If you watched the NBA All-Star Game this past weekend, you were treated to some broadcasting by Dwyane Wade. Wade joined the TNT team in 2019 almost immediately after retiring from the league and has since appeared sporadically to do game analysis. But at the All-Star Game, it became clearer than ever that he’s really developed a talent. Wade is a near-perfect modern commentator: knowledgeable without being overbearing, affable without being dull, and intimately familiar with the league as it exists today.
What may be most interesting as we consider Wade’s emerging talent as a broadcaster and analyst, however, is that he’s not alone. Recent NBA retirees have found numerous intriguing pursuits outside of basketball, but a number of them have gotten into analysis and/or commentating at least some of the time.
Garnett has been retired longest of anyone we’ll mention here and has already established what could well be a second career outside of basketball altogether. Of all things, he got into acting, starring alongside Adam Sandler in the weird but critically acclaimed Safdie brothers film Uncut Gems. And as Vulture’s write-up on the film put it, “he’s really acting, and he’s really great.” Garnett went well beyond delivering a cameo and instead put up a performance so strong there was a bit of Best Supporting Actor Oscar buzz.
Maybe this all just speaks to how comfortable Garnett is expressing himself though because he’s also proven to be a thoroughly capable basketball analyst. In stints with TNT and on his own show (Area 21) he’s presented a clear, no-nonsense brand of basketball breakdown that fans have consistently responded to.
A former teammate of Garnett’s, Pierce has also found some ways to amuse himself and make money beyond his basketball career. In his case, they appear to revolve somewhat around casinos and betting. Pierce was included in a Poker.org list of world-class athletes who have made themselves known in the poker world, having even competed in World Series of Poker events while he was still playing (in 2015). And even aside from poker, a more recent story about Pierce earning $20,000 by betting on arm-wrestling indicates he might simply have an interest in betting activity!
As much as Pierce appears to have an interest in poker and betting though, he’s found himself a stable day job in retirement as well. He’s been a regular analyst for ESPN for some time now, and like Wade offers clear and informed commentary on the league as it exists today.
And then there’s Richard Jefferson, who is perhaps the most established of this bunch in the broadcasting and analysis world. Jefferson only retired in October of 2018, and instantly stepped into the booth, working for the YES Network as an analyst for the Brooklyn Nets (one of his former teams). Now, however, Jefferson is something of a roving analyst, working for ESPN, appearing on FS1, and even doing some college basketball work for the Pac-12 (the conference he played in while at the University of Arizona).
Even though he hasn’t been at it all that long, Jefferson in particular has established himself as a fixture in basketball analysis — providing something of a blueprint for the likes of Wade, Garnett, and Pierce. It’s not that it’s unusual at all for former players to enter this profession. But to see a number of them doing it so soon after retiring is a little bit different, and honestly a little bit refreshing. There’s something that’s a lot of fun about listening to the input of players with an extremely fresh perspective on the league, and for big fans, it can also be interesting to watch them grow into the new profession.
Now, we just wonder who will be next! Jared Dudley is the obvious pick. He’s about the most regular podcast guest among NBA players and is often lauded for thoughtful analysis and valuable perspective. JJ Redick is a similarly intriguing possibility who’s already taken it upon himself to start his own podcast despite still being a very active player. And then there are the stars. Chris Paul would be a fascinating candidate simply because everyone would love to hear wisdom from the “Point God.” And naturally, LeBron James — whose latest Lakers contract is short enough to spark talk of retirement — would be the ultimate get for any broadcasting team. But right now there’s no telling which of these or any other players might have interest in this kind of career transition.
We do hope to see more player-to-analyst movement though, whomever the players may be. Wade’s work at the All-Star Game was just the latest example of how much fun this can be.