For nearly two decades, Chrysa Chin has been a trusted confidant and life coach to NBA players around the league. A teacher, mentor and friend, Chin has been a shoulder to lean on for rookies and veterans alike.
“Caring about people is ageless,” Chin says. “I feel like I could do this 'till the last breath in my body.”
Chin has been the NBA's Vice President of Player Development for 17 years and previously worked with athletes at the NBA Players' Association. Throughout her career, she has developed a reputation among players as someone they can trust when it comes to enduring the off-the-court rigors of the league. Chin routinely talks to players about an assortment of challenges, ranging from financial concerns to spousal problems to everyday stress.
“I think the mere fact that players call when there’s an issue is a highlight because it means we’re getting through,” Chin says. “When I receive a call from a player during the day or in the middle of the night, it speaks to the success of what we’re doing.”
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Chin doesn't waste any time establishing relationships with players when they come into the league. She's already gotten to know several rookies from the 2014 NBA draft, including Suns guard Tyler Ennis, who she has been help counseling for two years.
"She helped me when I decided to go to the draft, what I needed to do and things I should look at. Being a professional athlete now, if my family does something wrong it's going to reflect on me," Ennis said. "Her being able to tell my parents and family that is big, you don't live a private life anymore."
Magic rookie forward Aaron Gordon has met with Chin just a few times but already speaks highly of her motivational approach.
"I love her. She has such a high energy and I know she's going to take care of me as well as she takes care of a lot other NBA players," Gordon said. "Our relationship will develop further down the road."
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Chin has developed long-standing relationships with a host of players over the years, including a notorious former MVP: Allen Iverson. Back in his prime, Iverson was intimidating on the court and destructive off of it. While some have called him brash and overly confident, one person that knows him particularly well argues otherwise.
“I think he is a great person and I think, like anybody, some of his challenges may be public but it doesn’t take away from the person that he is," Chin said. "I think he’s incredibly smart, and I think that we’re going to continue to see great things from him.”
Chin recalled several fond memories of Iverson, including an instance when he quoted something she had said two years prior and "scared me half to death."
“One of my favorite Allen Iverson stories is that whenever I was conducting a team awareness meeting and he knew that I was going to be in town, he was in that meeting,” Chin said. “[He] sat up front up; he participated and helped. I thought that was pretty significant given some of the things he’d been through and I think he has a memory like no one I know.”
Players aren’t Chin's only admirers. Coaches and personnel around the league praise her work.
“All of our players, I would say, definitely have a relationship with her whether it’s DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry -- all the way down to Bruno [Caboclo]. She gets to know each player personally, as far as weddings," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “All the players in the league are like her kids.”
Que Gaskins, a former business adviser for Iverson, is an entrepreneur who has worked with Reebok and Nike and has known Chin for more than 15 years.
"Chrysa is quite simply a remarkable person with a tremendous sense of empathy, accountability and faith in doing the right thing," Gaskins said. "Chrysa is known for her humble confidence, her unselfish ways, her positive outlook on life, and her ability to just make things happen."
A desire to help others succeed came early in life for Chin. NBA players are like any ordinary people according to her, albeit with different resources to manage challenges.
“I come from a family that was always helping,” she said. “They were always helping people and I grew up in that culture of being of service to others; doing whatever you could to propel the next person forward. So I think seeing it as a child and just kind of always watching it, that’s where the passion came from.”
When you're a professional athlete, it's sometimes hard to surround yourself with people who have your best interests at heart. NBA players have few people to rely on, according to Chin. The upbeat Chin has enjoyed the last 17 years of her career and takes her role very seriously.
"I think you see that right away and so I quickly began to enjoy the role of being a confidant and being trusted because I wasn’t looking for anything,” Chin said.
A New York native, Chin grew up on the Lower East Side and was born to parents Helen Chin and Elvis Butler. Her mother was an authoritarian, by Chin's standards, which has led to her lifelong mantra ‘I mean what I say and I say what I mean.’ Her father also made sure she never strayed off the beaten path and held her accountable for her actions.
“If he [Elvis] said be home at 12, it meant be home at 12," Chin said. "He gave you a chance to exercise judgment and maturity. He was my confidant, I could talk to him about anything, [even] relationships."
Now Chin is the person players feel like they can talk to about anything. From before the draft until their career is over, Chin serves as a person players can count on. Her job requires her to always be available, night and day, so Chin uses her cell phone frequently. During an NBA season, Chin averages 20 calls per week from players. She also makes approximately 35, or more, trips per season.
One of the many players Chin has left a mark on is Warriors forward Andre Iguodala. The 10-year veteran has been a guest speaker at rookie discussions and events for the past few years and spoke to this year's class before the draft.
“We [Chin] had a good relationship and I always meshed well with the rookies so I gave it a try the first time and it went really well,” Iguodala said. “We keep in touch, [talk] maybe once or twice a month if there’s something going on. She's going to be checking up on you and has your best interests at heart.”
Chin was in Las Vegas this summer for the LEAD (Leadership, Excellence and Development) program that teaches participants about career opportunities in the basketball, business, and corporate fields of the NBA. Players are given the opportunity to interact with employees and executives from the NBA and NBPA, as well as former players turned-entrepreneurs. During her time in Vegas, Chin said she was constantly running into familiar faces.
“I saw (former King) Hassan Whiteside, hugged him and told him how much I missed him. I had been worried. He was in my 20 and under program. I visited with him a few years ago and he hadn't been in the league anymore,” Chin said. “The thing that I love is that when you talk to them and say ‘Okay, I’m here if you need me,’ and they look and say ‘I know, you’ve always been right there.’ That kind of warms my heart.”