Former NBA Vet Tyrone Corbin and G League-Playing Son, Tyrell, Form Real Estate Bond
As an admitted “basketball brat,” Tyrell Corbin grew up seeing the world through the lens of the NBA. When he was a kid, he followed his father, 16-year veteran Tyrone Corbin, for nine different teams, for whom he was a hard-nosed, hustling defender on playoff teams. During his adolescence and into young adulthood, Tyrell tagged along with his sister, Tyjha, and mother, Dante, to Salt Lake City and Sacramento as Tyrone got into coaching—a journey that began with leading Tyrell’s little league team.
“I didn't grow up with my dad, so it's very important for me to keep my family together,” Tyrone, who’s currently an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic, tells CloseUp360. “As much as we could with as much as I did travel, I wanted them to be in the city that I was playing in, and luckily I was blessed enough, my wife was okay with it. She did a super job of staying home and raising the kids, supporting me in all of my moves.
“But I just wanted to make sure that they knew who I was on a daily basis and I had a chance to be as much of an influence on their life as I could.”
No number of trips to NBA arenas or moves between plush neighborhoods could’ve prepared Tyrell for what he found when he embarked on his own pro career in 2015.
His first stop? The mountainous Eastern European nation of Montenegro, where he dealt with a language barrier, missed paychecks and, in one case, a riot during a game—spurred on by offensive hand signals and complete with fans throwing fruit and rocks from the stands and storming the court.
“This is what you sign up for,” Tyrell tells CloseUp360 by phone from Phoenix. “If you really love the game, you want to play in a different country, in a different culture. You're going to see different things that Americans may not be accustomed to. So I just took from that, like, 'Man, this is crazy,' but at the same time, I'm doing this for a living. This is what I want.”
Following successful (and somewhat less stressful) stints in Mongolia and Indonesia, Tyrell made it back to American shores in 2017 by way of the NBA Summer League and G League. And though accommodations in the NBA’s minor leagues are far less glamorous than what Tyrone has enjoyed as a player and coach, Tyrell’s journey has put him in position to potentially follow in his father’s footsteps both on and off the court.
Tyrell Corbin (left) grew up all over the U.S. while his father, Tyrone, played and coached in the NBA. (Courtesy of Tyrell Corbin)
For the modern NBA player, the path towards life after basketball often begins before they set foot in the league. Nowadays, there are endorsement deals of all kinds to sign, social media profiles to monetize, and hobbies and personal interests to parlay into business opportunities.
For Tyrone, the conversation around post-playing pursuits didn’t begin in earnest until nearly a decade into his NBA career. He would talk with his friends around the league, including former Phoenix Suns teammates Mark West and Eddie Johnson, about what they would do with their lives after they were done playing. Mark was starting to play the stock market, while Eddie was gearing up for his current career as a broadcaster for the Suns.
“I was looking for something to create income after I got done playing basketball and the real estate interested me,” Tyrone says.
So around the 1994-95 season, during his first stint with the Atlanta Hawks, Tyrone bought his first property: a condo in his hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. Then, with the help of a real estate agent, he bought four duplexes in the same complex—all of which needed to be remodeled. One fixer-upper led to another, which led to another, to where now Tyrone owns 23 properties (and counting) in Columbia, mostly in the same low-income neighborhoods where he grew up.
“I always had intentions of moving back to South Carolina,” Tyrone says, “so I wanted to have everything to where when I got done playing, I wouldn't have to run all over the country checking out properties.”
Those projects fed Tyrone’s tendencies as a hardworking busybody. Whether mowing his own lawn, tending to his rental properties or installing new appliances at his mom’s house, when it comes to the NBA’s offseason, Tyrone is “literally always doing something,” Tyrell says.
“He's really big into staying busy and he's always been that way, and I think he's always going to be that way,” Tyrell adds. “It gets to the point where, us as a family—my sister and my mom—we have to tell him to sit down sometimes because he's always on the go.”
Along the way, Tyrone enlisted Tyrell to help him with renovations—and still does to this day when both are back home in Columbia.
