The Latest from Priority Sports
The Latest from Priority Sports
MIAMI -- Like most NBA players, Garrett Temple is looking forward to the All-Star break. This year, he'll escape the polar vortex that's gripping the U.S. with a trip to the Bahamas.
Except, he won't just be relaxing on the islands. His primary purpose there will be to lead the NBPA's annual Winter Meeting as one of the organization's vice presidents, working alongside president Chris Paul and executive director Michele Roberts.
“We want guys to be able to have a vacation. A lot of guys, if you don't make it to the All-Star Game, you want to go spend time, take a little vacation in the sun with your family,” Garrett tells CloseUp360. “You really have no excuse not to come unless you’ve just been to the Bahamas like 18 times. So this way, we hope to get more people there. The more the merrier for us.”
Part of the NBPA’s effort to ensure participation includes providing transportation for players to attend meetings. A trip to the sun-kissed island for a destination meeting should resonate with players as a recharge before the season’s final stretch. This year’s meeting—far from the festivities of All-Star Weekend in Charlotte—will serve not only as the full realization of Michele’s vision for the event, but also as the culmination of Garrett’s long-time push to use his sense of duty, leadership, service and genuine ability to educate in support of his peers around the league.
The nine-year veteran out of LSU, who was dealt by the Memphis Grizzlies to the Los Angeles Clippers ahead of the NBA’s trade deadline, has been groomed for this opportunity from his childhood in Louisiana. A young Garrett watched as his parents, Soundra and Collis, became community leaders in his hometown of Baton Rouge by creating group homes, a detox center and a shelter for battered women.
While immersed in a culture dedicated to service, Garrett absorbed the desire to help others by osmosis as he matured.
“The service industry is something that I grew up seeing and watching, and it's just something that was taught to me honestly, by just seeing what people did, what my parents did,” he reminisces. “I've always been taught that to [whom] much is given, much is expected. So you have to give back. You have to pay it forward.”
About five seasons ago, Garrett began attending National Basketball Players Association meetings regularly as the player representative for the Washington Wizards. With his background, he naturally developed the urge to be a part of the PA’s executive leadership team.
Despite his desire to hold office—and seemingly having the skills to do so by birth—Garrett’s path to a seat at the executive table was hardly direct. Much like the All-Star Game, voting within the PA can resemble a popularity contest based on name recognition. And Garrett, for all the good will he’s engendered around the Association for his on-court contributions and off-court demeanor, wouldn’t likely see himself splashed across a marquee.
So when, at 2017 All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, Garrett lost his first bid for a spot on the Executive Committee to Pau Gasol, a six-time All-Star and two-time champion, he could hardly harbor ill will from the outcome. If anything, Garrett found sound reasoning behind that early defeat.
“I ran against a future Hall of Famer, in my opinion, Pau Gasol. And, we didn't have any international players on the board.” Garrett recalls. “So when he won, it was something that I thought was necessary.”
Garrett is no stranger to perseverance. As a player, his journey to the league out of LSU was a circuitous one. After going undrafted in 2009, he oscillated between the D-League (now G League) and the NBA, and made the leap to Italy during the 2011 lockout, before earning steady residency in the Association starting during 2012-13 season. He credits that breadth of experience as part of the reason he secured a three-year term as vice president, when he ran against more recognized names like C.J. McCollum and Rajon Rondo in June 2017.
“Having the background that I have in terms of my professional basketball career, the path that I had to take, I thought I could bring something to the table that was unique,” Garrett says. “I know there are a lot of people like me that have had to grind to the NBA, didn't get drafted, played on a lot of different teams to try to figure out where their spot is.”
Garrett’s appointment represented a win for the NBA’s middle class. While board members like Chris, LeBron James (first vice president) and Stephen Curry (vice president) do their part to represent the interests of the league’s elite, the “average player” can rest easy knowing that one of their own—along with Anthony Tolliver (secretary-treasurer)—has both the attention of the game’s biggest stars and their own best interests at heart.
Garrett is resolute in his role, which includes keeping PA business guarded as tightly as his defensive assignment on the floor. He’s cautious to reveal that players are having conversations about the NBA’s drug testing policies, among other things. You’d be more likely to catch the details of those conversations in a “Woj bomb” than from Garrett’s lips. He does, however, let on that the league and the players’ association are usually aligned in their respective goals nowadays.
“A lot of times, it's closer than people would think,” he says. “It's not like whatever the league wants, we [the players] don't want, whatever the players want, the owners don't want. That's not the case at all.”
