C.J. McCollum Took the Unconventional Route to Stardom

The Blazers guard is one of the most interesting people in sports. Now he’s making waves off the court too.

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January 12, 2019

Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum took an unconventional path to stardom. In a basketball world hype cycle that touts one-and-dones at power programs, McCollum played four years at low-major Lehigh, where he was also an was an assistant editor at the school paper, The Brown and White. He utilized his skill set—shooting, defense, off-the-ball explosiveness and on-floor intelligence—to great effect, securing a near-max contract extension with Portland before the 2017 season.

 

To laud McCollum for all this, though, is to sell him short. McCollum is one of the most interesting and thoughtful people in the sport, a side that he showcases on his podcast, "Pull Up." Never one to go the common route, McCollum is one of a handful of players who went overseas in search of more lucrative, more player-friendly sneaker deals. Simply put, McCollum is a player who must be watched as he increases his footprint in the sport. 

WHAT'S NOW: On top of his endorsement deal with Chinese apparel brand Li-Ning, McCollum displays a natural feel for programming, whether it's "Pull Up" or his annual interview with NBA commissioner Adam Silver for The Players' Tribune. While a career as a commentator or coach seems very likely, that prediction almost feels as if it's not giving McCollum enough credit.

 

WHAT'S NEXT: McCollum's four-year, roughly $107 million deal with the Blazers expires in 2021. By that time, he'll be 30 and likely worth another big contract. It would be interesting to think about McCollum in a different basketball context, though. While his pairing with Damian Lillard has been prolific, McCollum has skills that should age well. If basketball stuff trends upward, it's fun to think about what the enhanced visibility might do for McCollum's status in the sport. In a league plagued by media saturation, takes and controversial tweets, McCollum's steady voice (as well as his advocacy for journalism) may become louder and louder.

 

This piece is part of our monthlong series featuring the 30 Most Entrepreneurial Athletes. For other entries in the series, head to our 30MEA page.