4 Mistakes That Kill Overseas Basketball Careers Before They Start

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Playing Basketball Overseas.

It’s the next-best-thing goal of every ambitious basketball player who doesn’t have strong NBA prospects.

While most of a player’s fans, friends and family back home won’t see much of you, don’t quite understand how things work, and may ask dumb questions like, why don’t you play in the NBA? Or, ever thought of going pro? Or, how does that work? For you, the player, overseas basketball still offers lots of positives.

  1. You’re playing basketball for a damn living, which beats working at a regular job.
  2. You get to travel the world, seeing places that you’d otherwise never see.
  3. You have fans: people who look up to you because of what you can do and the level you’ve ascended to. I don’t care how humble you claim to be; every human has an ego — and having fans strokes that ego like few other experiences.
  4. You’re doing what many basketball players attempt, but fail to do: get your foot in the door and stay in the room, hopefully building a career and making a name for yourself.
  5. You’ve “made it” into the top 1% of basketball players worldwide…
  6. … And probably the top 1% of working adults worldwide, not necessarily because of your income, but because you actually enjoy your job.

Playing basketball for a living is a great gig. I don’t need to sell you or anyone else on this; I’ve never met a person who had to be convinced to keep playing basketball. I’m sure a few such people exist, but I haven’t met them.

Anyway, the much bigger challenge is at the other end of the spectrum: the players who want to play overseas but haven’t been able to make it happen just yet.

The inconvenient truth is, for many of those players, that story ain’t changing.

There aren’t enough spots for everyone to make it, for one, and a lot of players mess up their own chances via the mistakes and oversights I will share with you here.

Check yourself.

Lacking The Discipline To Remain In Game Shape Without A Coach Or Trainer Or Team To Hold You Accountable.

I see this happen most often to players fresh out of college who are on their own with training for the first time in awhile, or maybe the first time ever.

The player now has no coach to schedule and run practices, no teammates working out to keep you motivated, and maybe you can’t afford a trainer of your own who will keep your ass in the gym doing stuff that you may not enjoy, but definitely need (such as lifting weights, eating right, or getting up early to train).

Doing all this stuff on your own can fit into the box of one word: Discipline.

Discipline is your capacity to do what you need to do even when it’s not what you want to do.

In my experience, the more talented the athlete, the less discipline (s)he has needed to exert in life. There are exceptions, but this is generally what I’ve seen.

As a player, I was never in the “chosen” group.

I had to scrape and claw just to make my high school varsity, and then walk on in college to end up at a D3. No one — agents, teams — was recruiting me to play pro basketball. I had to be disciplined just to make myself a passable player and give myself a chance. A player much more talented than me could maybe just show up and be the best player in the gym, practice or not. Doesn’t mean the talented player didn’t have discipline (or the capacity to develop it); it’s that they didn’t need it as much as a player like me did.

If you want to play pro basketball overseas but you’re not signed right now, this time period is the biggest test of your discipline that you’ll face. Here’s a shortlist of what you need to be doing.

  1. Eating right
  2. Working out consistently (in terms of frequency, time, location, AND process)
  3. Getting proper rest
  4. Consistently reaching out to and connecting with people who can help you get on (agents, teams, camp directors, friends or former teammates playing overseas, etc)

Not Appreciating That Your Off-Court Business Is Just As Important As Your On-Court Business.

This point is especially true, and would be #1, for players who are as I was, coming from a D3, JuCo or no college at all — you don’t have agents calling your phone trying to represent you, which means any action you get will have to be generated by YOU.

I’m a natural salesperson; I liked the marketing aspect of getting my name known in the overseas marketplace. I know how to talk myself up to other people in such a way that it speaks to their needs and not just mine. These days, I teach people to do the same.

Many athletes are not salespeople, which is not a bad thing. Many athletes are plainly athletes. They play their sport, maybe at a very high level, and have never had a need for any of that salesperson shit… until they do need it.

If you’re a less-than-D1 athlete trying to get in the overseas basketball industry, put equal emphasis on the business side of your work as what you put into the performance side of it. Without that business handled, you may never get a chance to perform.

This includes…

  • Networking and connecting with people who can put you on
  • Budgeting your money for exposure camp and tryout fees, travel, hotels, food and trainers/workouts/facilities
  • Having people in place in your life who will help facilitate your needs: airport trips and pickups, where your stuff remains while you’re overseas, taking care of your kids/pets/cars, making sure bills are paid, etc. Life stuff.

Everyone walking the planet has a dream; for some of us, though, life can get in the way of achieving those dreams. Anything that’s not your play on the court should be considered life. Don’t let yours get in the way of your game.

Giving Up When Nothing Seems To Be Working

This seems so trite as to not need to be said, yet it’s the #1 killer of dreams for all humans, male or female, in all ambitious endeavors. Sports are no exception.

As I said earlier, professional basketball is a 1% industry: being signed to a playing contract anywhere in the world puts you in the top 1% of every basketball player alive. The challenge is, I’d estimate that around 10% of the world’s basketball players have some ideas about getting into that 1% — which means, 9% of you ain’t making it, despite your best efforts.

It’ll take some mix of skill, talent, timing, help from others, and outright luck for things to fall properly in place for you. That’s the truth of this industry, and of every other industry where so many people want to play, but ultimately not everyone can (acting, entrepreneurial startups, music, etc).

Sometimes you get the opportunity simply because you stuck to the job when everyone else decided it was no longer worth the effort. That could be all it takes for you. But there’s only one way to ever find out for sure, and that’s to stay in the game until you get what you came for, or until you’re personally content with walking away, which is a unique until for each of us.

Not Being Aggressive Enough About Obtaining Resume Material, AKA Game Film

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: YOUR GAME FILM IS YOUR RESUME.

So get video of —

  1. Yourself playing basketball
  2. Playing well
  3. Playing with and against players who can play
  4. The clearer more professionally done the video, the better

Here’s where players ask questions. I’ll answer them here.

  • What if all I have is practice video? Then that’s all you have. Re-read points 1-4 above.
  • What if I don’t have anyone to record me? Go make some friends or hire some help. People will do anything, like filming a basketball game, for the right amount of money. They’re easy to find.

It’s 2019. You have a video camera. The person who just walked by you where you’re sitting has a video camera. The panhandler on the corner has a video camera. Maybe it was acceptable to be without game film in 2005-10 when I was starting my career, but not for you, not now.

Just get the damn video.


There are more players trying to get into the pro basketball / overseas basketball scene than there are jobs to satisfy everyone. And while luck does play a role in who makes it vs who doesn’t, avoiding the mistakes shared above will have you better prepared for the opportunity that can make your luck happen.


Next Steps

  1. See all my videos on Overseas & Professional Basketball
  2. Read How Overseas Basketball Works
  3. Get The Overseas Basketball Blueprint if you haven’t yet
  4. Read Work On Your Game, where I detail my own experience in creating my Overseas career

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