Table Talk: Athletes’ Retirement

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

So, guys,
I’m so happy to have you here. Thank you for coming. Today, we are here to talk
about players’ retirement. How did you experience
your retirement? I don’t know for you guys,
but for me it was devastating. I don’t know if you went through this process of being a little bit in pain. I mean, for me,
I wouldn’t call it really a pain, but definitely an awareness of a big change coming. Were you prepared when you retired? You knew you were going to retire.
And it was okay for you? Yes, because for me it was
in 2015 in the summer, it was the first time
I seriously thought about retiring. So I was kind
of already fifty-fifty. “Should I do it now or should I wait?”. I ended up prolonging my career for two more years. It wasn’t a sudden stop. In my case, I stopped before I really stopped. My friend was the president
of Limoges, so he asked me to play one more year just to close the circle. I agree with both of you. I think it was a transition. I never had that transition. For me,
it was from one day to another. Personally,
I never had a problem with it, because for me,
it was life or death. I was sick. The doctor said: “You have to do the operation
and then chemotherapy”. And… that was my only focus. Playing on that very high level
for so long is a gift. The time that you were playing, do you feel
that you have the knowledge about economics and financial stuff just to try to invest
or do something with your money? I think in my opinion, it is an illusion to think that an athlete that is dedicated 24/7 to basketball at the same time can have enough confidence to think that he knows enough about finances himself. I think this is the real trick, to find the right people
that can help you and guide you in the direction
that is best for you. You do not always find
that kind of people, that’s kind of difficult. That is difficult, yes. Because so many people come to you
and talk to you. That is exactly the issue. You disagree? I disagree. Look, how many hours
do we spend on the plane, planes do not have internet,
but on the bus. From those hours, you can take half an hour or an hour to really dig deep
into one topic and then also get more information
about that and do the research. Do you think it will help to study? It’s a good way. If you don’t trust people,
it’s a good way. Exactly. It will help for sure. That’s for sure. And if you don’t do it, why? I am talking about my case. I am lazy. I think it is because we are lazy. Right now, I am sad. I had the time to study. I had the time to do good things.
But I didn’t do it. I was lazy as well. I had more time playing in the NBA
than in the Euroleague. In the NBA, I would get to the hotel
at four in the afternoon and didn’t have to do nothing
until twelve the lunch next time. The right thing here
is to recognize early on that you are a basketball player,
a professional basketball player. Yes, there is time to get a degree. You might not get it in three
or four years, it might be a longer process,
but once you stop playing, it will definitely help. The idea of being involved in the players’ association at the highest level in Europe was something that
I thought about as a player. So this was kind of the idea once
I stopped playing, it was actually, let’s say, the first project
that I jumped into. Nobody likes to stop playing
basketball, you know? And if you can go through 10 or 15
years of professional basketball and then make it
the most successful possibly, sure, personally and also
as an organization or an association we would like to be a part of assisting players
to achieve that. At the end of the day, I strongly believe
that if the players’ careers are going to be improved, not just that they are going
to be happier, they are going to be healthier,
more motivated. We were talking
about retirement decision. And then we talked about studies,
right? So now,
I think it would be interesting if we talked
about the professional lifestyle. You have the whole day organized,
the whole week, even the whole season, you know
what you are going to do next. The seasonal structure,
you know when the games are, but exactly, you know,
you could not really plan. Like if I work in the office
or if I work at a bank, I can say from 10am to 6pm and I can be home for dinner
at 6:30pm, no. Same as practice. And if coach decides because we had
a bad practice, we all had that, “This is a bad practice, come on!” You just keep running, and then he goes one
or two hours just longer. Yes, for the majority of time, we had a schedule
but it happened to me in situations where I had an off day, for example, and I was with my family
and my kids in a mall or in a park and I would receive a text that there is a practice
in one hour. Because we said before, an angry coach
or a bad result over the weekend. A lot of times, especially when you play
for big teams which demand results, you cannot disconnect mentally
when you step out of the gym. As you said, we are players 24/7, and that’s for sure, how did you live
when you got retired, to don’t have
these kind of feelings? For me it was difficult,
