With 17 seasons of playing in the NBA under his belt, Suns center Jermaine O’Neal has long started the process of starting his life after his basketball career ends. Check out what the six-time All-Star has in store for himself when he’s finished on the court.

First and foremost I think you have to understand the opportunities that playing in the NBA give you. I think as athletes, sometimes we look at the money part of it and not at the long-term.

This money part is really short-term and just a bridge to get you to the next moment of your life. And I always wanted to be able to take full advantage of my name, which is my entity and my brand.

I’m always looking to expand my portfolio and really be a business guy. I’ve really developed a passion for that over the last seven years.
I had an opportunity to sit down with Magic Johnson about seven years ago and listen to his story. After that talk, it took me about year to put what I wanted to do all together.

I think Magic earned around $25 million as a player, but he did so much more with his name afterwards. And that’s what I learned from him.

But when I talked to him at 26 years old, I was just trying to focus in on my career, and obviously things were going extremely well for me at that age. But my support team helped me get my feet wet and get comfortable with business.

I don’t have a college degree, but I feel like I’ve done a fantastic job of educating myself over the past 17 years in what I need to know in life. Through conversation, reading and – more than anything – asking questions, I’ve learned a lot.

I think sometimes feel like people can’t ask questions, but I think business people respect that. You’re not stupid if you don’t know, you’re just not educated about that particular situation.

I started getting educated in business a while ago because I think guys get in trouble when they start thinking that they have time. Then they get to a year where they think it’s their last year, and all of sudden, they are out in the cold.

This season, I will actually make more money off the court than on it. We just closed a deal to create a new box model with Steak and Shake.
We’re into construction and the first one will be done in eight to nine months near their headquarters in San Antonio. Then we’re looking to it move it West to Las Vegas, L.A. or maybe even overseas to Monaco.

The next deal I did was with a private equity group out of Atlanta called the BIP group. They have showed earnings since 1996, which is hard to do in this economy.

They may look at 400 deals, but only do two or three. So I sat down with them, looked at the numbers and helped purchase a company called Tropical Smoothie.

It took a while to get these two deals done because, as an athlete, they had to feel comfortable that I was invested into this thing long-term. And for myself, I had to feel that I could just pick up the phone and feel comfortable about what they’re saying with the money that I’m investing.

I looked for negligence, lawsuits and things like that to protect myself, and things really checked out. My family loves the smoothies and wraps, so I feel really good about it.

The last deal that I did was a shoe deal. I took a couple of designers four years ago and we really worked on trying to figure out a new brand.

A new sneaker and apparel brand is very difficult to do, but I’m very passionate about what I do and I like the challenge of trying to create a new brand that is cost-effective, but not cheap. The $70-90 range is where this economy is at right now.

One of the designers, Duane Lawrence, actually did all of D-Wade’s signature shoes for Converse, all of Dwight Howard’s signature sneakers for adidas and Elton Brand’s signature sneakers at Converse. So he has a huge history of designing and he has sat with me before we had anyone else on board.

We slow-rolled this thing and we finally felt that we had a product that was suitable to the public. So we went out and shopped it to some big boxes and Amazon really liked it.

We launched about two and a half months ago and I’m really excited about that one because it was one of the most difficult things that you could ever do. The brand is called Drive Nation.

It’s affordable and the designs are up there. When you take signature guys, and I know because I had signature shoes with Nike for six or seven years, those guys are the money-makers for the big brands.

They know all the ins and outs of it. They know how to develop tech material, say we’re going to tweak this material and make this comparable to what Nike and adidas have.

The designers go out to the factories in China and just sit for two weeks and walk the lines. The sneakers we’ve produced are both for lifestyle and for hooping.

We have a shoe that went to the MAGIC Tradeshow in Vegas and won so that’s going to be our next shoe that’s coming. Once we get the samples back, we’re going to hit the road and shop that.

As for the next deal? I think I’m going to get into franchising again.

I can’t talk about it yet, but it’s with a fast food company in Texas. I always said I wouldn’t get into fast food, but if you sit on a certain side of it, it’s very profitable.