“In the summertime, he'll call me on any given day and tell me he needs me to come paint this apartment or help him carry carpet up the stairs or something like that,” Tyrell says. “I’ve done that since I was a little kid.”
“I put him to work,” Tyrone laughs.
Tyrone had learned plenty about home improvement from “getting screwed” by unreliable contractors, and wanted to pass that basic knowledge onto Tyrone. Along the way, the elder Corbin wanted to teach his only son that, when it comes to properties that look undesirable, a little work can go a long way.
All the while, father and son bonded over hours spent applying coats of paint and fixing plumbing.
“He was tentative to it. I don't think at that time he really enjoyed it as much,” Tyrone says of his son, “but he would do it because I was there and it was us doing it together.”
As good of a sport as Tyrell was in helping his dad with the family’s properties, he didn’t show much of an interest in the business side—not that Tyrone expected him to.
“Kids think that it's boring or it's work,” Tyrone says, “but you're working for something and it's working for you.”
Tyrone was never that insistent on involving himself in his son’s basketball career. He wanted Tyrell to find his way to the game on his own, if he was going to do so at all. Tyrone had seen how other people in the NBA—players and coaches alike—had put pressure on their kids, and how that pressure had ultimately strained those relationships.
“Look, man, I'm proud of you if you decide not to play basketball ever again in your life,” Tyrone would tell Tyrell. “It's a great sport and it's been a great blessing to me and our family, but do it because you love to do it. Don't do it because of anything I want you to do with basketball. I want you to be happy in whatever you're doing.”
Tyrone, though, made himself available to Tyrell for advice, would offer tips and thoughts when asked. Tyrone was proud to support Tyrell as he became Mr. Basketball in Utah, played college ball at UC Davis and Cal State Bakersfield, and went on to compete around the globe.
“He's not the type to like force anything on me or anything like that,” Tyrell says of his dad. “He just knows that this is what I want to do. So he told me to take it serious and always be a professional, relationships go a long way and just be who I am.”
Tyrone’s only insistence: that his son think about life after basketball.
“My thing now with him is, like, 'Look, as you’re playing basketball and chasing your dream and having fun doing it, think about life after,'" Tyrone says. "'What are you interested in? Because you're going to have a long life to live after you get done playing basketball. Whatever you can do to start getting yourself set up in that now while you're playing, it's going to make that transition a little easier for you.'"
Even at 26, before he’s set foot in the NBA, Tyrell already has a clear, overarching goal for his off-the-court life.
“I want to own a lot of things,” he says. “I want my name on stuff.”
What those things and stuff will be are still to be determined.
He loves music, and while he says he’s not talented in that regard, he insists he has “an ear for it” and would want to own and run a recording studio. He’s into fashion, and can envision himself owning a clothing store. And he has some experience in real estate and property management.
All the while, Tyrell made strides on the court.
In 2016, he went to a free-agent camp with the Jazz, and though that audition didn’t yield an offer, it did give him a greater sense of what he needed to work on in order to eventually reach the NBA. After a productive stint with Bima Perkasa Jogja in the Indonesian Basketball League during the 2016-17 season, he returned to the U.S. to play in the Orlando Summer League with the Charlotte Hornets. That stint led to a deal with the G League’s Northern Arizona Suns in Prescott Valley—around 100 miles north of Phoenix, where Tyrone was an assistant coach with the NBA’s Suns at the time.
This past January, Tyrell signed with the G League’s Stockton Kings, where his minutes more than doubled from his time in Northern Arizona.
While there, Jimmy Gillies, Stockton’s director of basketball operations, recommended that he and his teammates consider applying to the NBA Career Crossover Job Shadow Program. Even though they were in the G League, they would get the same access to prestigious organizations like Goldman Sachs, Turner Sports, Google, American Express, EA Sports and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that’s afforded to their NBA brethren.
“I think as athletes, we're kind of wired different,” Tyrell explains. “We're so focused on bettering ourselves on the court or staying locked in and focused on basketball that you look up and you're older. You're, like, ‘Aw man, I don't know what I want to do after basketball is over.' So for the NBA to put these on and give different avenues and be able to go meet with people, shake hands and network with all these different people, I think it's huge.”