because when I was playing, I think I didn’t control my life. Because somebody controlled
it for me. It was kind of strange when I stopped with basketball because it was like: “What should I do?” And as you say, the emotion we had
when we were players, nothing can give you this. I agree whole-heartedly, but I think it’s
a different kind of adrenaline rush that you can have. I think if you finish a big contract
or if you get kids… But does it have that same power? No. I think it is different, because I don’t need 20,000
people who go “Jump!”. You don’t need, but you feel
something you don’t feel in real life, as you say. It is funny we use “real life”
to talk about life, but when we speak about real life, you don’t feel this. I do miss the connection
with the fans. That’s probably the thing
I miss the most with basketball, is the celebration. He needs it! But it is not about the praise
of 10,000 people saying “Yeah!”, it is about the success that you have
in seeing the people happy. Nothing will replicate the moments
on the basketball court. I think we have to realize that. The sooner you realize it,
the better. But you have to find ways of still
how to get that, you can call it adrenaline
or you can call it happiness that you can get
with smaller things. As professional basketball players, we experience a lot of adrenaline,
pressure and excitement. And we know that when we retire, we are not going to feel it anymore. In my situation,
it was purely my decision to retire the moment that I get tired
from tying my shoes for practice. And I asked my family, that’s it. Players usually,
when they have that click, it is finished. Usually that’s it, the moment that he has that click,
it’s done. I have to say this. It’s really scary. When you come to the age of 30, 31, your thoughts are becoming…
start to scramble. You know you are coming to the end,
you don’t know what to… maybe you have money,
maybe you don’t have money, maybe… But we have an organized life
for like 20 years. Everything is organized. The same. Yeah. You know you are coming in the mess, and suddenly, you know you… The real world. My wife always said we are in such a great loving relationship because I’m never home. You know? Three days a week I’m out.
You know? So… That’s a point. That’s… Yeah. That’s my life. You have your home life
and your basketball life. You have three, four days
on a trip before coming home and it’s something that is running. And I’m sure if I’m one week, seven days a year at home every day, I don’t know how to do that. It’s a big shock
and a big change for a player. Lots of people you see coming, they come to see the games
and they start to talk to you about things that you… What is talking about? They don’t have obligations because they have a routine
for so many years. On a daily basis, they are working
and then they find themselves with so much free time. They start to ask you questions about how often do you take
your dog out. I don’t know. I’m taking it three times a day,
in the morning, around twelve o’clock
I give it special food and I take it for some dog practice. Why are you talking about this? But retirement is not easy
for none of them. It doesn’t matter
if you make big money, small money, because, mentally, you are finishing
something that you did for twenty, twenty-five years. Let’s talk now about a factor that impacts a lot
in the process of retirement, which is loss of identity. And loss of identity is
when people confuse who they are with what they do. In my case,
I didn’t realize I had that problem, but maybe six months after
I get retired, I had to fly to another country and I was in my sweatpants. I had this mix, everybody knew me because I was basketball player, and then, suddenly, if I wasn’t that, I was nothing, I was nobody. For a lot of player and for me, there was a transition period also
where I noticed that being Bostjan Nachbar,
basketball player for NBA or for Euroleague team
doesn’t really mean much anymore, you know? This is something
you have to adjust to, you know? You will not get recognized as much. Would I still like to be recognized
in certain situations? Of course,
there is an ego part of it too. Especially in a restaurant. -In a good restaurant, you know?
-In a good restaurant. He has three,
they will recognize him. “Oh, yeah, he is tall,
yeah, come on”. Put me on the list.
Put me on the list so I may come. When I stopped my career, I bought three restaurants
because I like food, you know? You can see. And the most difficult for me was
to understand my employees. Sometimes, they didn’t come to work
only because they get headache or a little bit of fever. Please, I’ve played with my ankle,
my back, and I didn’t say anything. And sometimes I feel like… we are not normal, we don’t think normally, because normal people
when they get headache, or fever or whatever,
they don’t go to work. Apartment is the same. Everything… I wish… I… Do I have to pay for the light? For you, it is the right question,
because you had to learn from zero, because you did not have
no gastronomy, no restaurant experience or food. Or do you have somebody
who does it for you? You would just:
“Here is your money”. It was somebody who made it for me. But I said it.