And when I’m done playing, I’m open to whatever comes. I’ve always felt that basketball was just a springboard to me doing what God ultimately has for me in my life.

It’s been really good to my family and I’m looking forward to whatever that next option is: whether that’s being a part-owner of a basketball or sports team. We look at everything.

(NBAE/Getty Images)

Suns center Jermaine O’Neal has picked up a thing or two in his 17 seasons in the NBA. As a veteran, O’Neal has developed his keys to success over years. Check out what advice the six-time All-Star would impart to a rookie in his latest blog.

There’s no real format to what it takes to make it.

But I think you have to have two things to be great in this league and to have longevity. You have to work hard and you have to be a sponge.

Also, find a veteran to mentor you, study a lot of tape and take care of your body. If you do those three things too, I guarantee you’ll be really good in this league.

If you just want to enjoy the lifestyle and just being here in the NBA, you won’t be here for long. I think there were 85 guys that were in the league last year that aren’t in the league this year. That’s a huge number.

This is a privilege. Nothing is owed to you, nothing is given to you.

You have to earn everything that you get. It’s an honor to be playing a sport that you dreamed about playing for so long and get paid handsomely to do so.

You have to do what’s necessary to show the team that drafted you that you appreciate them.

Some people get an opportunity right away and some people don’t. When I was drafted, I got off the plane and former Trail Blazers forward Gary Trent came and got me as soon as I got to the hotel.

We went and grabbed some teriyaki chicken, headed to his house and he started schooling me what this league was all about.

So many guys that I played with in Portland had a hand in my success. The same goes for Indiana.

Guys like Cliff Robinson, Rasheed Wallace, Brian Grant, Kenny Anderson, Damon Stoudemire, Scottie Pippen, Steve Smith, Arvydas Sabonis, Chris Dudley and especially Reggie Miller all gave me different ingredients that I put into the batter and created who I wanted to be.

Hard work, focus, determination and longevity were some of the ingredients I picked up from those guys. They told me that they believed in me and that I needed to be patient.

They called me, “The Kid.” And by the time Scottie Pippen and Steve Smith got there, which was about my fourth year, they told me, “You’re ready to go.”

Coming from Scottie, that meant a lot. I had watched him play at such a high level for so many years. Then Reggie Miller told me, “We’re going to let you be who you want to be.”

That probably meant the most to me.

What separates a guy from making it from not making it is the will. Like I was telling Michael Beasley in Brooklyn, “It has to rain before the sun shines.”

That’s the way character is built. You have to undergo challenges.

The people that succeed in this league accept that ultimate challenge. They accept that they’ll get through the dog days and arrive at the sunny days where everything is going to be how they pictured it.

We’re all going to be faced with challenges and your life is going to be based off of how you respond to those challenges. And basketball is no different.

You can’t let someone break your will. There are going to be a lot of people out there who are going to say that you can’t do something. But they don’t have any idea because they’re speaking from afar.

They don’t know the drive and character that’s in you. You have to be determined.

You have to be willing to fail to succeed. The great ones always had one thing or another that really knocked them off their feet. But the great ones always responded and always found a way to get back on course and keep going.

You can’t be afraid to fail. If you’re afraid, you’re not going to give the ultimate level of determination or drive.

You’re always going to hold back because you’re afraid to take that next step because you think you’re going to fail.

You have to go all out until you get exactly what you want.

(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)

Now in his 17th season in the NBA, Suns center Jermaine O’Neal has accumulated a great deal of frequent flyer miles over the course of his career. Last entry, he talked about some of his favorite cities to see on the road. In this blog, the six-time All-Star describes what fans are like around the NBA.

Before I start this blog, I have to give a disclaimer: I really haven’t played for Suns fans yet, so I’m hoping they’re going to be the best fans I’ve ever played for in the NBA. So with that being said, this is how my experiences in the league have been with fans.

New York and Boston fans may be the best. Boston fans probably get the edge because New York fans will boo their home team.

Why is it so fun to play in Boston? From the time you come out for shootaround before games, you feel that environment in Boston.

