DALLAS -- Zaza Pachulia started his professional career as a 16-year-old in Europe, but he has spent plenty of time in college classrooms.
Pachulia has studied at some of America's most prestigious academic institutions during his 13-year NBA career. He has taken classes at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, Emory University's Goizueta Business School and Harvard Business School, as well as completing a real-estate program in New York and studying online while pursuing his MBA.
Pachulia, who speaks four languages (Georgian, Turkish, Russian and English), recently discussed with ESPN.com his educational pursuits and business plans once he decides he has done enough banging in the paint.
You ever wonder what it would have been like to go to college instead of coming to the league at 19?
Pachulia: It's an interesting question. Both sides have positives and some negatives. Let's talk about what European basketball gave to me, starting with becoming a pro at age 16. I was one of the youngest professional basketball players to play a Euroleague game. Making money is obviously one thing. I was dealing with pros -- guys who have played professional basketball for a long time, guys who played in the NBA and then came to Europe to play -- so it made me more mature. Great coaching staff, great organization, great teammates, so I got a lot of great experience. I saw a lot of pluses.
A negative thing is if you become a professional basketball player early, you don't have time to go to school and to finish school, even though I was trying hard, because school and education has always been a priority for my family, for my parents and then carried over to me. If I had the opportunity to go to college, I'd get an opportunity to get an education and I'd have played within my age range of players. And looking at it statistically, if you go to college instead of playing internationally, you have a better chance of getting drafted higher.
These are the pluses and minuses of things, but I'm happy with my career. Maybe it's easier to look from this point: It's my 13th year in the NBA. But for my kids, I definitely would love them to get an education, and I would love for them to get [basketball] fundamentals, as well.
What are you planning to do as far as education goes from this point on and after your career?
Pachulia: Keep going. I really see a lot of great things. I'm interested in meeting people -- professors, my classmates. One of the best highlights of my Harvard business program I attended was I had 60 students in my class. I was the tallest, of course, but looking at the students, 30 of them were American and 30 of them were from all over the world. All over, I'm telling you. A lot of those guys own small- or medium-sized businesses and are trying to go to the next level. At Emory, it was locals, all Atlanta, from Coca-Cola and Delta. I'll keep doing education, keep building a base, and when I retire, I'll have a foundation and can build on it.
What do you see yourself doing when you retire?
Pachulia: Being a Mark Cuban. [Laughs.] It's strong words, but business is something I'm interested in. I see myself in business. I'm good with numbers. It's just something that interests me. If you ask me to coach, yeah, I've been in basketball for such a long time, but I like the business opportunities better [after retiring as a player].
Tell me about the hotel that you own back home in Georgia.
Pachulia: It started a couple of years ago. We heard that somebody was selling a hotel, so we got a great deal. You know what? I had no idea about running a hotel, but as an investment, as a property in real estate, it was very interesting because we got a great deal.
Talking to my mom, I said, "Listen, we're going to buy this, but I need somebody to run it." So I asked my mom, "Are you willing to do it?" It was a small hotel. We had some discussions: We're going to make some mistakes, but it's a small hotel, small business, let's do it. It's a great opportunity, great investment, so we made the decision to pull the trigger. A year and a half, she was there 24/7, honestly, because it was my money and my investment.
I'm an only child, and she cares about me and my family more than anything else. After a year and a half, we talked about it again, that it was a great investment because she got into it so easily and quickly. After that, we expanded. I bought another hotel because it was going very successfully. We're looking forward to expanding even more.
Why should someone traveling in Georgia stay in one of your hotels?
Pachulia: Obviously, the hotel is related to my name, so my mom makes sure the staff, the service, the cleaning part of it is 100 out of 100. Not 99, 100 out of 100. We've got great reviews because of that. That's why a lot of people want to stay out our place, because we provide a lot of good services.