So you want to be a professional basketball player?
Becoming a professional basketball player is one of the toughest things to do. Constant workouts to be on par physically, nonstop film review to be on par mentally, and a backyard full of rabbit holes for every deep dive you did online looking for another combine, tryout, walk-on opportunity, league, or takeover to get exposure, if not a contract right away.
Maybe you were blessed with a college opportunity. That’s 4am workouts, then a full roster of classes, another workout, open gym, plus the need to maintain good public standing. For some, that also means being far from home, whether it be out of the city, state, or even country. That’s loneliness and possibly a language barrier between you and the new world you’ve found yourself in.
Let’s talk about the many elephants in the room though, because you’re not going to get this level of honesty anywhere else.
Friends can be the best asset and the worst detriment to your success. You need to understand that the goal is the goal. Your dream is the first and top priority. Every time your friends want you to sacrifice the time you’ve set aside to master your craft, they’re saying that your dream isn’t as important to them as it is to you. Every time they want you to miss an opportunity for whatever they want, they’re saying your success is of no value to them. Every time they put you in situations that could jeopardize your ability or eligibility to chase your dream, they’re saying that you don’t matter. There’s so much time wasted in being a "good friend" to people that don’t have your best interest at heart and it creates gaps between you and the competition that you have to make up for. They don’t have to make up for it because none of this is their dream. You have to make up for every day you wasted partying or getting high and then having a hangover or lethargic day afterwards that snowballed into you becoming inconsistent at best with your workouts. You have to make up for every time you miss a tryout or a combine because you weren’t able to afford the entry fee because all your money was spent bs-ing with the guys. This goes for family as well. Family matters but your family shouldn’t be taking away from your dream either. No title justifies anyone who takes away from you achieving your dream.
The harsh reality is you don’t need people to make your dream a reality but you can’t give yourself to people that aren’t interested in helping you.
The even harsher reality is that you don’t owe anyone anything and they don’t owe you anything. Everyone is free to make their own choices and if their choices don’t align with your goals then you are free to separate yourself. You can. You are more than able to do that.
The harshest reality is that you have to be willing to hold yourself accountable in these situations. You could’ve said no to the time, resources, and opportunities wasted. There will always be time to waste but your time right now cannot be wasted if you’re going to reach your goal. You have to assess where you stand with people and where they stand with you in your pursuit of the dream.
The habits you’ve formed are another thing that can make or break you. Not just the habit of doing but the habit of not doing, the habit of thinking and the habit of understanding. Everyday is an opportunity to learn. Do you go into your workouts practicing improper form on your exercises, drills, and motions? How would you know? Do you watch videos or ask for help from credible sources (coaches, former players, etc.) to help you correct your mistakes? Do you watch film of yourself to see where you could improve both in game and in the lab? Do you go in with a focus or do you just go in for the sake of going in? Do you take time to appreciate yourself and your progress on this journey you’ve taken? Do you take time to rest? Do you take time to find the appropriate source of relief and help when you feel over/underwhelmed? We all know about the habits of getting into the gym and making sure we workout but there’s so much outside of the monotony of shoot, dribble, run, jump that we don’t make the effort to acknowledge and address.
Your Open-Mindedness might be the 2nd most important thing to address. Are you willing to explore other avenues within the game? Sports have incorporated such a wide range of industries now that settling for just the role of a player is almost foolish. Sports medicine, for instance, has become so advanced now and learning this can help you become a better player. As an example, understanding how your specific body works, what muscles are being exercised, and proper recovery methods can help you make your workouts, as well as your rest, that much more effective. This will make a regimen easier to design and show you the free time you would have where you don’t need to focus on basketball anymore and you can use that time to hang with the friends that are pursuing other endeavors or that may have distracted you during your grind. Now you can have a balance of a social life while being consistent with chasing your dream.
Maybe you could be a good coach. In my personal experience, being able to work with other athletes, regardless of their level, gave me a real-life simulation of movements, plays and exercises that I wouldn’t be able to see by myself. These are things that I learned to understand and it made it easier for me to correct my mistakes by seeing the mistakes they were making. It’s a wonderful flow that makes me better as a player because I can see what others are doing wrong. It also makes me better as a player because I can see the mistakes I made being duplicated in people I may play against and, because I know the mistake so personally, I can take advantage of that and showcase a greater level of skill and knowledge.
The buck doesn’t stop there though. There’s an entire realm to the sport that can be explored in depth. Sports medicine, engineering, journalism, broadcasting, production, management, accounting, marketing, therapy, public relations, and coaching are just some of the many avenues to go down. These avenues can create connections into a greater network that may open the door to opportunities you wouldn’t have even known about had you not explored. Whether it be private runs, people who could put you in touch with teams, agents, other players, or even celebrities (local or major) who could help get your name out there, you never know who you could meet down any of these other roads.
The greatest part of it all is that one day, you’re going to retire. Whether or not you make it professionally, one day you’re going to retire. I know the goal is to make it, but to still be part of the game is a blessing, so don’t take that away from yourself. You could have experience in whatever field related to basketball and, after retiring, use that as a business venture. It’s a multi-layered area to build a life from.
Finally, we must address your motivation.
There’s a common misconception that the motivation never dies. Some people are blessed with an ever-burning fire and kudos to them. The rest of us, however, deal with an existential crisis every now and then.
Some days the shots just don’t fall and the frustration comes to a head and you want to give up.
Some days you don’t get that offer letter to a school or a callback from an agent, coach, or organization.
Some days it’s just absolutely rough as hell and you don’t know what to do.
Some days it’s an injury that you don’t know if you can recover from because the opportunity you had is going to be missed due to the injury.
Some days you just don’t have the money to fly to another state, get a hotel and compete in the tryout, showcase or combine.
Some days it just feels like you’re not going anywhere and it’s not worth it.
Some days you’re tired of sitting on the bench and never getting any minutes.
Some days it feels like the whole world is against you.
Some days it feels like the universe is setting up obstacle after obstacle and you’re just tired of having to keep on keeping on.
This is okay.
It comes with the territory.
Part of the journey is experiencing every single emotion, thought and interaction. The goal is to push through. The goal is to be able to get up and be ready for things to change. The goal is to understand that you can take time for yourself if needed because your sanity is necessary if you’re going to make it. The goal is to know that this what you want and it’s always going to be worth fighting for. The goal is to not let anything stop you even if it may slow you down a bit.
Because at the end of all that I’ve told you, you’re still going to achieve your dreams.
So don’t be filled with doubt or overwhelmed by what you don’t know. Be ready to embrace the unknown and become stronger, smarter, wiser, bolder because of it. Be ready to take on the challenge of mastering your craft and mastering the art of being successful. Be ready to make the changes you need to maximize every moment because you want to be a professional basketball player.