Tony Snell’s Crucial Deadline Miss: Ineligibility for NBA Benefits to Support Autistic Sons in Tenth Year of Service

Snell last played in 2022 for the New Orleans Pelicans

Tony Snell’s mission to sign with an NBA team this season has become one of the most widely discussed basketball stories.

The 32-year-old guard plays for the Boston Celtics’ G League affiliate, the Maine Celtics.

He spent the majority of his nine-year NBA career as a role player. He was pushing to sign with a team by a Feb. 2 deadline to gain retirement benefits for players with at least 10 years of service.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, players with a decade of experience can receive lifetime health insurance for their children. Snell’s two young sons have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and Snell said he was also diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.

Tony Snell reacts during a Pelicans game

Tony Snell of the New Orleans Pelicans reacts during a game against the Toronto Raptors at the Smoothie King Center Feb. 14, 2022, in New Orleans. (Getty Images)

The NBA does offer two benefit retirement tiers. Once a player reaches three years of experience, he is eligible for individual lifetime health insurance. Players who play ten or more years qualify for premium benefits, which provide lifetime health insurance for family members.

Friday marked the final day Snell could sign with an NBA team to qualify for his tenth year of service. Snell scored three points in the Maine Celtics’ win over the Grand Rapids Gold Friday.

Tony Snell poses for a photo

Tony Snell of the Maine Celtics poses for a portrait during 2023-24 G League Media Day Oct. 30, 2023, at the Portland Expo Center in Portland, Maine.  (China Wong/NBAE via Getty Images)

He has appeared in 14 games at the G League level this season and has averaged 4.1 points. Many G League teams are focused on developing younger players, so playing time is typically hard to come by for older players like Snell.

Earlier this week, basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkely made an impassioned plea for a franchise to sign Snell before the benefits program deadline passed.

“I’m hoping — you know, the NBA’s been great to all of us sitting up here — I hope one of you guys sign Tony so his two autistic kids can get great medical care,” Barkley said during a segment of “NBA on TNT.”

It’s still possible Snell could land with an NBA team next season.

Snell’s situation has raised awareness about the financial burden associated with caring for people with autism. It’s unclear if the NBA or the players union will reconsider its eligibility criteria or if Snell will be granted an exception.

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