The fans are very crazed there. And it’s a very knowledgeable city when it comes down to the support of their pro sport teams.

Every pro sport team has won a major championship there in the last 10 years. And in my two years there, I can’t remember a time when they ever booed us.

You’re going to have some dog days and they get fired up. The energy that they bring reminds me of the old Market Square Arena in Indianapolis and when Conseco was jfirst built.

The environment was unbelievable, but they don’t boo you. If you’re going through a draught, they get to cheering and they get louder and louder, which is what gets the team going.

So Boston has the best fans overall that I’ve seen, but with that being said, I haven’t really played for the Suns fans yet.

As far as the worst fans go, Philly is pretty rough on opposing players. They’re even rough on their own team, so just imagine what they do to the opposing team.

But so is New York. You don’t see as much heckling as there used to be in the Garden though. So Philly would be No. 1 as the city “most likely to get heckled in.”

(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)

Now in his 17th season in the NBA, Suns center Jermaine O’Neal has accumulated a great deal of frequent flyer miles over the course of his career. Last entry, he talked about New York being his favorite city to visit purely for basketball. In this blog, the six-time All-Star talked about some of his other preferred NBA cities and how his perspective of the road has changed.

Los Angeles is great for shopping and for restaurants, while Miami is what you need when you feel like you need some sun in the wintertime. Unfortunately, on this past trip we had Miami on a back-to-back… which I hate to see.

Because of back-to-backs, we don’t have many off days. So most of the time you’re in the hotel.

But if you do have an off day in Miami, the quality of atmosphere down there is great, especially with the sun, the tropical feel and just hanging by the pool. And as a former Florida resident, I understand just how good that weather is to your body.

I also like to go to Charlotte because I get a chance to go home and see my family from Columbia, SC, which is 45 minutes from Charlotte. I also give the most tickets away there.

A lot of family is there. I used to give 50-60 tickets my first few years, but now it’s down to about 10-15 so my cousins can come.

Sometimes my grandmother comes if she’s feeling up to it, and my mom always makes it. That’s definitely the city I spend the most money in as far as tickets.

But things have changed over the years for me. I look at the road differently.

When I was younger I wanted to go out and party a little bit, be at the beach and go shopping all the time. Now it’s about getting back to the hotel and making sure I get the proper amount of rest.

I’m not on my feet to much and I pay attention to what I eat, when I eat and how much I consume before a game. A lot of that determines how you play the next day.

Earlier in my career, I was such a high-flyer and I thought I could do whatever; and I could get away with that. If I don’t rest properly now, I’ll struggle in practice.

You tend to respect the body a lot more as you get older. You have to pay attention to how you nourish it and what you put in it.

For me, there’s a significant difference between now and back then.

(NBAE/Getty Images)

Now in his 17th season in the NBA, Suns center Jermaine O’Neal has accumulated a great deal of frequent flyer miles over the course of his career. In his blog, the six-time All-Star talked about some of his favorite NBA cities and how his perspective of the road has changed.

My favorite four cities to visit during an NBA season are New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Charlotte. I like each city for different reasons.

New York is my favorite place to play. Besides having good shopping, it also has the best venue to play in. When you’ve been in the league as long as I have, it’s more about the arena and the atmosphere than looking forward to certain matchups.

Now you always look forward to those games where you play premier teams or on national television, but I always enjoy going to the Garden. New York is epic.

They have the organ playing in the background, which I remember hearing back in the day when I was growing up. You get goose bumps when you go out there because the atmosphere is always the same.

You have the crazed fans and the arena just sits on top of the floor, whereas the new arenas are just kind of built out. You feel like you’re in a big huge bowl in that environment.

You hear the crowd, you hear what they are saying to you. And that’s what makes sports, sports.

To hear more about O’Neal’s favorite spots and life on the road, check back in the coming days for more entries….

Oct. 23, 2012

After 16 years and playing for six different teams, I get asked if being in all of those different cities gives you perspective.

