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How a major injury made Victor Oladipo more tech-savvy

‘Before, it was just about saving all my NBA checks and … nothing else’

SAN FRANCISCO — Two-time NBA All-Star Victor Oladipo is financially strong. But a devastating quadriceps injury helped him realize he needed to invest in more than just basketball for his future.

“Before, it was just about saving all my NBA checks and don’t get involved with nothing else,” Oladipo told The Undefeated. “But now it’s about generational wealth and taking care of my kids’ kids and life after basketball. It’s about being wealthy and being able to have a strong, strong memory when it’s over. That is what I am focused on.”

The Indiana Pacers guard was among a number of NBA players at the third annual Players Technology Summit on Thursday. The event, which is put on by Bloomberg, brings professional athletes, entrepreneurs and investors together. Envision NBA players shaking hands with movers in the tech world, with songs such as “Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A blaring in the background during a lunch break.

Oladipo, Andre Iguodala, Jaylen Brown and Harrison Barnes all participated in the event. Other NBA players in attendance included John Wall, Andre Drummond, Isaiah Thomas, Thaddeus Young, Shaun Livingston, JaVale McGee, Langston Galloway and Shelvin Mack, plus former players David West, Al Harrington, Roger Mason Jr., Mustafa Shakur and Derrick Byars. San Francisco Mayor London Breed and billionaire Meg Whitman also participated.

Oladipo, who was on a panel with Brown called “From Athlete to Entrepreneur,” said he was skeptical about the event at first but was glad he flew in for the event from his offseason home in Miami.

“This was my first time here. I’ve been wanting to come for a while,” Oladipo said. “But I was kind of on the outside looking in. Let’s be real, as athletes we don’t think we fit into this environment. …

“I came out here to network and learn. I’ve been diving into this space in the tech now that I have a lot more time on my hands.”

Oladipo suffered a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee on Jan. 23 against the Toronto Raptors and missed the remainder of the season. The six-year NBA veteran was averaging 18.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game for a surprising Pacers squad at the time of the injury. Indiana made the playoffs but was knocked out in the first round without Oladipo.

Oladipo said his rehab is “going really well” and spoke to The Undefeated about his injury, the timing of his return, his interest in the tech world, and more.

Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers is tended to by medical staff after being injured in the second quarter of a game against the Toronto Raptors at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Jan. 23.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

You were playing at an elite level at the time of your injury, and your team was doing well too. How did it feel for it to suddenly stop?

The ball didn’t stop rolling. It’s just stopped right now. The marathon continues when I get back.

What was it like watching your team without you?

It was all tough. I watched a lot of basketball when I was playing. But during this injury, I’ve watched basketball more in-depth than any other time in my career. Man, I wish I was playing. But unfortunately, things happen.

God is in control. Everything happens for a reason. I am looking forward to when I can get back out there and compete.

What can you do physically now?

I’m still running, obviously. I’m doing a little bit of core work, nothing serious. I’m just trying to relearn everything. Walking, jumping, planting, cutting. Just trying to relearn everything and build the strength back up.

Obviously, I put out that video of me swimming and running. I’m just taking it one day at a time, and you learn a lot about yourself during injuries. When the game of basketball is taken away from you, you get a whole new appreciation for it. I’ve been working on my mind and my body so when I come back I can play at the highest level possible.

What does your rehab consist of daily?

Rehab is every day Monday through Friday and some Saturdays. It’s mostly three, 3½ hours a day. It’s just a constant, everyday grind. I’ve been working hard every day. It’s the only reason why I am here. I am where I am today because I worked hard for it.

I wouldn’t say it is easy for me. But it’s not as bad as it might be for someone else because I work hard. If you thought I worked hard before, this is a whole different level where I am working twice as hard. It’s definitely pushing me and will be good for me in the future.

Do you know when you will play again?

No, not yet. We’ll see. It’s about making sure everything goes the way it is supposed to go. We’ll see when the season starts when I can get back there. I don’t have a date yet. Who knows? But I didn’t necessarily think I’d be running right now. Rehab is different for everybody. Everyone’s body is different. We’ll see. You never know.

Have you talked to anyone who had the same injury?

No. But I did [research] on Tony Parker’s injury. He was probably the most recent player that did it. He was back in 7½ months. That was promising, but everybody is different. It might take me longer. It might not take me as long. …

But I did my research on it and how surgery and rehab happened for him. I just applied it to my everyday life. My mentality is different now. I’m just trying to attack every day, kill every day. Just taking it one day at a time, and everything else will take care of itself.

Have you been writing any songs during your layoff?

Definitely. Hopefully, I will come out with a new album by the end of the summer. I don’t know if I’m going to take a break or not. But music is my getaway. It’s my hobby. It’s what I love to do. There might be some new stuff out there.

What did you learn from the tech summit?

I learned a lot, especially about the beginning stages of startups. … Just networking. It’s amazing. I tell everybody, ‘Our world is just little worlds within a world.’ The tech world and the business world is a whole different world than basketball.

To be out here and be able to mingle and learn little things you might know but not necessarily know applies to your life. … To be able to come here and learn that and really learn that these are two different worlds but so many different similarities, and we can help them and they can help us, and trying to bridge that gap, is tremendous.

Are you investing in the tech world?

I invested in Go Beyond/Beyond Meat, Overtime, Genies, and I actually have my own startup that will hopefully come out really soon and do really well. I can’t say what it is now, but just pray for me and hopefully it works out.

For the most part, I’m rehabbing, obviously, and taking it one day at a time and realizing that there is more than basketball and you got to expand with time because time is expanding.

The older and older we get and the more days that go by, it seems like we are getting smarter, people are getting faster and things keep coming out to make life easier. We got to keep up with time and have to look beyond.

What did this injury teach you about yourself?

It just reminds you that at the end of the day you’re one of the elite players in this league. You have a chance to be one of the best players in this league, if not the best. Don’t lose that focus and don’t lose that belief in yourself. Don’t lose that drive.

Let’s be real: During this time, it could be somber. But it is what you make it. But there is only positive energy between me, my camp and what I got going on. I know it’s going to translate to when I come back.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.