The National Basketball Players Association made a big announcement Wednesday, saying they would fund health care for retired players who had at least three years of service in the league.

The vote was unanimous by the NBPA, and it’s the first program of its kind in major North American professional sports. It will be established through prominent benefits provider United Healthcare.

From the NBPA’s release, the proposal includes the following:

  • Retired players with between three and six years of NBA service time but who are not yet eligible for Medicare would be offered a plan that includes medical, hospital and prescription drug coverage with modest out-of-pocket costs for deductibles and co-pays;
  • Those with between seven and nine years of service would be offered the same coverage with even lower out-of-pocket costs;
  • Retired players with at least 10 years of service would be offered the same coverage as the seven-to-nine-year players, and would have coverage for their entire family included;
  • Retired players with three to nine years of service who are eligible for Medicare would be offered a $0 deductible and $0 co-pay plan along with a low-cost prescription drug plan; those with 10+ years of service to receive this coverage for themselves and their spouse.
  • The open enrollment period for retired players would begin this fall, with coverage beginning on January 1, 2017.

So, what’s the significance of three years you might ask? Well, the average NBA player’s career in the league lasts just over four years, according to the NBPA. That sounds like a pretty good deal considering you need just three years of experience to reap the benefits.

“The game has never before been more popular, and all the players in our league today recognize that we’re only in this position because of the hard work and dedication of the men who came before us,” said Chris Paul, NBPA President and nine-time All-Star. “It’s important that we take care of our entire extended NBA family, and I’m proud of my fellow players for taking this unprecedented step to ensure the health and well-being of our predecessors.”

Paul’s words do a pretty good job of capturing what the NBA culture is like. Yes, it’s extremely competitive, but it’s also one big family. The NBA is one of the best sports leagues in the world, and today’s vote by the NBPA is yet another step in showing why.


About Harry Lyles Jr.

Harry Lyles Jr. is an Atlanta-based writer, and a Georgia State University graduate.