Michael Jordan wrote that, when he arrived at his first training camp with the Chicago Bulls, his aim was to impress.
Michael wanted everyone within the organization, from his teammates to coaches to management, to say, “We picked the right guy. He has the right motivation, the right work ethic, the right skills. He’s our guy.”
A man named Orlando Woolridge was a Bulls player that year. Orlando once said that when he got to see Jordan in practice for the first time, the future was very clear: Jordan was gonna be The Man.
“You just knew it from DAY ONE.”
As an NBA rookie, Kobe Bryant didn’t play a lot. I mean, 15 minutes per game is not nothing, but it definitely wasn’t enough for the skinny high schooler to prove that he belonged in the league.
A funny thing happened though, whenever Kobe did get in the games: He treated his 15 minutes like a personal showcase of great things to come.
Kobe would do his crossover moves, try highlight-reel dunks, and generally put on a show — so much that he teammates nicknamed him “Show-be” early in his career. We all know now that the showman 18-year-old would go on to become a legitimate Main Attraction.
The first friend I can remember having in life is my man Tim. We grew up next door to each other; Tim is the one looking at the camera in the photo above, taken at his wedding. If you read Buy A Game, I mentioned a side bet Tim won over me in my senior year of high school.
My back is to the camera in the shot above; from that you can see that Tim isn’t very tall. He’s about 5’7”, but he played basketball well: Made his high school varsity as a junior, and even scored 1,000 collegiate points at Penn State Delaware Valley.
Tim and I played many epic full-court one-on-one games at Finley Playground in the 90s; those games were the foundation for me to start working on my dribbling, shooting and quickness — Tim was better in all three.
Though I was a year older than he, Tim was playing “under the whistle” — games featuring referees and coaches — before me. Back in our early and mid-teen years, all us players considered our proximity to the starting lineups of our under-the-whistle team to be a reflection of our value as basketball players. A kid who regularly started for the 15-and-under team could talk more shit than the player who merely came off the bench for that team. To us, the starters were the best players.
Tim didn’t always start on his rec league teams back then. He knew the role starting played in status, though, so, as he couldn’t control the coach’s decisions, he instead changed the story around his backup role to make it work for him.
“No, I’m not starting, I come off the bench… but once I do get in the game, I’ll play so well that I’m not coming out of the game.”
For Your Game
- Sometimes the best opportunities go to those who have been pre-chosen as worthy, fairly or not. Nothing you can do about that if you’re not one of them. But, what little opportunity you do get, make something happen with it. Act like you want more of it.
- Sports is the ultimate meritocracy: There’s a scoreboard that tells no lies. You cannot politic your way out of a bad performance. There’s nowhere to hide on the field or court. Though the business / work world can be and often is more slippery than the black-and-white of sports, a solid performer can be kept secret but only so long, before opportunity demands the presence of this performer, or the performance of the performer herself demands opportunity. Keep playing your game.
- Like all athletes would, do the work to prepare yourself before the situation occurs. By the time you start playing, it should be clear from the start what your value is and what you bring to the table. They should see it from Day One.
Where’s the next place you will need to impress and make an immediate impact? What do you need to do to be prepared for it? Reply and share with me.