Many young children daydream about what they want to be when they are older. Doctors, lawyers, nurses and professional athletes are just a few careers that are among popular choices. However, any sort of a professional athlete choice seems to be the hardest career to obtain and yet it also comes with many challenges. Take for example, the NBA. While it’s quite admirable to say that you are a professional basketball player, there are many things that you will quickly discover after you are drafted.
Sure, being tall can be quite an advantage in basketball. With a net that is ten feet off the ground, pro teams will definitely want to find some long legs to reach it. That’s why the average NBA player recruited is approximately 6 feet 7 inches tall according to www.nba.com. However, you still need a lot more skill to back up those long limbs. For example, Paul Sturgess, an English professional basketball player stands seven feet 8 inches tall (www.sbnation.com)! That’s tall enough to grab the top of the basketball rim! And while he’s surely capable of a good slam dunk or two, Sturgess hasn’t surpassed the NBA-D league. It goes to show that being noted as the tallest pro basketball player on earth by the Guinness Book of World Records still won’t get you to the recognition you yearn for.
Fortunately, while the NBA is notorious for including the tallest athletes in the world, there are still some “little guys” that can hold their own and make it to this elite group. So, don’t think that because of your lack of height you will receive an automatic rejection. Although, the odds are even slimmer, there still is a chance. Take for example, Muggsy Bogues. Bogues’ awesome skills have been demonstrated through his career in the NBA including with the Charlotte Hornets, Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors and the former Washington Bullets.
Bogues was one of the shortest NBA players in history (www.complex.com) standing only 5 feet 3 inches tall! Not only was he much shorter than the average NBA player but he was also much smaller than the average man. The Center for Disease Control lists the average American man’s height of 5 feet 9 inches. That’s a whopping 6 inches taller than Bogues! Did this seem to affect his athleticism? Absolutely not! Bogues was known for his strong abilities in passing, stealing and quickness on the court. These extraordinary skills made his height easily overlooked by fans and players. The 1990’s of Bogues’ career with the Charlotte Hornets went down as one of the most popular eras in the Hornet’s history of basketball (www.complex.com).
However, regardless of your height (or lack thereof), there are many other factors that come into play if you’re truly wanting to get into the NBA. Many of which, don’t come very easily. Some other factors to consider are professional strength, leadership, teamwork, notoriety, wingspan, shooting abilities, speed, defensive skills and endurance. Further, all of these traits and many more must be at an extraordinary level.
Many people think of NBA players as wealthy individuals with an endless amount of exposable income. Surprisingly, this is not the case at all for the vast majority of them. In the October 21, 2011 edition of the Wages of Wins, it notes that the majority of NBA players make less than $2 million. Although that may seem like a lot, it’s not nearly the amount that of NBA icon, as Kobe Bryant. Bryant made well over $23 million in his 2014 season according to www.espn.go.com. And while he quite deserved the amount due to his high scoring abilities (receiving 81 points during his highest scoring NBA game against the Raptors), it’s not likely that many of his teammates with equal abilities will be handed the same check.
The Wages of Wins article went on to note interesting facts including that since the 1990-1991 NBA season, 1461 new players have entered. Of those, only 33% of NBA players (490 individuals) never even made $1 million dollars their entire career! A million dollars seems like a lot to most people but you may not be taking into account other crucial factors. For example, for most NBA players, this income is their only source of income to support themselves and their families. Not to mention, their basketball career is a finite amount of time so when it’s over, the money stops. What if they sustained an injury or could just no longer keep up their best game? Immediately, that cash flow seizes.
The question then becomes what to do next? Coaching? Even that is a long shot. Surprisingly, becoming a NBA coach is actually even harder than playing for the team. With all of the retiring NBA players competing for the rarity of an open coaching position, it can be quite daunting on any career plans to learn that it’s not an easy goal to obtain.
What’s even more troubling is that the athletes have to make these career and retirement decisions at a much earlier age than the average American. While most of us do not plan to retire until 60 or even 70 years of age, to a NBA player, this is unheard of. The oldest NBA player in history was forward Nat Hickey during the 1947-1948 season (www.nba.com). Hickey was 46 years old and that was over 60 years ago. In today’s time, the oldest player during the 2013-2014 is Steve Nash at 40 years old (sportige.com). That’s when many of us are just hitting our prime, certainly not thinking of retirement. While we all hope the best for Nash and that he continues on with an outstanding career in the NBA for many years to come, statistically, it probably won’t happen. In fact, the average age of a NBA player is only 26.8 years according to the rosters reflected at basketball.realgm.com.
Now, let’s consider the other end of the spectrum, that being the youngest player in professional basketball. Yes, Andrew Bynum was only 18 years old when he played his first game in NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers (www.nba.com). Today, Bynum continues to do well and has played over nine years. However, even though starting your career early may be an advantage, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a life-long career. It is interesting to note the time the average NBA player spends in their career. Unfortunately, it’s not that long. The average being just a tad over 6 seasons with only 41 games (http://weaksideawareness.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/average-nba-career-length-for-players-details/). Can you imagine that after only 6 years, your dream job will be over and your salary will no longer exist? What a heavy weight to carry on your shoulders!
Maybe being a famous basketball player alone will be enough to lure in a significant other but you’ll have to work pretty hard to maintain that relationship. For example, one couple known for their shaky relationship was Kobe and Vanessa Bryant. Together, they were one of the NBA’s most prominent couples. Unfortunately though, their ten year marriage ended after Vanessa filed for divorce in 2011. And the Bryant’s marriage trouble was not a scarcity. In fact, many NBA players face relationship difficulties and the divorce rate is unsurprisingly higher than that of the average American. Although, pro athletes marry at nearly the same rate (73%) as others, 57% of those marriages will end in divorce and many of which happen during the first year of retirement. (source). Another source estimates even higher divorce rates at a staggering 60%-80%!
There could many reasons for the breakdown of NBA marriages but some of the biggest offenders have to do with fame and money.
Fame is indeed a powerful quality but it also comes with a lot of evil temptations. When you are constantly being propositioned by a countless number of women promising to do just about anything, it may be hard to reject. Especially when the athlete spends an immeasurable amount of time away from home, it becomes harder and harder to avoid these temptations.
Secondly, there is money. While money can make things in life a whole lot easier, it can also bring about many hardships as well. The average NBA player is not accustomed to making millions and when they do, they may not be spending it very wisely. Spending too much too quickly especially without the spouse’s approval, can definitely elicit a quarrel. There will come a time when the basketball player’s career will end and if there wasn’t careful investment and savings on both ends, a great deal of turmoil will surely ensue. And just because you were once a famous basketball player doesn’t mean that it will save you from one of the leading causes of divorce in mainstream society.
Yes, there are children day dreaming as we speak of becoming the next Michael Jordan or Larry Bird. And although we wish every child the very best in achieving their dreams, we hope that they understand that certain dreams such as becoming a famous basketball player may not what be what it’s cracked up to be.