Because we love the game? Sure, that is somewhat of an acceptable answer. Certainly it was good enough for our forefathers. But back when the late Dr. James Naismith was running things, everyone’s idea of the “American dream” was not to become idolized for putting a round ball into a peach basket, nor was it to make millions doing tennis shoe commercials.
But in today’s society, it seems every young man (and many young women) seek to be the next iconic figure on some level of basketball’s universe. With the rapidly growing option of making a living playing in nearly any country around the world, or recently, the rise in attention to the National Basketball Association Developmental League, things like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many other social media networking sites online have drawn an extreme amount of awareness for what it takes to become recognized as an athlete that people of any age, race, gender, or socioeconomic status seek to be a part of. But now it is getting to the point where we as a society have become irresponsible and foolish.
Today it is not just the high-flying acrobatic dunks of Lebron James or the sniper-like marksmanship of Stephen Curry. Take a look on the internet for 2 minutes, and you will see a child who may stand over 6 feet tall, however, because they are doing unbelievable athletic moves that grown men in the NBA get paid millions of dollars to perform in front of a global fan base, these children are now being forced to conduct themselves in a professional manner, which they often fall far short of (through no fault of their own). Even worse, the kids are brought up by their parents and mentors to be the best athletes they can be, rather than the best types of people they can be. At such a young age, these kids need the opportunity first, to understand how much they love the game. Once they discover where their heart is, the desire and the will to compete will follow naturally. It absolutely can not be forced. When the parents want the kids to have the drive to succeed more than the little athletes, you have modern day AAU in America. It has become unbelievable what these kids witness from parents, coaches, and fans on a day-to-day basis.
Another unfortunate occurrence every year, from the beginning of Spring to the end of Summer is the scholastic sponsored camps only the elite young athletes are invited to, knowing their athletic careers are far from over. For those that do not make these events, the parents feel it is their job to seek the best individual trainers, which do not come cheap. Also, for the young men and women out of highschool with hopes of securing a 1 in a million dream of landing a respectable job playing overseas, ruthless wealthy coaches, scouts, and agents, with a little business savvy, will host “exposure camps” promising anyone naïve enough to pay anywhere from $400 to €5,000 to go to a camp somewhere in the world, knowing very well they will also have to pay outrages airfares, hotel costs, transportation fees, and meals. The sad reality of the situation is more than 50% of these exposure camps and tours are complete scams, another large portion of the camps will “name drop” people and NBA teams and scouts that they say will be at these events, then when the ambitious athletes arrive, they begin the camp only to realize they are just there playing pickup games with some guy off Craigslist hired to officiate these games who shows up in a football official uniform. The whole operation is a joke and very unprofessional at best. The worst part is after the first day of games, many of the athletes who have never met, but decide to stay in a hotel room together to cut their expenses, begin expressing their concerns to each other and come to the realization not one of the big name scouts, agents, owners, coaches, or other team representatives were ever in the gymnasium.
How do players from America expect to land these dream jobs of playing overseas? The fact of the matter is these jobs go to big-time athletes from well known Division I programs that just barely were not good enough to make it to the NBA. To make matters worse for these hopeful basketball enthusiasts, many NBA players, after they finish playing, decide to go across the water to hold on to their first love while literally being treated like royalty because of who they were 10 or 15 years earlier. Plus they get to travel the world in style, meet beautiful European women, and eat the country’s finest foods. Most Americans think of having these types of luxuries after they retire as senior citizens that have saved every penny their entire lives. So to answer the question, an athletic young adult looking to continue playing basketball competitively after their college eligibility is used up, is, for most part, a fantasy. Sorry, try to have fun at your local YMCA rec league.
HOWEVER! 1 in a million is still theoretically a chance!
Yes, it might sound a little cliché, and the odds are really not all that vesicious, but the title of the post is a simple question. “Why do we play?” Sure, we all love basketball, but we also love pizza! The good news is, if the reader’s answer is “Passion”, it is very likely this is not the first time he or she has been exposed to this realty. In fact, you literally believe impossible is an opinion. You do NOT subscribe to the notion that your past determines your future. The old saying goes, “Whatever the mind can conceive, the body can achieve.” Most would laugh at such a bold statement, but if human history is any indicator, you do not have to look far to realize there is a frightening truth to this line of thinking.
For those sharing the same viewpoint who have God-given talent, a work ethic second to none, and refuse to lose, YES! There is a chance!
Many talented athletes, after high school, for whatever reason, end up at an NAIA or D-II, or even D-III program. These amazing talented hard-working men and women, should they truly desire to play professionally, have many more obstacles to overcome. The truth is, they must experience hardship 100 times what they can even imagine. They must go to to all the camps that are scams. They do not even have a choice, because if they miss one opportunity to be seen doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right place, they risk losing everything. Because nearly all of the actual respectable overseas combines that do what they say, are “invite only” camps, which means you would have to be an All-American in a good high school, and put up good numbers at a major well-known university. The small program athletes must know how to present themselves to teams, owners, scouts, coaches, and agents, in hopes of winning the proverbial basketball lottery, and attracting an honest, hard-working, certified FIBA agent with excellent connections, as well as, a reputation for dealing with successful professional athletes that have a history of meeting the criteria for competive contracts. Facebook and social media on today’s internet is full of young men and women posting once or twice a week about their excruciatingly extensive workout regimen. Some may even be brave enough to put a short video of something besides bouncing a ball, walking up to the 3-point line, and jacking up a few hail mary’s, then posting 27 hashtags about how their time will come, and this is the proof that they live The Basketball Lifestyle.
If you knew of every single player that had professional talent, who somehow had never been “discovered”, you could literally count them on your hands and feet! The truth is simple. Champions do NOT need to advertise how great they are. They grind all day and all night behind the scenes. Then, when it is time to perform, they let their game speak. Because when preperation meets opportunity, you have a recipe for success. That is true in basketball. That is true in life.
There is no doubt. Players that somehow unfortunately slip through the cracks of the college basketball media and hype that refuse to give up and give in to the fate that the basketball gods have cast upon them, are battle-tested. When their time comes, they will not only have their dream job, they will be able to look back on their life, and have no regrets, no what if’s, and nothing to be ashamed of. They will have proven themselves true champions, regardless of wins and losses, or points, rebounds, or assists. No matter how life comes at them, after basketball has come and gone, they will know they have what it takes, and given the same situation, they would still risk everything all over again.
Why do THEY play?
They play the game for reasons larger than themselves.
They play the game because they have a burning desire, a passion inside of them.
They play the game because Basketball is a Lifestyle!