I said the restaurant, because, finally,
the only thing I know is basketball. We had the same thing
when I came there and I sat around, and people came late. I said: “Excuse me,
I don’t understand why you’re late. Look, in basketball,
if you are late, the first 10 minutes is a fine,
second 10 minutes is… I want a fine, but no,
it’s not legal”. I’m like… We have got to find something…
I couldn’t understand it. I never thought about that. It’s probably
has to be because for decades, you are used to being there on time. If not, there’s consequences. So, it kind of gets in your brain
that you have to be there on time. Today…
Wait a minute, today you were late. -I was?
-Yeah. A coup… Probably a couple
of minutes because I was… Because he is adjusting
to real life. He wanted to make
a special entrance. Everybody says to me:
“Fred, you’re always early”. No, I’m not early, I’m just
a little bit before to be on time. Because you gotta get taped. Exactly. Gotta get taped. The funny thing here
is that you guys, you all work for basketball. Because I stayed
in the basketball field, the transition was quite smooth. Plus, having a little bit money
to give us that time to adjust. But if I would have said:
“Ok, I don’t want nothing with basketball anymore
and do a restaurant or go in property or IT…” I would have hit the wall somehow, because I would have been like… “Look, I’m 30+
and I’ve no idea about life”. I’m Mar Rovira,
I’m a sports psychologist and I’m really curious to know about the process of retirement. You don’t want to hear
about this word. It’s like danger, right? It’s kind of painful. What are you afraid
of the process of retirement? My fear is I would like to find something even to give me the 30 or 20 percent
or 40% of this challenge. You know?
I know it’s not gonna be the same. I’m terrified of this change. Not because of my life and what will change in our life as a family, because I can only think
of positive things, you know? Like being home for the first time,
having family, friends. But from the other hand, I don’t know how
Nikos will react to all this, because you hear
so many stories of players and so many wives of players that talk to me about that and how the transition was and how difficult it is to find another passion. Our life is basketball, so I don’t know how it will be
after basketball. That he will not be
a player anymore. I don’t know. Is it going to be a problem
that maybe, we don’t know, but he might decrease
the amount of money he gets? I feel that we don’t have
to adjust later. Like what we do now,
I think we will keep doing, because we don’t have
now something extra, like we do the very basic stuff. But, truth is that after retirement, we have to take decisions
that we haven’t taken so far. I don’t know. It’s a lot of “I don’t know”, I think, in this retirement… yes. A process that you have to find out. -Yes.
-Do you have studies? Honestly, Mar, I have never studied. -Why?
-I really had… I hadn’t…
I had not even had it on my mind. I want to play better and better and, let’s say, fulfill my dreams. That was my only thought. And now that the time is coming, didn’t you think that maybe now
it’s time to prepare? That’s really… that’s… Let’s say, all these 20 years
that I have been playing and meeting people and having
so many great different coaches and exchanging ideas, and playing actually the game, actually,
I feel that this is my university. All these things
that they are related to autonomy as a professional basketball player, it’s like somebody else
is doing for you. -Yes.
-And this is an important factor, because some players
after retirement, they get lost in the real world. For example, and I always say this
to my friends about Nikos. If a lamp,
for example is out in our house… Actually, it is right now… Three lamps. He calls the team. He’s like: “Hey! I don’t know how
to change this lamp”. You know. Okay. Truth to be said,
there are some lamps -that are really tricky to do…
-It’s impossible. There are some
lamps that you cannot change. You have to… Before we got married, I told him: “If you don’t change one lamp,
I will not marry you. At least you have to change one”. -But I did change it.
-He did, so… I would like to say one last thing. I don’t know if it’s so connected
with our element, but it’s a little bit, that I believe
that it’s a way better feeling for a professional player that you can be able to decide
when is the end. I retired as the captain
of the national team. That’s an incredible honor, okay? Many legendary players have been
captain of Greek national team. If somebody would come, a coach,
I don’t know, he would say: “Nikos, you have been a legend here,
you did everything. Sorry, I need to bring a young guy”. That would be much more difficult
for me to swallow. That I would really have a hard time because I knew that I could still
do it, I knew it. But I wanted to, let’s say, I want to control my own fate. You can’t do that anymore. -Yeah.
-It’s like somebody else stops you. You don’t control your own fate. I believe that it’s very important
going into retirement. I don’t know, that’s my feeling.
