Tony Snell’s story draws sympathy, but no NBA contract for this season

2023-23 Maine Celtics Media Day

This story is more about the broken American healthcare system than basketball, but for Tony Snell, they are entwined. Snell played 601 games across nine NBA seasons, and is currently a member of the Maine Red Claws — the Celtics G-League team — trying to work his way back into the league.

Why he needed back in so badly was the focus of a brilliant story by Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

The 32-year-old 3-and-D specialist seeks to find his way onto an NBA team’s active roster by Friday, signed for the rest of the season, in order to compile a 10th year of service for the players association’s retiree benefits program. That additional season would make Snell eligible for the union’s premium medical plan — beyond his current single qualification — which would also cover his whole family, including his two sons, Karter, 3, and Kenzo, 2, who were both diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

“It’s something I truly need,” Snell said. “Not only for myself, but for my wife and my kids.”

Charles Barkley stepped up for Snell on Inside the NBA on TNT.

That contract didn’t come.

Several teams would have signed Snell to a 10-day contract if that would have helped, Fischer reports, but under the rules of the CBA to earn a year of service credit he had to be signed to a roster for the rest of the season by Feb. 2. A number of teams didn’t want to tie up a roster spot with one week to go before the trade deadline and that flexibility needed. Other teams would have taken a serious luxury tax hit to bring in Snell now, so they held off.

There is hope that Snell can get a contract with a team at the start of next season, Fischer adds.

The online debate around this topic had some fans trying to back those poor, struggling insurance companies by noting that Snell has made $53 million throughout his NBA career and could afford the healthcare. That misses the broader point — why should you have to make $50+ million to give your children the healthcare they deserve? Why should Snell have to sweat a 10th year of NBA service to get the best, most affordable care for his sons? That extra level of insurance would make life much easier for Snell and his family, regardless of their financial situation. This topic gets to the heart of the debate around the for-profit healthcare system in the United States and its flaws.

Hopefully, the Snell situation will have a happy ending next season.

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