickly,” Wideman told FOS. “What this really reveals is that the starting point for when players need to have access to resources to manage and understand their finances now starts a little earlier. The benefit of that is some of the guys coming in have had it different and come in with some level of awareness.”
A college player’s NIL experience can vary greatly depending on their sport, school, conference and individual success. For basketball and football players at Power 5 schools, the top half averaged $45,000 in NIL deal profits, while the bottom half averaged $15,000 annually. Former University of Michigan basketball star Hunter Dickinson said this spring that his decision to transfer to Kansas, Dick’s alma mater, was driven by NIL opportunities.
“It’s also an area where we want to be very careful not to paint with a broad brush,” Wideman said. “Because where one guy who has a NIL deal might have had a tremendous amount of resources and training around how to handle that deal, another guy might not. And then when we get together with them for the Rookie Transition Program, we learn who’s who.”
Former NBA players Eddy Curry and Tracy Murray also spoke at the Rookie Transition Program, as well as Hall of Famer Ray Allen.
“We try to tailor the resources and the guidance that we provide with an understanding of where the guys are actually coming from. So we’re serving both individuals, but also the group of guys, and we want to make sure that everybody when they walk out the door shares a baseline,” Wideman said. “Our programming really represents what’s happening in the broader sports world, what’s happening in the broader culture. Our programming is meant to evolve.”
The Rookie Transition program also covers topics such as mental health, maintaining healthy relationships, social justice, sleep and nutrition, character building, and how to build a financial team. After the NFL suspended nine players this offseason for violations of the league’s gambling policy, the NBA has also focused on gambling education in Las Vegas.
“[Sports betting] is an area that has suddenly come to the fore, it’s certainly a conversation that we’re raising here at the Rookie Transition Program,” Wideman said. “There is mandatory training related to gambling, not just for rookies, but for whole teams. So make sure players are fully aware of the rules, but also just aware of what the risks are more generally.”