Greg Hire is adjusting to life after sport and is giving back to the community after his NBL retirement. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)
If there was ever an example of how things change once your professional sports career ends, Greg Hire has experienced it.
- Greg Hire retired from the NBL this year after a fourth title with the Perth Wildcats
- He is starting a new career after basketball helped him out of a troubled upbringing
- Hire believes more can be done to manage the wellbeing of athletes beyond retirement
Turning up to an event on the social circuit with his wife where he normally would sit close to the action in the good seats, the now-former Perth Wildcats forward was sent to the second tier towards the back.
There were still plenty of current athletes filling up the front rows though.
“I had a chuckle to my wife,” he said.
“Don’t me wrong, I am still grateful to get these invitations, but at the same time that is where we were and now this is where we are at.”
Hire retired from the National Basketball League (NBL) at the end of last season after winning his fourth championship with the Wildcats, and while he may not have the profile that he used to, he is happy with his decision.
Hire (centre) celebrated a fairytale end to his career when the Wildcats won this year’s title. (AAP: Hamish Blair)
“Some of the corporate sponsors and networks when you are a player you would hear from them a lot and they would invite you over for a beer or a wine,” he said.
“Upon retirement you sort of think, I haven’t heard from that person for a while.
“I know how it is, but I think some people do struggle with that.”
Heading down a bad path before basketball
Hire’s transition to life after basketball takes on more meaning given his upbringing.
Earlier this year, he detailed his difficult childhood in a self-written piece on the Athletes Voice website.
Hire says he does not know where he would be without his basketball career. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)
“I grew up around domestic violence, there were drugs, depression and a lack of positive role models,” Hire wrote.
“When you’re going through it as a young person, you don’t really know any different. You accept the behaviour around you and think of it as normal.
“Since then, I’ve come to realise that my home environment was not right.
“I was very fortunate to have basketball. If I didn’t go in that direction, I don’t know where I’d be.”
The sport took Hire to college in the United States and back to Perth, where he began as a Wildcats development player before carving out a successful 243-game NBL career.
Beginning a new chapter in life
The Wildcats begin their NBL season against Melbourne United at Perth Arena on October 5, and for the first time in a decade the four-time championship player will not be there.
Hire played 243 games for the Wildcats before deciding to pursue a different career. (AAP: Tony McDonough)
“It is actually a really bizarre feeling,” the former Perth vice-captain explained.
“Every time I catch up with a mate, former teammates, family, the first question is ‘do you miss it’? And I am being completely honest, no.”
Transition and pivot are two words that were common in Hire’s career as a professional basketballer, but now they are terms that are relevant post-career as well.
The 32-year-old works in youth development with local government the City of Vincent, has his own youth-based charity called A Stitch in Time and is feeding some of his competitiveness by playing three-on-three basketball.
A job at the City of Vincent keeps Hire busy these days while he also runs a charity project. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)
Things have changed a lot, but that has not bothered him — and if anything, he is thriving after starting a new chapter in life.
But while he is happy his professional basketball days have finished, he acknowledges many athletes across the globe struggle after sport.
Facing up to sporting mortality
A landmark article by Sports Illustrated in 2009 showed that by the time they had been retired for two years, 78 per cent of former NFL players in the US had gone bankrupt or were under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.
Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60 per cent of former NBA players were broke.
In the 10 years since, organisations have become better equipped in managing players’ wellbeing and welfare, both during their career and after it.
But there is still work to do according to Hire, who has been involved with the Australian Basketball Players’ Association, which was formed in 2016.
Hire says he thinks more can be done to help athletes both during their career and after it. (AAP: Tony McDonough)
“I had a really good salary throughout my career, but my lifestyle was never exuberant,” Hire said.
“The one thing that keeps coming back for me [with] the professional players I know who struggle, it is financially … they live a lifestyle they can’t manage when they are done.
“I didn’t have to pay for lunch for the last five years, the club covered that, so all of these expenses come into play that you weren’t used to.”
Professional basketball is not there anymore, but Hire has found a way forward that can offer fulfillment after facing his sporting mortality.