Garrett’s seat on the Executive Committee comes at a key time. With players getting smart about the business of the league and doing more to set up their post-career aspirations, he’s now in a position to provide his peers with advice and resources to help them take that next step.
“People know I'm a vice president, so a lot of them may ask me, ‘What do I need? What do I do if I want to talk about the post-career annuity plan? Or who should I contact?’ And I'll give them the person's number,” Garrett explains. “I know peoples’ numbers that they need to get in touch with about things that the players’ association provides.
“We're not here just to negotiate CBAs. We are here to make sure our players thrive, even after they play basketball.”
The PA offers programs in financial advising, technology, real estate and transitioning to coaching, front office and broadcasting work, among others. Garrett is proud of the union’s various offerings and credits the lawyers, program managers and Michele for ensuring players have those resources available to them regularly.
Michele and her team are critical to the daily operations of the PA, due to the length of the season and scope of the work involved. Even as a VP, Garrett’s first responsibility is still to his team, so his day-to-day “doesn’t change.” Players at any level of leadership are excused from PA meetings if they happen to fall on game days.
“It's a good amount of work for [Michele] because, as players during the season, the league and the game itself is our priority, which puts a lot on her and her team,” Garrett says. “But she does a great job and the way we’ve been able to grow and gain—both the owners and the players—she has a lot to do with our side of that. I appreciate her for that.”
While Garrett sings the praises of those in New York City, his job is predicated on communication. He reveres his title and innate sense of responsibility to get more players coming to and participating in NBPA meetings.
“I think one of my big roles as the vice president is to try to include my teammates and have them come to as many meetings as possible,” he says. “Have them talk about their issues, whatever issues they're having at the meetings rather than in the locker room.”
As Garrett notes, there is value in getting players to voice their concerns. It’s his job to hear those out, whether at union meetings, on conference calls with Chris and Michele, or in direct conversations with his peers.
“Some of the guys from Portland may have the same issue as one of my teammates, or some guys from the Wizards may have the same issue,” he says. “That's why we love having as many players as we can at the meeting. So we can just talk about things that they want to see changed.”
For example, players sometimes make passive inquiries to Garrett about changing the referees. He’s able to appease his colleagues by using logic explaining that new refs won’t understand the league and tendencies, and are likely to hurt the game more than anyone is prepared to endure during an adjustment period.
Diplomatic, yes, but honest and truthful at the same time. That approach keeps Garrett’s credibility high and doesn’t alienate players with axes to grind on the topic.
One of Garrett’s goals while in office is to bolster the PA’s resources and education in the mental health space. He credits Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan for their bravery and openness on the subject, but thinks the union is just beginning to scratch the surface on an issue that is more common than some realize.
“A lot of people, especially fans and people outside of basketball, think that since you're making a million dollars playing a game, you have no troubles, no problems,” he says, “when in actuality, that's not the case at all.”
That type of care is part of the reason he holds the position he does while he keeps a watchful eye on the union’s future.
Garrett recognizes the need to encourage further player involvement on the NBPA’s leadership team. He identifies Detroit Pistons guard Langston Galloway as someone who could be up next as a voice for the players. The two share similar paths to the league from Baton Rouge, and Garrett believes Langston could run on the same platform to connect to his peers when the time is right.
“I think Galloway is a guy that could definitely be a future vice president or president of the association. Not that I'm grooming him or that I'm even a mentor. I mean I'm kinda like a big brother to him” he says. “His demeanor, the things that he's gone through, the different places he's been...I think he could be a guy that would definitely be on that executive board one day.”
Garrett’s efforts to uplift continue well beyond the NBPA. He’s one of five players involved in Malcolm Brogdon’s Hoops2o initiative, which has raised enough funds to build three water wells in East Africa since its inception earlier this season. His girlfriend, former Miss USA Kara McCullough, is dedicated to a program called SE4K (Science Exploration for Kids) and he’s naturally an eager supporter.
“This is something I'm really going to get in on and help push for her as well,” he says proudly. “I think it's a very worthy cause.”
Despite his myriad obligations, Garrett still finds time to sponsor three AAU teams and conduct book bag drives for kids. He also hopes to produce a program on financial literacy. With some real estate investments in his portfolio, he’s keeping all of his options open for life after basketball…which isn’t any time soon.
“You always plan for that, but I love the game and I would love to be a part of the game” Garrett says. “I've been to the leadership program multiple times. I've been to the coaching program. I'm leaning towards more doing front office work. That's something that I think I could be good at. But you never know what the future holds.”
For now, Garrett has plenty to occupy his time and attention, with union meetings to help lead—and a brief respite in a tropical locale to enjoy.