Bill ‘Tosh’ Tosheff

<b>Name:</b> Bill ‘Tosh’ Tosheff<br><b>What He Does:</b> Heads the pre-1965 NBA Players Association<br><b>Claim To Fame:</b> Goes one-on-one with the NBA

Pioneers like Bill Tosheff paved the way for today’s National Basketball Association stars. But while Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Patrick Ewing, and Shaquille O’Neal make tens of millions each year, Tosheff can’t even get a $200 monthly pension.

The 71-year-old former pro basketball player, who played for the Indianapolis Olympians and the Milwaukee Hawks from 1951 to 1955, recalls that back then, the National Basketball League paid players about $4,500 a year, or $27,000 by today’s standards. That’s a far cry from the nearly $2 million that today’s players average.

Tosheff is co-founder and president of the Pre-1965 NBA Players Association, which represents 65 players excluded from the NBA’s pension plan. In 1965, the league unionized and established a pension fund giving post-1965 players who played a minimum of three years a monthly pension of $285 multiplied by the number of years played. The plan also required pre-1965 players to have racked up five seasons in order to qualify for a $200 per month pension (also multiplied by the number of years played). Tosheff has spent the past nine years lobbying the NBA to close that loophole and include the pre-1965 three- and four-year players.
Pictured in 1952, Tosheff, No.9 with the Indianapolis Olympians, scores two points against Rochester Royal and Hall of Famer Bobby Wanzer.

The pension fund has close to $103 million, and Tosheff estimates it would cost less than $500,000 a year to include his association’s players—”on a declining basis, because our guys are dying.” (Most of the pre-1965ers are in their 70s.) While Tosheff, who runs a security company for car dealerships, doesn’t need the pension for financial reasons, many of his colleagues do. He says former Boston Celtic John Ezersky, now 75, still works 12-hour shifts as a San Francisco taxi driver. “It’s unconscionable,” Tosheff says. “We did set the table for today’s megabucks business.”

It looks like the pressure is finally paying off: In 1996, in the wake of the NBA’s 50th anniversary, Tosheff attracted the support of Rep. William Lipinski (D-Ill.), who introduced a federal resolution last May to pressure the NBA to include the old-timers. And in November, Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA Players’ Association, told Mother Jones, “In light of the league’s success over the past 10 years, we’re prepared to help.”

However, Tosheff fears Hunter’s “help” will only mean charity money from the NBA, rather than inclusion in the pension plan. “Too much time has gone by. I’m going to do as much as I can for as long as I’m standing.”


The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.