Whatever Your Profession, Never Disrespect Your Audience

In Basketball, Blog, Business & Entrepreneurship, Personal Branding

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 05: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on December 5, 2015 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 575727063 ORIG FILE ID: 500123246

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My first ever public speaking engagement – well, on the business side, at least – was in early 2015.

I spoke at Lynn University in Boca Raton about building an audience online. The three points of the “triangle” I laid out were:

  1. Skill: Be good at your chosen expertise. Know enough to share with authority and have an opinion.
  2. Consistency: There are many people online publishing things. Be consistent enough that we don’t forget about you between posts or videos.
  3. Connection: On top of knowing your stuff, the people in your audience have to like you. Your style, your method of delivery. They must relate to you in some way.

And, once you develop an audience as a result of following of these principles, always remember how you got them. Too drastic of a change can cause problems, in the form of lost admirers.

I don’t think basketball fans will just up and cease liking their favorite players for sitting out games when the player is perfectly healthy. But it is a blatantly disrespectful slap in the face to the fans.

I’ve played professional basketball. I know the rigors of training (which is all year-round) and the fatigue my body feels from the constant grind.

Still, I would never voluntarily sit out a game the way NBA players have been this season. If my coach decided I should sit out, we would have a discussion, which may become a confrontation. 

There are several reasons why.

  1. I signed a contract. The contract is for you to work – practices, community appearances, travel, games – for the team. Granted, following the orders of your coach is part of the deal, but f*** that. I’ll take the fine for that one. Imagine Phil Jackson telling Michael Jordan that Mike wasn’t going to play in a game, just because Phil decided Michael needed rest. Or Larry Brown telling that to Allen Iverson. All hell would break loose. And, both Mike and Iverson would be on that court that night, playing.
  2. There are fans who can only afford – time, distance, or money-wise – to attend this ONE game. And they planned it this way to see YOU. As a child growing up in Philadelphia, my family of four went to ONE Sixers game a year. We sat in the cheapest of cheap seats. Not to see the 76ers; to see Charles Barkley. CHARLES sold those tickets. Not anyone else on the roster. Now, imagine if a perfectly healthy Charles Barkley decided, alone or with a coach’s suggestion, to not play that night. How would you feel as a fan?
  3. You’re a professional athlete. It’s supposed to hurt – and you do it anyway. Casual fan, if you didn’t know, know this: professional practices are harder than the games. I played on teams who practiced twice a day all week, with one game per week on Saturday. Did I always feel like practicing? Hell no! But it was my duty and obligation to do so.
  4. It’s disrespectful to the GAME, in addition to the fans. Rappers make rap music. Ballet dancers perform recitals. Construction workers build things. If you’re a basketball player PLAY BASKETBALL.
  5. The games are fun!!! All that damn practicing isn’t for our health – it’s to be ready for the damn games! Not playing in the game is like working 40 hours a week and not picking up the paycheck. The games are when I got to show off all the skill I’ve been working on. Who would choose to skip, or accept being told to skip that?

Professional sports is a unique job in that you have an audience of people who pay money to watch you work. For that reason alone, you’re obligated to do so unless you are physically incapable.

20, 10, or even 5 years ago, players never sat our games for “rest.” How, all of a sudden, do all today’s players need it? Did the anatomy of humans change in some way?

You’re a professional athlete. Respect the game. Respect the fans. And respect your damn title.

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