Maybe I’m wrong. No, no, you see,
you guys are so clever because this is
one of the key factors. The control of the decision
of your retirement. ¡Nikos Zisis! The last two, three years, I know that this is coming,
it’s getting close. My retirement is getting close. And I know a lot of people that they are really
in difficulty to, let’s say, swallow this, to… But honestly, I’m not. I’m not because… Why you laugh? It’s true. Because it’s true. Because I’m a big fan of this saying that I’m very happy
that it happened. But not sad that it’s about to end. Another important thing
is the social support. This is basic for the process
of retirement. Why I bring this into the table? Do you think
that after you get retired the way you approach things, the way you change because somehow you change a little bit, it makes it more difficult for the people around you? I think so. I think it does
because it’s just not a transition or a change for you, it’s for the family
as well in this case. How your wife lives it and which strategies
did she use as well to adjust? Supporting me a lot
in what I was trying to the next. I’m not sure, but it’s sounds like
he is the best husband ever. Trust me, I’m not. When you were a basketball player, I don’t know
if this happened to you, but when you are a basketball player
and you say something, everybody say:
“Yeah, Fred say it’s okay”. From the center of the world, of my family and my friends, I pass to a normal guy. When we stop with our careers,
same times, then you sometimes see
is the person with me, is it because of me. As I always say, was she together
with me for Okulaja or for Ademola? That’s here is the 33% of divorce,
that’s my theory. Was she for the red carpet,
for the VIP flights, for the VIP at the game,
for people, you know, for social media:
“Oh, she is the…” We cannot… I’m not attacking anybody
but there’s definitely a percentage in that 33 that is definitely there
for that limelight. I’m so happy now, really,
to see what they see. I’m right, I’m really right. Do you know what I mean? -Not just…
-Not just because what I do. Now I’m really happy
when we say this. But that doesn’t happen often
with you. Never. But see, I’m sure I’ll be happy. We pretend that. You’re right, you’re right. You guys learn a lot
of coping strategies because if not, you wouldn’t be
such a successful player. You deal with stress, right? With pressure, some players
they use coping strategies like avoidance, conduct as drinking or well… Sex? Yes, sex, alcohol and this is how they cope with stress and this adrenaline that we were talking
and if that becomes a habit, the retirement process
can be a little bit complicated. And this is not the case
in this room. So you say. But I don’t know if you… Yeah. I mean, I never saw
it as coping with stress with the, for example,
with some of the teammates I had throughout my career,
that’s… or involving in this, and you knew about the teammates
that were maybe, you know, going out and going crazy overnight
and had an alcohol issue even. But I agree that the real troubles
probably kick in once the basketball is taken away. And then you keep having this habit that has to be a very big issue. You know? Talking about mental health. Did you feel in the process loneliness, frustration, anger? And nobody had anxiety, depression? I see it with some of my friends and some of my former teammates who have not necessarily accepted
the fact that A) they retired or B) that they have
the career they wanted. They just don’t accept the reality. And I think it haunts them
because you see them unhappy, you see them still glued
to the TV and: “I would do this
if I was in the situation”. I had a big depression
because my son is autistic and nothing with basketball. So I had a big depression. When I was still playing,
so I know what depression is, but not because of basketball
as you say. It’s much more important thing
in life than basketball. Family is more much important. All right. And now is
the most difficult question. If you can give me a definition
of what was your experience, your process of retirement or what did you learn
or how did you feel it… What I learned is that… don’t be scared of what comes next.
Just do it. Just do it and don’t be scared
of new adventures. As a player, I tried to see
retirement not as an ending, as we said in the beginning
of the conversation, but as an opportunity. Well, mine is to bet on me. Bet on you. When you are a player, we bet on us. And it works, basically it works. So help yourself. Bravo. For me, retirement was
a painful magic experience in my life that makes me the person
who I am today. If I did it once successfully, I will do it twice. That’s the mindset. Are you now saying on live TV
that you are planning a comeback? No. Three against three initial team. Being successful, whatever it is. Because the meaning
of being successful is different.

5 thoughts on “Table Talk: Athletes’ Retirement

  1. Νικολα ησουν και θα εισαι απο τους μεγαλυτερους Ελληνες μπασκετμπολιστες, οποτε και αν αποφασισεις να σταματησεις. Μακαρι να σε δουμε και στην ΑΕΚαρα σε καποιο ποστο!!

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