In the past, whenever I heard someone mention the D League, I have always had one of two reactions. This…
I was like the rest of the world who barely paid attention to any players in the D league- including the D league “stars”, had no clue where any of the teams played, and did not care enough to educate myself about them because they weren’t good enough to make it into the league.
Plus, why would I care about a team who’s franchise was based in random suburbs like Erie, Pennsylvania or Boise, Idaho? BOISE?!
Well, this season, I have officially changed my ways. (Ok, I still don’t care to go see games in random ‘cities’ – and I use that term VERY loosely- but it’s a process.) However, I do respect the D League a lot more than I have in the past.
Why? I’m happy you asked.
The D League is literally a breeding ground for the NBA. It’s the NBA’s way of saying, “Look. We can only have a certain number of players on each team and although you were cut, we like your game and we want to keep monitoring your play. Call you if a spot opens up. ”
It’s actually a GREAT idea. They have a full season, a good bunch of guys to play against which makes it likely that their games will improve, and best of all- they have the eyes of the NBA. Ingenious.
Imagine if you interviewed with Oprah for your dream job to host your own show on her new network. She hired someone else who was more polished and ready to go on-air immediately but hired you to stick around while she gave you tips to improve your skill set. Oh and by the way, she gave you the opportunity to host a couple shows as long as you were being productive in the position she gave you.
Sound like a no brainer to you, right?
I understand…I’ve seen the light too.
After I realized what the D league is about, I started to question why any sane hoop dreamer would pass on an opportunity like that. I researched by talking to a few ball players who either play in the NBA, plays or have played in the D League or players who opt to play overseas. Here’s my thesis, broken down:
1. Money. Players in the D league make no more than $35k a season with a $30/day per diem for food and other expenses on the road. Hardly enough for a half rack at BBQ’s- hope you’re not thirsty. They don’t have ALL their expenses because the league pays their rent and utilities (up to a certain amount) but still, $35k is not enough if you have a family. So, some guys literally can’t afford to play in the D League.
2. Ego. A few guys suffer from the “I killed him when we played in little league together, I should have his spot! Look at my chain, I’m a rock star!!”
Ok, so you broke an ankle or two when you played with/against Rajon Rondo fifteen years ago. Guess what? You also have a bad attitude, low consistency on the floor, you’re in terrible shape, you don’t listen to your coaches and that was FIFTEEN years ago- you’re NOT better than him. I’m sorry and I don’t care how many you dropped on him in your AAU game, he was picked for a reason.
3. No work ethic. It takes a big person to admit they have holes in their game they can improve upon- and really mean it. Some hear they got an invite to a D league tryout and see opportunity, others look at it and see failure. All they have to do is work on their game (I did mention they have NBA eyes on them all season, right?), get better and move on up. Easier said than done, but getting there is the first step.
(this next one is a biggie so pay attention)
4. False sense of reality. Everyone knows a person who SWEARS they’re so good at something they suck at, right? Well there are plenty of those in basketball. I must admit, hearing the “I’m too good to play in the D league” stuff really ticked me off. As a true competitor, if you get looked over for the A team and picked for the B team, shouldn’t the first thing you think be:
Oh word? So yall don’t think I’m good enough to lace up on the big stage, huh? Ok. How about I play on your little B squad, bust everyone’s a– there, get promoted to the A squad and THEN bust everyone’s a– there?!
I mean…really. Not only are you better than everyone in the D league- you think you should have the spot of about half the NBA?
All in all, the NBA D League is not only a good look, it’s a great look. There have already been 5 Gatorade call ups in the 2010-2011 season and there will probably be more to come. There IS a light at the end of the tunnel! Ok, so maybe D-Leaguers can only shop on the dollar menu at McDonald’s- who cares?? If they work hard, get better, and be a team player, they will move up.
(DID I MENTION THAT THEY HAVE THE EYES OF THE NBA FOR THE WHOLE SEASON?)
Check out a few of D league success stories:
I rest my case.