Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum is focused on three things during the suspension of the NBA season due to the coronavirus: Staying healthy, spending time with loved ones and working on his business portfolio.
“This is my seventh year in the league now, but it’s simple. I am going to take this time to refocus, spend time with my loved ones, make sure that everybody is safe, and enjoy this time away from the game while understanding we will probably have to jump back in at some point,” McCollum told The Undefeated in a phone interview on Thursday afternoon.
“But I am taking this time to sit back in my office, make my calls, really work on my real estate plans and some of the business plans that I have, some funds I am investing in and work on my podcast.”
The NBA suspended the 2019-20 season after Utah Jazz All-Star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus before a game on Wednesday night. McCollum, who is one of six vice presidents for the National Basketball Players Association, found out the news shortly before the official announcement.
The Blazers star discussed his reaction to the news, his business plans and his advice to players with The Undefeated.
Where were you when you got the news of the NBA suspending the season, and what was your reaction?
I was actually recording my podcast with Melo at the house. And we were getting updates. I found out this season was actually going to be put on hold while we were recording, an hour before it came out. They were sending us updates through [NBPA] executive committee conversations we were having, what was about to happen. Then we found out that Rudy had been tested for coronavirus, and then we found out he got it. It was just unbelievable that all this stuff was happening at once.
Then Tom Hanks and his wife [announced having the coronavirus], and just really understanding the severity of this and how fast it’s spreading. My brother [Errick] is in Russia [playing for Unics Kazan]. So, to be able to see the European influence, Italy and a lot of those places they play … how those countries are reacting and shutting down [through him]. I was kind of aware of how [the virus] was really spreading. And then it just hit the United States in a wave. It’s a crazy, crazy time, like we’re living in a movie. We have to be very careful about how we are moving and really take of our safety, be clean and really stay away from each other for a little bit.
Can you go to the Blazers practice facility now?
I have no idea what is going on. I have been on the phone all day. I got calls later. We’ve had conference calls. I have no idea. … In terms of what we’re going to do, I have no clue at all.
In terms of the players union, what are you guys planning? Do you think there will be some financial hardship aid you’ll have to give players?
I have no idea. This is something that has never happened before. … It’s just uncharted territories and I have no answers for you other than we are constantly working and I’ve been on the phone for hours.
You sent out a tweet Wednesday after the NBA suspended the season telling your fellow pro athletes to make sure they plan ahead financially. How are you doing in that regard?
I have been strategically investing. Diversifying my portfolio. Learning more about other ventures and things of interest to where I am stable even though the market has been terrible. I lost another 10%. The S&P 500 is down 20% year to date. But I’ve diversified enough where it doesn’t really hurt me.
Other people need to be forward thinkers. Not just basketball players. Not just people in the sports world. But people in general. Life happens fast. You have to have a Plan B, a backup plan and really figure out a way to have different avenues of income and just avenues of happiness. That is what is really important, being at peace and having that happiness.
What was the key to you being educated financially when you entered the NBA?
Asking questions. I was using my resources. Education. Real estate. Franchising. I’m learning about everything while I can. I take advantage of my free time. There is no question that is dumb. That is really important to know. People feel like they can’t ask certain things. I want to know about everything and I want it explained to me in layman’s terms.
So now I have a better understanding of everything so that when something bad happens in the world, if it affects the market or airplanes or how we travel or how we move, I want to know why it’s happening and how I can better prepare. Not just for my life, but for my family members’ life as well. I need to be able to tell my grandma what is going on and why she shouldn’t get on that plane.
It’s not just about the money. It’s not just about the market or that stuff. It’s about overall life. This is a virus we don’t know a lot about. We know what we see on TV, really. So, you have to be able to ask questions to educate yourself about it.
You have said on Twitter that as a pro athlete you have to use the affluent people that you meet to your advantage. How do you do that?
I’ve really taken advantage of partnerships. I believe in authenticity. I really don’t get invested or jump on board on things that I don’t utilize or want to be a part of. I’m with Jamba Juice [as an endorser] and I really like Jamba Juice. I have some people that I am very close with that work in the organization that own a lot of Jamba Juices and have been very instrumental in my development and understanding franchising, understanding business … the process of becoming a franchise owner. [Cinnamon Bums president] Steve Foltz has really helped me step by step with that process to where I am able to potentially move forward on some investments in ventures and in franchises.
I’ve had teammates who work in real estate. [Ex-Blazers teammate] Pat [Connaughton], whose father works in real estate for 30 years, we’ve grown together and purchased property in South Bend [Indiana] right off Notre Dame’s campus. I purchased property with [ex-Blazers teammate] Anthony Tolliver, another guy who has played in the NBA for a long time.
I have really taken advantage of not only people in the business world, but teammates and people who are more educated in certain areas than you. Having those conversations to kind of learn and grow. And then you use the resources and your celebrity. People want to spend time with you. They want to be around you. You have to be selective of who you spend your time with, but also be strategic about taking meetings with certain people.
You have to really use those resources and pull those all together and make educated decisions about your future, especially while you’re playing. It is easier to get meetings, conversations and calls, easier to get into the room, when you’re in the league. But once you get out of it, I’ve heard stories about how no one really wants to answer the phone.
Will you be based in Portland or your hometown of Canton, Ohio, while the NBA season is suspended?
I’m not even sure what the travel situation is like. We’re on standby. I don’t know practice schedules. I have no idea what is going on. But I will be [in Portland] for a little while. My great uncle actually just passed away, so I probably will have to go home for the funeral.
Are you hopeful that this NBA season will resume?
I think it will, but health and safety is and should be our main priority going forward.
Any other words of wisdom you’d like to add under today’s circumstances?
Stay safe. Stay in the house.