But all the stops don’t give you the perspective, it’s what you go through. My career is like a movie with all of its ups and downs, good and bad, laughs and tears, anger and happiness, perseverance and failure.

It’s been a lot of everything and the mental endurance really is what keeps me going. It’s what you show your kids and what you go through.

And it’s about the fact that you keep fighting and do all that you can do. Most importantly, it’s that you try.

That’s what this summer was about. No matter what happens this year… I did it.

I came all the way back to play. When I look in the mirror, I don’t have any regrets.

If we win – that’s great – and I’ll do it all again next summer. If we don’t, I tried and I can look in that mirror and say that I’m ready for the next part of my life.

Oct. 9, 2012

During all my years in the NBA, I had the opportunity to play for a lot of different coaches. And they all had something different to offer.

(Former Pacers head coach) Isiah (Thomas) was very aggressive. He had that “Bad Boy” Pistons mentality for you to show up every day.

But as soon as that ball stopped bouncing, he was like a father. I remember going over to his house many nights, because he didn’t live very far from me, and just talk to him about the NBA and what I needed to do to be successful in this league.

(Pacers head coach) Rick Carlisle was a fantastic guy to play for too. He wasn’t as talkative as Isiah, but really wanted you to do well.

I didn’t have a really good relationship with (then-Trail Blazers head coach) Mike Dunleavy because I was very young at the time. P.J. Carlesimo is who drafted me, but I only spent a year with him.

In Boston, (Celtics head coach) Doc Rivers really let the players police each other. He had so many veteran players that had been around for so long and had carried other organizations for so long in their careers, that they knew how to win ball games.

Down in Miami, Coach (Erik) Spoelstra is a very good, young coach and I’m very happy for him that he got the opportunity to win a championship. A lot of people don’t really understand what a good coach he is because of (Heat Basketball President Pat) Riley’s presence.

I’m still trying to figure out Alvin (Gentry) because he was very gentle when he came to my house this summer, but has been very aggressive so far. But I think you need that, especially with a younger team.

I’ve had the opportunity to play for a lot of good coaches and I learned a lot from them. At the end of the day, every year that you play in this league it makes you a better man because you learn a lot.

Oct. 6, 2012

Heading into my 16th NBA season, I’ve been a lot of different places for training camp. But my most memorable was the year we had camp in Disney World.

It was my first year with Indiana and it was the absolute best! We all had golf carts, stayed at Disney’s resort and raced those things around. We would drive the carts from our apartments to the gym, which was also on the resort.

And we would go to the store to get snacks and it wasn’t like the store was next door. So you would see these 6-11 guys in small golf carts driving these carts on the sidewalks.

Back then, teams never wanted to stay home, but when the economy started going bad, teams started cutting their budgets and have training camp at their facilities.

Oct. 5, 2012

Coming out of high school and not knowing what to expect, Portland was new and one of the most difficult training camps for me physically. Indiana’s training camp was all about trying to be good with a young team after coming from a veteran team.

Miami was very difficult because there was a lot of running. You couldn’t even go home and they would have blow-up beds in the locker room.

So you would go to the players’ lounge, eat, lie down and then somebody would bang on something to wake you up and then we all went back to the gym. But Boston was really laid back.

We would go super-hard and competed for two hours a day, but then we went home afterwards. It was very family-oriented there.

Right before camp in my first year there, the entire team went to Fenway and we had a softball game with the players. That was fantastic…

And then on the first day of training camp, we went out to see an advanced screening of a movie that hadn’t come out yet. But we were able to do that because we were a veteran team and we didn’t have to do a lot of teaching for the young players.

Oct. 4, 2012

The player that has impressed me the most thus far has been Markieff Morris. He’s like a sponge.

That’s the first thing I noticed about him. I always stay after our workouts and get some extra work in, and the first two days I looked to the side and saw him just sitting there watching.

That’s a sign of a player that wants to be better, has a plan, and wants to be really good in this league. He went from watching the first couple days to getting in there and doing drills with me.

You could tell that he wanted to get in and work hard. I was impressed with a lot of guys, but I was probably most impressed with him because he is a young guy with a very hard work ethic. You don’t see that a lot in our league.

