Shareef Abdur-Rahim Helping Mold Young Players as President of NBA G League
The veteran of 12 NBA seasons and three USA Basketball teams is passionate about the development of young American players.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim has no shortage of things to be excited about when he opens his eyes each morning.
Nearly a dozen years after playing the final game of a 12-year NBA career, he remains an integral part of the future of the professional game in his new role as president of the NBA G League. He already has 28 teams to oversee and is looking to expand the league to 30.
As part of a number of programs designed to help NBA G League players hone their skills and gain exposure, the NBA’s official minor league has a partnership with USA Basketball that has seen NBA G League players be part of USA Basketball’s AmeriCup and World Cup Qualifying teams.
Abdur-Rahim says he is excited to continue the relationship for myriad reasons, but none more important than the opportunities it provides to young players. He understands from personal experience how important those opportunities can be.
“Some of my fondest basketball experiences and memories are in high school representing USA Basketball and then as a professional,” Abdur-Rahim said. “Some of the best relationships that I developed were during those times. For those guys, they possibly wouldn’t have that opportunity otherwise. So, to get that opportunity is great.”
Dozens of NBA G League players played for USA Basketball and coach Jeff Van Gundy during World Cup qualifying windows in 2017-19, helping USA Basketball qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup of Basketball.
Abdur-Rahim was one of the best scorers in the NBA for several years during his prime and averaged 18.1 points per game during a career with four NBA teams. He was equally effective any time he donned the red, white and blue to represent his country with USA Basketball.
He recalls his days of international competition fondly, especially winning a gold medal in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. He also remembers moments that really didn’t have much to do with basketball.
“Standing on the podium in Sydney winning the gold medal has to top it, but I would put up there being 17 years old running around Argentina with (USA Basketball CEO) Jim Tooley trying to find something that wasn’t pork that I could eat,” said Abdur-Rahim, a devout Muslim who played on the 1994 USA U18 National Team. “I think we found a burger and fries or something eventually, but so much of their food and what they had to eat contained pork. Jim always did a great job, as he does now, of making sure I was taken care of.”
Abdur-Rahim said he made friends during his USA Basketball stints with other pros he routinely competed against on the courts of the NBA. He said he never would have become such good friends with players like Steve Smith, Jason Kidd, Allan Houston and Ray Allen if it hadn’t been for the time they spent together representing their country.
He hopes for the same for NBA G League players who earn the opportunity to play for USA Basketball now.
With Abdur-Rahim having just taken over as president in January, he says he is committed to expanding the league to 30 teams, with each NBA team having its own affiliate, and continuing to provide opportunities and great coaching and mentoring to the young men chasing their pro basketball dreams.
According to the NBA G League, when the 2018-19 season began, a record 198 NBA players, more than 40 percent of the league, had NBA G League experience.
“The G League is really exciting,” Abdur-Rahim said about what attracted him to the opportunity to serve as president. “I think there is a lot of potential here to continue to grow our league and our teams. But then, personally, it’s what the G League stands for. It’s hard work and aspiration and open thinking. It embodies what a lot of my career and my path here has been. I feel like it’s a natural fit.”