Every year, NBA fans and eager prospects wait with bated breath for one of the sports world’s biggest drafts. But with entry into the prestigious ranks of the National Basketball Association comes financial responsibility few young players are totally equipped to handle. This year, ahead of the June 23rd draft event, BlackRock announced the launch of the iShares Future Baller$ Program supporting top-ranked NBA prospects as they work to achieve long-term financial well-being.

“On the court, these players have captivated fans with their extraordinary athleticism and commitment to reaching the pinnacle of their sport,” said Armando Senra, Head of Americas ETF and Index Business at BlackRock in a statement shared with EBONY. “We are excited to launch the iShares Future Baller$ Program, which reflects our purpose to help more and more people experience financial well-being. Through this program, the players are demonstrating a commitment to playing the financial long game and taking steps to inspire all investors to take control of their financial futures.”

As part of the iShares Future Baller$ team, each player has dedicated $100,000 toward building their investment portfolio with help from personal finance expert and iShares Future Baller$ coach, Lauren Simmons. “I'm so grateful to be the financial coach and part of this partnership where we will dig deep into what their long-term financial goals are,” Simmons told EBONY by video call last week. “And hopefully, we’ll get an understanding of what it is that they would like to invest in.”

During financial coaching sessions, Simmons and the players will discuss their interests, relationship with investing, and review financial wellness principles. Jalen Duren, one of the select players taking part in the initiative, says he’s excited about the possibilities. “A lot of guys don't really think about investing,” said Duren. “So to have an opportunity to jump on that early in my career—learning all about it—was very important to me.” 


Duren, along with Jaden Ivey, Jaden Hardy and two others, will be learning from a highly-experienced coach. Simmons was one of the youngest Black women to become a full-time trader working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Today she manages her own LLC, balancing speaking engagements, brand deals and media projects. “I hope to just be a guide, a soundboard, and just let them talk through what it is that they're thinking or ask any questions that arise,” Simmons said. “I hope Jaylen or any of the other players will use me as an asset to help them with their long-term financial goals especially when it comes to investing and this program.”

Economic uncertainty spurred by the pandemic has underscored the importance of long-term investing and increased the number of young Black people entering the market. BlackRock says 

among the new generation of investors are “professional basketball players, who have also demonstrated a greater interest in planning for their long-term financial future and emerged as role models in the business realm—making investments that last well beyond their time on the court.”

Jalen hopes to be one of those role models. Looking ahead to his participation in the iShares program he said, “I’m most looking forward to understanding investments, and just how they work.”