It’s my position to really help guys, not only on the court, but away from basketball. Mentally if you’re there, you’re going to get better physically.

Oct. 3, 2012

The Suns training staff is just unbelievable. They do a lot of things that I haven’t seen in a while.

This is a billion dollar business, but you’d be surprised, certain teams don’t go to the extent of keeping those entities healthy to win games. The routine on a day-to-day basis is not always the best.

It’s like an assembly line in a factory, where you go down the line and everybody’s touching you. You go from one person to the next to the next, until you’re ready.

But Grant Hill sold the Suns’ training staff to me and the importance they put on being healthy. Grant and I went to Germany for the treatment and started talking about that. And then Jared talked more about that to me in Vegas.

But coming back all started with going out to Germany and getting that treatment. It went phenomenal.

I did a four month training session to try to change my body, change everything about it. It was like starting with a clean white board.

Instead of working out like I have done in the past, it was like starting over as if I was a rookie. The more I got into the workouts, the better I felt. I started noticing that I got lift again.

It wasn’t just my knee, it was more mental. I had to ask myself: is this really what I wanted to do going into my 17th season?

But the more I got into the summer, the better I felt. I told teams that I had a due date that I wanted to get to before I decided to play.

And I did…

Oct. 2, 2012

Day one of training camp!

Entering my 17th NBA season, I’ve obviously participated in a lot of them, but I’m really looking forward to this one because it’s different. It’s a new system for me, new teammates, a new philosophy and a new challenge, which is what our league is all about.

Even as a veteran, you get a little nervous entering camp, because you want to do well. You want to perform well in front of your peers and the coaching staff. But that’s why you work hard all summer to put yourself in position to be successful.

This is actually the first time I’ve ever been to San Diego, which is exciting. Not that we’re going to be hanging out at the beach, of course. We’re going to be working extremely hard, but I think training camp is an important week to start creating that bond as a team. You’re going to hear me say that a lot this year. I don’t think people understand just how important that is, but you need that trust factor, not only on the court, but away from basketball, as well. If you get that, you know when basketball starts, that’s going to be the easy part.

We also need to focus on developing that mentality that we are good. We don’t want to think about the past Suns teams or talk about who’s not here anymore. We want to concentrate on this new group of guys and getting as good as can possibly get, so that we can compete at the highest level we can possibly compete at.

Having worked out with these guys the last couple of weeks getting ready for training camp, I can tell that we are going to be very athletic and very explosive. This is a talented group and I think that we all believe we can be good. That was probably my only concern coming in. Do we believe we can win? After spending some time with my new teammates, I know we do.

Oct. 1, 2012

We just wrapped up our Media Day, which is always fun.

For me, this is almost routine going into my 17th year, but I still enjoy it. I think I probably had my photo taken a hundred times in the last two hours. We also shot some video on green-screen, although I’m a little more serious than some guys. I don’t really do a whole lot of jumping around, waving my hands… those “make some noise” prompts for in-stadium.

But I think it’s a good opportunity for fans to get a little more insight into our personalities, through all the photos, videos and interviews. We get asked a lot of off-the-wall questions, which is fantastic for the average fan, who is used to watching us run up and down the court. It gives them a different perspective and lets them relate to us as human beings.

There were a lot of reporters here. We’re back from summer, so everybody is interested in what we’ve been doing and how we are feeling entering the new season.

I got a lot of questions as to why I decided to come to Phoenix. For me, it was all about being happy and having an opportunity to be a part of something special. I had offers from some championship-caliber teams, but being able to play a part in creating a bond and a family atmosphere is more meaningful to me than just making a roster that is already fully-equipped. I’ve fought for so long to earn what I’ve gotten, that being just given something wasn’t an option for me.

Obviously, winning is special and if I didn’t think that we had a chance to be a playoff team, I would not have come here. But when Coach Gentry and Lance Blanks came down to meet with me this summer, they really sold me. It just felt right. This is a good fit for me and I can’t wait to get started with training camp tomorrow.

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