The United States Law Week

Retired NBA Player Takes Pension Dispute to Supreme Court

Feb. 13, 2020, 7:09 PM

A 73-year-old former basketball player asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case seeking new cost-of-living adjustments from the National Basketball Association’s pension plan.

Zaid Abdul-Aziz, who retired from the league in 1978 after a 10-year career with multiple teams, says he’s entitled to generous cost-of-living adjustments adopted by the plan several years after he received his final pension payment in 2001.

Abdul-Aziz, known as Don Smith for the beginning of his NBA career, says he “felt cheated,” because he would have received these adjustments had he chosen a lifetime annuity instead of a series of monthly payments lasting 10 years.

The Second Circuit rejected Abdul-Aziz’s lawsuit in November 2019, saying it was filed “at least 10 years too late.”

Abdul-Aziz knew he wouldn’t receive future cost-of-living adjustments by at least 2001, making his 2017 lawsuit untimely, the court said.

Abdul-Aziz asked the Supreme Court to intervene in a petition docketed Wednesday. He said the Second Circuit impermissibly used a state statute of limitations to extinguish his “non-forfeitable” federal right to an “accrued benefit” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Abdul-Aziz is represented by Melancon Rimes LLC, and Plaisance Law LLC.

The case is Abdul-Aziz v. Nat’l Basketball Assoc. Players’ Pension Plan, U.S., No. 19-1007, petition for certiorari docketed 2/12/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacklyn Wille in Washington at jwille@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com

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