I get asked about G-League Open Local Tryouts more than I get asked about anything professional-basketball related.
There are good reasons why.
- To the casual fan, it’s the most visible chance at playing professional basketball, and the simplest shot at making the pros for the casual pro-hopeful player. Why do I mention casual fans? Because we have social media now, and basketball players are people, too: People want to show off to their friends and fans and haters how they’re doing something potentially significant. Casual fans wouldn’t know anything about a private closed-gym pro workout or even an exposure camp where players invest hundreds and even thousands for a chance at a basketball career. Casual fans do understand I’m trying out for the Boston Celtics on Saturday. Most players who talk and talk about playing professional basketball don’t have close to the skill set to do so, and are not close to being serious about it — which leads to the next point.
- You don’t have to be serious about playing professional basketball to attend a one-day G-League tryout. Which is why the clowns come out of the woodwork for every one of these events. I’ve personally participated in two G-League local tryouts (unsuccessfully); maybe 20% of the players at each actually belonged in a gym trying out for a professional basketball. The rest of them were just in the damn way. Attending a local tryout can make for a fun story; over the years there have been newspaper reporters, YouTubers and all other sorts of in-the-way folks attending tryouts just to have content for their websites and channels. Attending a G-League local tryout does not make you a serious player.
- It’s the cheapest exposure camp in existence. A G-League local tryout will run you $150-$250. Most exposure camps’ entry fees alone are $350 and up — before factoring in travel, food and lodging.
- G-League tryouts are usually local and only one day; minimal time investment. You don’t need to rearrange your schedule, find a babysitter or even call out from work. A G-League tryout merely replaces your normal weekend pickup games at LA Fitness.
- Low investment opportunities attract The Masses. If you’re in sales, you know what kind of people you encounter when you aim at the masses: the Average. The Everyday man. The Layman. There’s nothing wrong with being amongst the average in life if that’s who you want to be; as far as this topic of pro basketball is concerned, the Average don’t sign professional basketball contracts.
- The G-League sells their local tryout as your chance to try out for the NBA. This is the NBA fulfilling a need: Every neighborhood rec center has that one guy whom everybody thinks could help the local NBA team; the G-League is, ostensibly, your chance to prove it. And anyone who’s ever picked up a basketball would be fairly enticed by the chance to try out and make the MIAMI Heat or the Los Angeles Lakers with just a couple of hours of showing his stuff. The NBA is also utilizing the same psychology that a stripper uses to get you to pay for a lap dance: They feed your fantasy and charge you money for the privilege. And you’re so close — right there in the team facility, with team management right there watching — that you can feel the realness of this opportunity. Who would pass up this opportunity of a lifetime?
Players who are considering exposure camps often ask me to gage how “legit” a certain camp or academy is before they make an investment. I always ask a player who uses this language to explain to me exactly what “legit” means to them.
Usually the answer is some form of, Will I have a real chance of getting a contract from going here?
While I cannot estimate those chances for a player whom I’ve never seen play (and I’m not a scout or coach, so I don’t want to watch your highlight tapes), I will say this: The G-League Local Open Tryout is not any more “legit,” by the above definition, than the most off-brand exposure camp you could possibly attend.
The G-League open local tryout is, from what I can surmise, merely a money-grab by teams selling you the try out for the NBA! dream, where in actuality you have no real shot at making their opening night roster. Adam Johnson covered this topic, in terms of whether it even makes sense for G-League teams to continue to hold these local tryouts, from the team perspective. Consider this article the player perspective.
I guess I should address the soon-to-come geniuses who will point out the handful of player who made G-League rosters from Open Tryouts and maybe even subsequently appeared in the NBA. These are the same people who, when I say that height is a talent for basketball, name drop Isiah Thomas, Spud Webb and Nate Robinson as proof that I’m wrong.
So here’s my addressing of these people: The exceptions prove the rules.
There are 27 teams in the G-League (28 in 2019). If each holds one tryout, where 100 players attend (both these numbers are conservative), that’s 2700 players trying out. This article explains how a team’s allotted “Tryout” players aren’t always random no-names who showed up out of the blue (in other words, they’re not like you). If 50 of the 2700 “walk-ons” made rosters (a very generous number), that’s a 1.8% chance for you. Pro exposure camps have a MUCH higher attendee-to-contract rate than this. Simple mathematics.
Here’s what you should do instead of wasting your afternoon and $150 on a fruitless G-League tryout and maybe a free team practice jersey:
Save up your money and attend a pro basketball exposure camp.
Yeah, it costs more for the event, plus flights, hotels, food and spending money while you’re there. More investment and bigger risk. Well, dammit, professional sports is a business. Any professional sport requires that you invest in yourself to not only start but also to continue your career — even when you’re not making that much from your performances.
Make that investment pay for itself by Working On Your Game and being ready for your chance.