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Professional Sports: What about Those that Never Make It? July 30, 2007

Posted by Marquis Chapman in Basketball, Football, NBA, NFL, Sports.

Every year, the NFL and NBA drafts are televised on ESPN.  Each year, a very small percentage of athletes hear their name called and get to shake the commisioner’s hand in front of family, friends, and millions of fans. Once you step foot on that stage, your life is changed forever. Fame and fortune become synonymous with your name.  The people who have helped the athletes get to this point are taken care of for life. It’s a dream come true.

But what about the athletes that have their dreams put on hold?  What about the athletes that don’t hear their name called?  Instead of relief and joy, they’re filled with grief, embarrassment, and uncertainty about the future. The athlete feels like he has let everyone down, especially those who have helped him get to this point.

Now, comes the road that is not as glorified.  The road that’s not talked about as much. It’s not covered on ESPN, or written about in Sports Illustrated, or hardly ever talked about on radio.  The road that’s seldom talked about is the NBA Development League or the training camps for undrafted players in the NFL.  Your name no longer carries any weight. No one cares about your awards, accolades, and highlights in college.  You’ve become just another number now.

While some of your peers are shooting commercials and signing endorsment deals, you’re playing in small basketball arenas in places like Des Moines, Iowa or busting your butt in a traning camp as a free agent for a coach that doesn’t even know your name. 

There are a select few that do make it by taking this route. Some become stars, some become reliable backups, and some just find a home with a team riding the bench every season. Players like center Ben Wallace and wide receiver Joe Horn were undrafted and have had very long productive careers in the NBA and NFL.

There are quite a few however, that find themselves right back at square one, having to start the process all over again. For some, it will be countless tryouts with one team after another, never even coming close to finding a secure home with a team.

So, at what point does the time come for an athlete to stop chasing the dream?  At what point does an athlete that has played sports all his life, start considering getting a 9 to 5?  When is it time to hang it up  and realize that the dream has become an unrealistic fantasy?

Some stop chasing the dream and get an ordinary job and are able to adjust to a life without sports, becoming successful in other areas of work. There are others that keep chasing and chasing, as the window of opportunity slowly closes. They refuse to stop trying and will continue to try to make it as long as their body allows them to.  The reason: it’s the only  thing that the athlete knows.  They’ve put all their eggs in one basket, banking on making it in professional sports.  They didn’t take college academics seriously and didn’t even bother to think about life without football or basketball.  For many athletes, there are no other options.  They simply have nothing to fall back on.

After years and years of try outs and eventually never making it, the athlete may become bitter, and blame everyone and everything besides themselves as to why they didn’t make it.  Phrases like “I could have been a great player” or “No one wanted to give me a shot” are the norm.  The athlete refuses to accept failure in something they’ve been doing their entire life.  Many of them will never find a home in professional sports.

So as you watch Lebron James in a Nike commercial or see Reggie Bush pitching an add for Gatorade, it’s important to realize that for every Lebron or Bush, there are hundreds that don’t make it. There are only a select few that are lucky enough to make it as a professional athlete and there are far more that will never make it.  The limelight in professional sports is so bright sometimes, that we often forget about who’s left in the shadows.





1. The Mixtape Monster - July 31, 2007

I think they should start televising International Basketball on Digital Cable. There’s all this hype around soccer and if it will be big in the US if they televise it more (both at home and international soccer), but I really believe Americans would like to see International Bball more. If not for the different style, then for the players that go on to have good careers over there that we used to be fans of.

For instance, I’m a big UNC fan and graduate, and we have tons of alums that do well overseas. Remember Easy Ed Cota? Homey got like 4 different championship rings overseas…

2. Marquis Chapman - July 31, 2007

Yeah, there are a lot of players I would watch that are playing overseas. Scooney Penn (Ohio State) and Ed Cota are at the top of my list.

3. Eaw Luvfy - January 12, 2012

One of the questions i am just questioned generally is actually “how to go about heading ‘full time’ being a professional … To speak with some … A specific game….

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