Meet Australia’s highest-paid sportsman, Andrew Bogut

Photo: Noah Graham, Getty Images

Photo: Noah Graham, Getty Images

I’m standing next to Andrew Bogut in his management’s office in Port Melbourne.

Actually, as he is 2.13 metres (seven feet) tall, it feels like I’m standing under Andrew Bogut.

But his height isn’t the only eye-opening aspect of our time together.

Photo: Rocky Widner, NBAE, Getty Images

Photo: Rocky Widner, NBAE, Getty Images

It’s a surprise to know that the 31-year-old, who has been surrounded by the rap culture of the American basketball world since he moved to the US on a basketball scholarship at 18, is more into Bruce Springsteen and Fleetwood Mac.

“It’s heavily a hip hop/rap-type culture, which is not something that I’m into, so it does get hard at times not fitting in with that culturally,” he says.

“It’s actually cool to immerse yourself in a different culture sometimes but you just know deep down sometimes it’s not how I was brought up. It would be similar to them coming to Australia, it would be a culture shock. So I still have culture shock every now and again, and still get homesick from time to time, even though I’m 10-15 years into living in the States.”

With his great height it’s probably not hugely surprising that gymnastics’ and taekwondo’s loss was basketball’s gain.

Photo: Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

Photo: Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

Growing up in Dandenong and later Endeavor Hills, Andrew’s older sister did gymnastics and Andrew “got pulled into [it]”.

“I absolutely hated gymnastics,” he says. “Too long and lanky for it. I wasn’t the most flexible bloke growing up.”

At nine he played football (Vic Kick, now Auskick) and then taekwondo, but nothing was sticking.

“I didn’t get my stripe one week and it p—ed me off,” he says of taekwondo. “I was over it, didn’t want to do it any more.”

He loved basketball from watching it on TV but had never tried it. “It was between basketball and footy,” he says.

“The parents said, ‘This is the last time you change sports. It’s costing us fees and driving you around. Pick what you want to do’.”

Andrew made a good choice.

He became a superstar of the game, playing in America’s National Basketball Association with the Golden State Warriors, based in Oakland, California.

Australia’s highest-earning sportsperson, three years ago he signed a contract worth a reported $44 million.

His fortune has been estimated at more than $100 million.

But at 17 his dream of playing in the US was just that – a dream.

“I always thought I could be at least an NBL (Australian league) player but I was told by everyone, ‘You’re not going to make it, the percentages are too low’, blah blah. It did fire me up a little bit more. That’s how it is. The numbers are in their favour to say that. Chances are very rare.”

Andrew went to college at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on a basketball scholarship and showed huge promise.

He received offers to move to other colleges but knocked them back because he’d given his word to play for Utah for no money, just an education.

He was the first pick in the NBA’S 2005 draft, the first Australian to achieve this.

He played with the Milwaukee Bucks for seven years, which ensured strong media scrutiny.

“It’s not something I enjoy even to this day,” he says. “I like flying under the radar. I don’t do the Hollywood-type stuff.”

Astrong element of Andrew’s career narrative has been his battle with injury.

In one fall in March 2010, during a career-best year, he dislocated and hyper-extended his right elbow and broke his wrist.

“Probably the worst injury of my career,” he says.

“My elbow was facing the other way. Still a tough thing to swallow knowing I was having such a great year. My status kept going up every year and it kind of took a downturn a little bit. But I salvaged it.”

He was meant to be out for 12 months but returned, “stupidly”, he says, five months later.

“That whole following season I had nerve issues and lost a lot of feeling in my right arm, which is tough for a guy that shoots with his right hand,” Andrew says.

“A lot of the skills I relied upon kind of went out the window. It was still a decent year, numbers-wise.”

But the pain continued all year.

“It got to a point where someone had stuck a knife [in it], so every five shots I’d go, ‘What’s going on?’ ” At the end of the season he had a clean-out “and there was a loose bone floating around in there”.

