I flew to Germany in 2008 to play basketball. It was September-October ish and I had been home in the USA, jobless. I knew the manager of this German team, coincidentally, from YouTube. He’d watched my videos and would message me occasionally.
[This guy’s daughter, who was maybe 10-11 years old at the time, is the voice saying “Dre All Day dot com” in my video intros. I sent her a Work On Your Game long sleeve a couple years ago. We follow each other on Instagram to this day.]
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I initiated a conversation on YouTube with the German club manager one day out of pure Unemployed Basketball Player frustration.
The message, in its entirety: “Y’all gonna sign me or what?”
We had never previously discussed me playing for them. And they had already signed an American player on top of that. I had a sense of urgency about making something happen — ASAP.
He wrote back and told me they actually needed a Center (tallest guy on the court, usually 6’8” and up. I’m 6’4”). He asked me, in a joking way, if I could play Center.
I was on a plane two days later.
I wasn’t with that team for long. They didn’t have much money and I was forced to leave the hotel I was staying in. I found this out one random afternoon and had about an hour to come up with a plan, any plan, other than flying back to the USA.
I had the manger take me to the Stuttgart train station (hauptbahnhof). I found a place to stay. Then I started hustling.
My very career was on the line in this moment. I started contacting every German-based agent I could find. I needed a hook though, something guaranteed to grab their attention, in the subject line.
Here’s what I came up with.
Available Player- In Germany right now, college teammate of *********
The guy who’s name I used was an actual college teammate of mine, who’d played in Germany the season prior.
I left my German mobile number in the emails I sent. One agent called me one day, Interested in working with me. I asked him what caught his eye about my message (as many agents hadn’t replied). He said he remembered seeing my college teammate, the player whose name I’d dropped in the subject line, play the season before. This agent had gone to college in the USA too. Fluent English speaker.
This agent got me a train ticket to come to his city. He took me around to teams. Directed me to the town Internet cafe (where I spent all of my non-hoops time). Got me playing jobs. Kept my career going.
Dumb fucking luck, all of this. I’m not being sarcastic. Look at all of the lucky elements.
A professional basketball team manager watching YouTube videos in 2007. A 10-year-old girl offhandedly mentioning my website’s name while filming a game (where I got that voiceover drop from). Having a college teammate who’d played in that country the season before, and some guy who’d never heard of me, remembering him. A bunch of stuff in between all of this, that I won’t mention, that involve MySpace, snowball fights and the German version of Craigslist.
All of it was random happenstance. Happenstance that I couldn’t recreate if I tried. But the truth is, luck is NOT random.
The definition of luck I use is when preparation meets opportunity. There didn’t appear to be any opportunity for me in Germany. The team manager watching me on YouTube knew I played ball, yet had never offered me a contract. I was in Germany for months, no agent had called about representing me.
And I couldn’t have prepared for any of what happened.
Or could I?
I’d foresaw the power of video in 2006. I stressed to the manager that I needed someone to record our games with my camera. He told me he’d get his daughter to do it.
I knew agents were business people. They wanted to represent players who would get signed, which would make the agent money in turn. So I associated my name with the name of a player who’d done just that. I never asked my ex-teammate if it was OK to use his name in those emails, by the way. I just did it. I didn’t have time for formalities.
Every opportunity in this story was self-generated. And every time I made a new opportunity then, I canvassed my resources — knowledge, experience, risk-tolerance, confidence — for something that prepared me to exploit it. I still do the same now.
If you want to be lucky and make anything happen, here’s what you do:
- Take initiative in creating opportunities. Creating opportunity is different from asking for opportunity.
- Stack your resources. Know people. Know things. Have skills. Remain open-minded to possibilities. Control your mindset. Ask the right questions of the people who can actually do stuff for you. Do 10x more stuff for yourself before you ask anyone anything. Don’t ask people who can’t or won’t help you, for whatever reason.
Too many people are waiting, just waiting for life to happen. For someone to give them a shot or say the motivational words that give permission to finally act. You can wait if you wish. Just remember your clock is ticking, and it’s indifferent to what you’re doing, planning to do, or never got a chance to do when your time is up.
One more thing. A few days after coming home from Germany, it was in a Miami 24 Hour Fitness when I first said Work On Your Fucking Game.