Basketball is still the third most popular sport in the world, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Why would it when the world’s number one professional basketball league (NBA) keeps bringing in loads of freakishly talented players year after year? It’s undoubtedly a joy to watch. But even more than the NBA, we can now find gravity-defying leapers and ball handling artists at the click of a button. Believe it or not, with the help of technology and a thing called viral videos, these unknown phenomenons are quickly becoming more popular than the pros, at least on the internet. Sadly, though, these same highlights performed by single-faceted players have become a bar of sorts for younger players who dream of making the big league. Single-faceted player? These are the players who have one aspect of this vast game of roundball that they know pretty well. Unfortunately, if they step outside of that, they’re as lost as a needle in a haystack. You might not see them playing at a level any further than college or semi-pro. However, they’re also the most likely to have a video on the net of something incredible they did which gets millions of views.
It’s okay to get caught up watching video after video of these unbelievable athletes. Apparently, millions of others do. But if you’re looking to make a career out of the game, you need to understand this: it’s cool to watch, but not cool to become. Now, there aren’t perfect players in the world, not even in the NBA. The closest thing to a perfect player was arguably Michael Jordan. The good news is, becoming a professional basketball player isn’t about becoming a perfect one. It’s not even largely based on talent, in most cases. Many players don’t understand that, and are left dumbfounded when their coach sits them most of the game or when they’re released from a team. Let’s agree that this will not be you once you’ve finished reading this. Please note that if you’re serious about making a career out of basketball, it’s assumed that you’re already on a team, whether it’s high school, college or an amateur league. If not, the advice that follows will still be beneficial so read on. Either way, you’re going to want to soak up the following three (3) keys if you’re looking to make it onto the pro stage of basketball.
- Get your current priorities in order. Committing yourself to do what it takes to become a professional is no small order. One of the greatest sacrifices you’ll need to make is one of time and how you decide to use it. And the more obligations in your life, the trickier it gets. If you’re in school, you need to work your basketball schedule around classes, homework and studying, not the other way around. You don’t want your grades to slip. You might have work, a family or both. There’s a number of things that can factor in dividing your time. The biggest thing is making sure you understand what’s most important and moving forward from there. Students fail, marriages fail and plans to go pro fail when players allow basketball to overshadow the more important responsibilities. Don’t let that be you. Prioritize your life and work basketball into it.
- Work your butt off. This seems like a no-brainer, right? It’s almost as if telling you to work on your game doesn’t need to be discussed. But you’d be surprised by how many people say they want to be in the pros, yet their work habits mirror none of their claims. Some people are turned off after they hear “Get your priorities in order”, so if you’re still serious about making it professionally, you need to be in the gym! Know what you’re great at, good at and not-so good at. Spend some time on the great, more time turning the good to great, and extra time getting the not-so good to a respectable level. After you’ve prioritized, you now need to maximize the windows of time that you’ve blocked off solely for basketball and get to it. Track your progress so you know you’re improving. Don’t forget weights and cardio training. Find someone to work with you. Do whatever you have to do to improve. Just make sure you’re working when you’re supposed to, and not TV binging on the couch.
- Be relentless. This scenario is sadly, yet fairly common: Guy hits his workouts hard and is motivated to get better for a couple of weeks. The next week he hits it hard and is motivated for five days. The following week it’s three days. The pattern continues until he’s back to working out when he gets a chance, rethinking the path he wants to take in life. That’s some heavy stuff, but it happens. Look at new year’s resolutions. The success stories aren’t as prevalent as the ones that let it go not even a month in. If you’re going pro, you need to stick with it whether you feel like it or not! There will always be days when your body or the majority of your mind tells you “not today”. Guaranteed. However, that small light in your brain that reminds you it’s work out day is what you need to listen to. If you only work on the days you feel like it, you’re selling yourself miles short of where you could be. It’s said that 90% of success involves just showing up. Get yourself in the gym, and everything else will follow once you’re there.
Bonus: There’s a big difference between making the pros and being a pro. Now if you can get your talent up to a level where it doesn’t matter if you lack good character and good work or moral ethics, then more power to you. We see pro players making bonehead decisions everyday, and they still keep their spot on the roster because their talent outweighs some bad publicity. However, chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re not quite at that level yet. Not to say you can’t get there, but is that really what you dream when you envision this being your profession?
What I explained above in prioritizing, putting in the work and being relentless describes a player who knows what he wants, knows how to get there and won’t allow anyone or anything to get in the way. These traits will allow you to not only improve as a player and a person, but it will spread into other areas of your life. When those habits have become intrinsic, that’s when you set yourself apart from the average. You become a pro. From a coach’s standpoint, they’re the best players to have. Coaches will do whatever they can to keep a player like that on their team. As a player, you love to have them as teammates. Talent is great, but when you add to it the right mindset and approach to the game, you become invaluable to a team.
So, again, if you’re serious about breaking into professional basketball, start getting things in order today. Start working your mind and body towards the level it needs to be in order to go pro. Don’t quit. Stay motivated. Looking forward to seeing you on the big screen.