He recovered, was back in great shape and playing well again.

But in January 2011, 10 games into the season, he snapped his left ankle.

It was a 12-month injury. Surgery followed, but it was still an issue.

“I couldn’t push off my ankle; it was swollen after every game. I had no power off that left side.”

In 2012 Milwaukee traded Andrew to the Golden State Warriors, where he has become a key player with one of the NBA’s powerhouse teams.

Twice his career could have ended.

“The elbow one I could always bounce back from … but you lose a lot of skill and a lot of touch with the right hand … The ankle one was the one where they said, ‘High chance you won’t be able to run properly again’. The surgeon did a great job. He said, ‘You’ll never be the same, you’ll feel the difference; we did the best we could’.”

The past few years, he says, have been relatively healthy, but he has to manage the ankle injury daily.

“I’m 129 kilos, it’s a lot of force through that ankle, I’ve got to make sure I do my rehab, every other day, three or four times a week.”

Andrew now lives in California and travels back to Melbourne every off season for a month or so to catch up with family and friends and to oversee his business interests here, which include a sports agency and “a bunch of commercial investment properties that I manage myself”.

He owns a basketball facility in Carrum Downs that he wants to turn into an academy for kids.

On his last trip to Melbourne I ask whether his wealth has changed him.

“It changes a lot,” he says. “It changes friends, it changes family, it changes a lot of different things. People around you change. A lot of people will see you as an ATM where they think they can just come up to you and withdraw money. It’s kind of the nature of the beast.

“You get a lot of family and friends with business ideas or, ‘You should invest in this’ or ‘I need this’ or ‘I need that’ and eventually you get to a point where you say ‘no’. That’s probably the hardest part for me as an athlete …

“When people reach out to me whom I haven’t spoken to for a while … I can already tell there’s an agenda. It’s an unfortunate way to think, but I can already see the red flags.”

With 18 months left on his contract with the Warriors, Andrew has ensured he will transition well into retirement.

“I have a lot of things that take up time off the court, business interests,” he says.

“I do a lot of things around property, especially in Melbourne. First and foremost is managing my wealth. I’m fortunate enough that when I retire, whether it’s here or the States, or wherever it is, I don’t have to do a nine to five and come into the same place every day.

“Right now that’s a huge advantage where I can tinker with a bunch of different things … and just be involved in raising my kids when I have them one day. I don’t think I’ll be involved in the sport too much, although you never know.”

He has always been aware of the dangers of not having a plan.

“You see a lot of athletes, a massive number, hit depression even though it’s not reported, not knowing what to do. You come from almost an army lifestyle, a regimented regime … to all of a sudden wake up … Nothing.”

Does this frighten him?

“Not at all. I’m pretty regimented. I have a lot of interests. To be honest I’m busier in the off-season than the on-season. I knew there was a correlation between athletes going crazy towards the end of their career. During your career you’ve got to have outlets away from basketball.”

One of those for Andrew is poker. “It’s probably not a great one, but I love cards. I never play against the house, I never play blackjack but I love playing poker.”

It’s an enjoyable distraction. “It’s not so much for big money, it just takes my mind away,” he says.

“When you’re in a hand of cards – for me, anyway – it takes my mind away from any stress because you’re focused on the moment. And I enjoy counting odds and reading people, all the intricacies that come with it.”

Another major passion is old Australian and American muscle cars.

As the son of a mechanic, he grew up around cars. How many muscle cars does he own? “Too many. I’m not a Ford versus Holden guy, I like both. I like ’70s Ford, GTs and Mustangs, and for the ’80s I like the Brock Commodores. I grew up around Brock Commodores; they were always the wow-factor car.”

When basketball ends, he would like to learn how to restore cars.

“I’d like to buy some crappy car for a couple of grand and just strip the thing down and do it all myself. Make a mistake – mate, if it finishes with five wheels or three wheels that’s not the point, the point of the exercise is to learn.”

 

 

 

 

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