From the #1 draft pick to working with Obama, Chicagoan LaRue Martin’s 33 year career outside the NBA had a plot twist that lead him to success

Chicago Scene

LaRue Martin played for Loyola University and was the number one pick in the NBA Draft in 1972. He had a brief stint in the NBA before an inspiring second career in the corporate world.

Martin’s fascinating story starts on Chicago’s South Side. He attended De La Salle Institute with Bryant Gumbel, played against Bill Walton in college and then played against legends like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the NBA. 

It wasn’t the career he expected when he was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in ’72.  Martin’s career sputtered and he called it quits at the end of the 1976 season, leaving him with a dubious honor. 

“My career was up and down. I didn’t get much playing time,” he said. “They called me ‘the worst draft choice in the nation.’ And that bothered me.  I had my degree. After I left the NBA I decided to go ahead and get a career.”

Martin started in the corporate world at Nike but it was at UPS where he had a 33-year hall of fame career.  He started out driving a package car, eventually rising the ranks to of Public Affairs Manager of UPS.

 “I think I found my niche,” Martin said. “It wasn’t sports, it was a real career. It came upon me that, ‘I can go a long way with this.’”

Martin was transferred to his hometown of Chicago, where he spent the rest of his career and still calls home. He excelled at building relationships, both inside and outside the company. Over the years his position brought him in contact with three presidents and dozens of other political and community leaders.

“When he retired from UPS, colleagues called him “a connector,” “selfless,” “an ambassador,” and “UPS’s No. 1 draft pick. I walked proudly. I held up my head, I’d do it all again,” said Martin.

Today, Martin enjoys his retirement but still volunteers his time at UPS in keeping involved with the community.

Martin is always available for a chat, he said to leave him a message at his email,

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