After Jalen Suggs dazzled basketball fans with his playmaking at Gonzaga University last season, the 20-year-old owner of one of the biggest shots in the history of March Madness has officially begun his NBA career.
Suggs was picked fifth overall in the 2021 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic, and is projected by experts to make an immediate impact in the league.
Suggs, who as a high schooler became the first athlete in Minnesota state history to win the Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball titles in the same season, has been preparing to take the next step all his life. But while he's excited about entering the next phase of his sporting career, he's also looking forward to everything else that comes with being a pro athlete.
"That's one thing that's come up with everybody I've spoken to — going from playing basketball because you love it to playing as your job, coming in and putting your work in and getting paid," Suggs told CNBC Make It of the lead-up to the draft. "I'm eager to start experiencing the whole other side of the NBA, not just basketball, but business."
Last season, No. 5 pick Isaac Okoro took home $5.3 million, according to data from Spotrac.
As he stands on the precipice of becoming a millionaire, Suggs said that the best financial advice he has received is from his father, Larry, who himself was a standout athlete and instilled in him an appreciation for hard work.
"He taught me ... money doesn't grow on trees, no matter what position you're in or however high up you get," Suggs said. Regardless of how much he may earn, he knows he must "always be smart in my decision making and the way that I handle it."
That doesn't mean he won't be spending any of his newfound wealth, though. Suggs has his eye on nice clothes and shoes. "You've gotta enjoy it. I've put in so much work to make it to where I am today."
But there's one purchase he wants he wants to make more than any other.
"I really want to get a nice car, not even for myself, for my mom. She's got an Escalade that she's dreamed of and talked about almost every day," he said. "I really want to get that for her. I never could've gotten here all by myself."
Suggs has also studied the strategies of other professional athletes who save their game checks and instead let their "endorsement money take care of everything you want to do financially." He is currently working with Wells Fargo to promote its Clear Access bank account that does not charge overdraft fees.
One player who Suggs admires is Channing Frye, a close family friend who spent 14 seasons in the league and won a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. Despite his success in the NBA, Frye has remained down to earth, Suggs said.
"Everyone knows he's a professional athlete, but he never really shows it off or lets it be known as his identity," Suggs said. "He's really normal out in public, looks like a normal guy, but at the end of the day he was making seven figures playing basketball."
Suggs aims to do the same. He said that he wants to stay true to himself as he begins the next phase of his basketball career, and has a clear idea of who is important to him.
"I've gotten to this point by being myself and by being with the people that I know helped me get to where I am today," the 20-year-old saidys. "No matter the money, no matter how good the basketball gets, at the end of the day when I go home and sit down with my family and friends I'm going to be the same Jalen that loves to laugh and have a good time."
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