It all started when Jamal Mashburn began taking the subway to grammar school in New York City.
His mother, Helen, decided it was best he commuted about an hour from their rough neighborhood in Harlem so he could attend a downtown Catholic institution.
“When I got on that train, I’d see people, men and women, carrying briefcases,” Mashburn said. “I was always curious of what was in that briefcase. That’s when the dream started.”
Fourteen years after playing his final NBA game, Mashburn is carrying a briefcase of his own. Since retiring in 2004, he has become one of the league’s best life-after-basketball stories.
Mashburn, who starred at the University of Kentucky from 1990-93, runs more than 90 businesses and has aspirations of one day owning an NBA franchise.
“I wanted to give the game everything that I had but I wanted to leave with something other than just a reputation of being a basketball player,” said Mashburn, a one-time All-Star who averaged 19.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and four assists in 11 seasons. “I wanted to start a new legacy, but continue a legacy and I wanted to carry a briefcase.”
After retirement, Mashburn used a portion of the more than $75 million he made during his career to purchase an Outback Steakhouse. From there, it “snowballed” into other opportunities.
Mashburn, who lives in Miami, then claimed ownership in Papa John’s, Dunkin Donuts and five car dealerships. He also has a realty company in Lexington, where most of his businesses reside. Mashburn played under Rick Pitino at Kentucky.
“I’ve very much looked at business in the same regard as basketball,” said Mashburn, who is Kentucky’s sixth-leading all-time scorer with 1,843 points. “What I mean by that is there’s always an opportunity to learn. There’s always different challenges that come your way and different information and styles. Things change over a period of time. Just like in the NBA, it’s become more of a three-point game than a big-man game. Things evolve. You have to stay up with it.”
He compares his adaptation to a player like Vince Carter, who entered the league relying on athleticism only to prolong his career by becoming a perimeter shooter. Mashburn has used business sense to expand his earning power.
“I don’t want to be a dinosaur,” Mashburn said. “At the end of the day, I consider myself a lifelong learner. You’ve got to adapt. Even in professional sports, you come in one way but you don’t exit the same way … That’s how I look at life. That’s how I look at business.”
In 2012, Mashburn formed a group that attempted to buy the then-New Orleans Hornets. Their bid fell short but it was a valuable learning experience. He said he still has aspirations of owning an NBA franchise. Shaquille O’Neal (Sacramento Kings) and Michael Jordan (Charlotte Hornets) are the only former players to have an ownership stake in an NBA team.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have also recently expressed interest in buying teams.
“I wasn’t upset with (missing out on the New Orleans bid) but I did learn a lot during that process,” Mashburn said. “I put together the package myself. I didn’t have a team of lawyers, so I actually went through the exercise of looking at the financials of understanding the revenue and expenses and how the thing actually works.”
Until he achieves his goal, Mashburn said he would one day like to help other players by offering advice on how to handle their post-NBA life. He would prefer it to become a requirement by the league because of so many players going broke after their careers.
“I’ve thought about it,” Mashburn said. “I think that also requires where you are as a person. At the end of the day, I look at myself as a teacher in a non-traditional form, not in the classroom. One day I do want to put together a curriculum. I have spoken to a lot of NBA players. Some reached out to me and have chatted about certain things they want to get involved in.”