For up and coming basketball prospects, playing in the D-League doesn't necessarily mean they're living the dream. En route to at some point, hopefully, playing in the NBA, there is much to endure along the way. There are longer bus rides, frustratingly longer flight layovers, less than glamorous accommodations (depending on the city), and a per-diem of around just $40 for food and other related essentials.
What's more, it's been well documented that such players don't hit the minor league hardwood for the financial gain. There's no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow --- that is, unless such a prospect eventually makes it to the NBA. The maximum salary one can earn while playing solely in the D-League is just under $30,000, with other tier salaries topping off at around $13,000 and $19,000, respectively.
Of course, perhaps the two most valuable things the NBADL does, in fact, offer, are a comfortable place to play that's often closer to home, as well as assumedly even more exposure.Though most players go unpaid for strutting their stuff during NBA Summer League, excelling in the D-League can often give way for players to earn themselves overseas contracts or training camp stints with NBA teams.
Most youngsters starting their professional careers can "afford" to spend time in the NBADL while figuring things out and seeing if time in the D-League can efficiently lead to an NBA gig. Not making much money in the interim is a small price to pay for a recent college turned professional athlete looking to play ball while remaining close to home.
But for an NBA veteran like Hilton Armstrong, the pressure is arguably turned up a notch or two. Having already played parts of six-plus seasons in The Association, the 29 year old has to make a living in order to support his family.
As fate would have it, however, Armstrong provided a strong, steady, and ideal example for other D-League athletes as to how playing in the minor league can net one respectable money along the way, this season.
After spending last season primarily with the Santa Cruz Warriors, Armstrong managed to turn up at training camp with the Indiana Pacers in the fall of 2013. Though he was waived nearly just a month later after failing to make the team, a source tells RidiculousUpside.com that players earn approximately $70,000 for participating in training camp alone.
From there, Armstrong returned to Santa Cruz by the time the season started in November. But with the affiliated Golden State Warriors in need of a big man in a pinch soon after, the center was called up, and earned a pro-rated salary of the NBA minimum over a course of nearly three weeks from December 11th-December 29th.
Just days later, Armstrong was gracing the D-League hardwood again to start the new year of 2014. By the time February 22nd rolled around, ten day contracts were available for players to sign, and the big man returned to the affiliated Golden State to play out such a pact. Another source tells RidiculousUpside.com that such a contract nets a player approximately $50,000.
It's safe to say the veteran went back and forth between the affiliates as necessary, with regard to the NBA Warriors' needs at the given time. Armstrong, did, however, catch back on for a second ten day contract, and formally signed with Golden State for the rest of the season later on April 9th. He's currently competing with the team in the playoffs.
Taking into account Armstrong's training camp gig with the Pacers, four respective stints with Golden State (two ten-day pacts and another two related contracts for a pro-rated amount), not to mention, the postseason itself and his actual time in Santa Cruz, it's safe to say he made things work in quite the unique way. The vet ended up banking $200,000 (or perhaps even a little bit more) this past year.
Armstrong is a beloved figure in the city of Santa Cruz, and is a notable community guy. He appreciates the fans, interacts the right way, and enjoys the area. What's more, his positive attitude and steady play (the UConn alum was named to the 2013-14 All-NBADL Second Team and All-NBADL Defensive Second Team this week) has resulted in Armstrong making the right impressions on the right people in Golden State. It goes without saying, as evidenced by his time back in the NBA this season, that a call to him was an easy one to make whenever the team was in need.
Thus, he's made all of this work, all the while balancing things financially and giving himself somewhat of a cushion otherwise not available to most other D-League athletes.