Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
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Ball U Academy: Passion or Paper? What Motivates NBA Players

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Legend has it that a talented 6’10” forward that was a former NBA player told his son words that he will take with him for the rest of his career.

“Don’t let them hold your game back” His son took those words to heart and eventually became one of the greatest to ever play the game.  Which strikes a question I have to the other 300 some odd players that are limited to a specialist role.


How good could they have been if Joe “Jellybean” Bryant was their father and told them those words of wisdom?

As fans, it’s hard for us to look at sports the way we look at a 9-5 because most of us dream to make the amount of money they make or get paid to play the sport that they love.  Allow me to play devil’s advocate (what else is new).  Let’s say that you had the opportunity to get paid millions of dollars to do something that you are in love with doing.

It could be a sport, an art, anything you want.  But, the people that are paying you don’t give a rat’s ass about your passion for it and their only focus is on the bottom line profit.  Let’s also say that they believe they can get the most for their buck if you “dumb down your craft” and let another person (who you believe you are better than) be the superstar for the sake of the team.

Do it for the brand! Let’s also throw in the fact that you are only contractually obligated to work with this person for 4 years, but they have the right to trade you or release you at will.

Sounds like a dead end job doesn’t it? In addition, for those 4 years that you are dumbing down your craft, blending in as just another worker, the other 30 places that are potential employers are typecasting you as a role player.  So, even if they want you to be a part of their organization, they will want you do the exact same thing you were doing at the last organization because that’s all they believe you can do.

I’m sure you didn’t sign up for that, did you? To add insult to injury, we will hypothetically assume that billions of people watch you do your job every day and critique you on being one dimensional and expendable.  If you mess up, a lot of those same people will crucify your name, your children, your family, and everything you stand for, all because you made a mistake.

You get paid millions of dollars to do this.  We have the right to say whatever we want!  Stop being a baby! Recap, you get to do what you love under the stipulations that you do it the way someone else tells you to do it so that you can be released for someone that is younger and cheaper…all while other organizations that are looking at you will continue to hold back your craft for the sake of their brand and people who have no idea how great you are, curse you and bitch at you on a regular basis.

You wouldn’t dumb it down and be someone’s doormat in exchange for millions of dollars? Think about it!  You will be financially set for the rest of your life as long as you don’t do anything ridiculous.  You will have access to nice things and be able to hang out with beautiful people.

Big house, nice cars, fame, fans, the whole 9 yards.  All you have to do is sell out a little bit!

Your pride may have you in your feelings at first, but eventually, you will grow numb after a while, right?  What do you say? You may be one of the select few who wouldn’t “sell out” your love for the game in exchange for financial stability, but, understand that we will find someone who is willing to play ball.  Why not let it be you?

As you can see, things aren’t always as simple as the best player will play.  If it was, we would have 5 NBA franchises.

This article also appears on the blog, Ball U Academy here.

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