Without a guarantee of NBA money in his future—and with those words from his dad about life after basketball ringing in his ears—Tyrell applied for anything and everything he could.
“I was interested in all of them at the time,” he says, “and to be chosen for two was pretty cool.”
The first came at the NBA league office in New York City. There, alongside Detroit Pistons big man Zaza Pachulia and a handful of other G Leaguers, Tyrell got to see the breadth of possible careers in and around the basketball world, from front-office work to player programming and career development.
“As a player, you kind of just automatically think, When I'm done, I'm just going to coach," Tyrell says. “And to go to the NBA office and see that kind of gave me another input.”
Tyrell’s second job shadow came in Miami, where he and a five-person group that included Miami Heat big man Kelly Olynyk got a two-day crash course in real estate at Douglas Elliman.
“I've seen the process,” Tyrell says, “but to actually get to learn from other people and see these $22 million homes, it was crazy to me.”
First, Tyrell and the players visited the Douglas Elliman offices in Fort Lauderdale, where they met the executive team, fielded advice and exchanged contact information. After that, they checked out properties in the Miami area and learned about how they could get involved in the business—including by referring potential clients to real estate agents and getting paid for successful sales.
“I think that's something that athletes should do because we know so many people,” Tyrell says. “We know people with money who want to spend money on homes.”
Tyrell (right) spent time checking out residential properties during a two-day job shadow with Douglas Elliman in Miami. (Douglas Elliman)
Once the program was over, Tyrell stuck around Miami for another day. But rather than spend all that time hanging out on South Beach or hitting up clubs, he hopped on the phone to pick his dad’s brain about everything he’d just learned.
Should I work with the same contractors from job to job or try out different plumbers, carpenters and the like depending on price and need?
When buying a home, should I put it in his own name or under an LLC?
How do I find people to represent and sell their properties?
What kind of mortgage should I use to buy a property? And how much should I put down based on what I think it’s worth vs. the asking price?
“It's one thing to go down to Miami where it's really easy to see the distractions and go out and party or whatever,” Tyrell says. “But to go down there and actually learn something was big for me. And I think he saw that.”
“I was super excited for him because it's in real estate, although the Miami market is a totally different level of real estate,” Tyrone says. “But it's Tyrell's level because it's really high-end stuff and he's a high-end guy. He likes the fashion and the flash.”
Tyrell (left) checks out a waterfront property in Miami. (Douglas Elliman)
In truth, Tyrell’s entire offseason is geared towards career development, in one way or another. That’s why he’s in Phoenix: to work on his game with his trainer and test out those new wrinkles against other pros in the area.
“He works his tail off to get as good as he can get,” Tyrone says. “And it may or may not be your blessing at some point to be in the NBA, but you're going to be successful in whatever. I think he's starting to see the avenue he wants to go.”
Even beyond basketball, Tyrell wouldn’t put real estate atop his list of potential pursuits just yet. He still wants to put his name on recording studios and clothing stores, and intends to get his feet wet in fashion through the NBA’s upcoming job shadow opportunity at Vans in Costa Mesa, California.
That said, Tyrell clearly intends to put his newfound knowledge of property to use soon.
“I think it's a priority, for sure. I want to go down that avenue because it's consistent income,” he says. “If you own a duplex or something and you're pretty much the landlord basically, that's consistent income. I think that's what it's all about as far as continuing to grow financially, and I think that's something that would be really beneficial for me in the future.”
Now that Tyrell has demonstrated a clear interest in real estate, Tyrone hopes to share more of the do’s and don’ts he’s learned along the way—like, say, buying a whole building instead of units in different locations.
“I could give him the advice that I wish I would've got coming into [real estate],” Tyrone says.
Josh Martin is the Editorial Director of CloseUp360. He previously covered the NBA for Bleacher Report and USA Today Sports Media Group, and has written for Yahoo! Sports and Complex. He is also the co-host of the Hollywood Hoops podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.