Is NBA Failing Retired Players?| 18 Former NBA Players Charged In Health and Welfare Fraud Scheme

Formr NBA player Glen "BigBaby" Davis is one of 18 former NBA players arrested in an alleged scheme to defraud the league's health benefits plan. (PhotoBig3/Youtube)

Maybe some athletes really do live under a rock or just don’t watch the news or read the paper. On Sept. 7, former NFL star Clinton Portis plead guilty to health care fraud. He was one of twelve former NFL-players to do so. Portis is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 6, 2022 and could face some serious prison time — as much as 10 years behind bars.

Big NBA Names In The Insurance Fraud Game

This past week, 18 former NBA players were also charged by federal authorities with conspiracy to commit insurance fraud in the amount of $4 million against the NBA’s Health and Welfare Benefit Plan. 

Those players include; Tony Allen (former All-NBA First Team Defense), Glen “Big Baby” Davis (NBA champion), Terrence Williams, Alan Anderson, Shannon Brown (NBA champion), Will Bynum, Melvin Ely, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Tony Wroten, Milt Palacio, Antoine Wright, Darius Miles, Ruben “The Self Proclaimed Kobe Stopper” Patterson, Eddie Robinson, Charles Watson Jr., Gregory Smith, Jamario Moon and Sebastian Telfair (Brooklyn Stand Down). Allen’s spouse is even mentioned in the scandal.

In something very similar to what the NFL players did, those NBA players allegedly received reimbursement for medical services never received.

Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York had this to say in a press conference on Thursday:

“The defendants’ playbook involved fraud and deception. Thanks to the hard work of our law enforcement partners, their alleged scheme has been disrupted and they will have to answer for their flagrant violations of law.”

Black Eye On NBA Player’s Union 

This is a black eye on the NBPA, which has worked diligently to increase benefits for retired players. In 2016 the NBA became the first North American professional sports league to offer medical benefits to retired players. This came after the sudden deaths of Moses Malone (heart disease) and Darryl Dawkins (heart attack) in 2015. 

Their deaths inspired an outpouring of support from players like LeBron James, Chris Paul and others. Michael Jordan used his incomparable influence to persuade some other owners to get on board with increasing benefits for retired players. The retirement pensions players received were embarrassingly modest and needed a boost. 

With a player only having to play three full seasons in the league to be eligible to receive benefits, having these new mandates in place seemed much more beneficial to retired players. 

Every NBA player facing charges played at least the three required seasons to receive benefits. It’s become apparent that what the league was providing wasn’t enough. There were retired players who actually lied on paperwork, claiming to be serviced in the states as they blatantly played in other countries.

In many ways, this is downright appalling and just the type of thing that could ruin things for future retirees.

Tony Wroten, a formers Sixers guard who was instrumental in “The Process” era, allegedly submitted false invoices for dental work on multiple occasions, according to federal prosecutors. The players allegedly submitted $3.9 million in fake invoices.

NBA Failing Retired Players?

On the other hand, the NBA should take some responsibility because the league made a record $1.46 billion in sponsorship revenue alone in its 2020-21 regular season. The fact that all of these players seemingly had to resort to illegal activities to maintain a decent lifestyle post-NBA is an indictment on how poorly the league provides for its retired players. 

It will be interesting to see how this bombshell plays into the next collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which is scheduled to be negotiated in 2024.

With Chris Paul now turning the reins over to Blazers star CJ McCollum as president of the NBPA Executive Committee and incoming Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio replacing the retiring Michelle Roberts at year’s end, this topic will be one which the new leaders will concentrate on. It will set an early tone for how they will go about their jobs. It’s sure to be a sticking point in negotiations come 2024.