A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with my agent. He said that he was talking to some teams in Italy. I got very excited. (I recently gained Italian citizenship.) Then he said that they wanted to see some film. Maybe a highlight tape. I was instantly crestfallen.
It hit me all at once that I was wildly unprepared to fulfill that request. My most recent highlight tape was from college. I sent that anyway, hoping that the all the footage of Jeremy Lin might serve as an intriguing distraction while I scrambled to figure out what I was going to do.
Let me be perfectly clear that this predicament was entirely of my own doing. When it comes to self promotion, I am like the anti Don King. When you are a professional basketball player, that is not good. You have to be your biggest cheer leader. You have to pay someone to make slick highlight videos after every season. And you have to network.
Networking comes as second nature to some people. I am not one of them. On several different occasions this past season, some teammates and I would go watch games in person. It took some cajoling from my friends to convince me that it would be more fun to watch the games live. I would try to sell them on all the benefits of watching on TV, such as the lack of drive time, easier access to food, and a much lower chance you get your eardrums blown out by 500 kids blowing plastic horns. They thought I was being silly. To them, the idea that it is more enjoyable to sit alone in your apartment than to be out and about, never knowing who you will run into, was baffling.
The instant we set foot in the gym, my friends would start networking. They would point out where the agents were sitting. They would chat up any players they recognized. They would stay after the buzzer to say hi to the coaches. Sometimes guys would even have long chats with the refs.
I am always friendly and polite, but I have just never been the type of person to seek out conversations with people unless I am familiar with them. I don’t know if it’s some sort of elitism, or if I get bored far easier than the average person, or if it’s plain old laziness. Whatever the reason, it is clear that I am a god awful self promoter.
I have always had this purist notion that your game will speak for itself and any jockeying for acclaim is narcissistic. I live in a fantasy land where there is peace in the Middle East, you can sell raw milk with impunity, and every basketball player is perfectly judged based solely on their in-game performances. It’s like I want my version of reality be true so bad that I refuse to do what is required to get ahead in the real world.
That is not the case with most people, and that used to bother me. I hated when players would constantly talk about what agents were calling them and what websites recognized their achievements. What I have come to realize is that all this borderline arrogant behavior is just a byproduct of guys really, truly believing in themselves.
If any subset of people in the world are flush with self-confidence, it is pro basketball players. Almost every person I have played with has had an inflated idea of their abilities. According to them, they work too hard, don’t make enough money, and receive inadequate recognition from the media. These guys feel VERY strongly that they are not being compensated at a level commensurate with their talent. They really think that if they want to advance they have to tell anyone and everyone about why they deserve better jobs. If someone feels like this, you better believe they will have film at the ready if a team shows interest in them. That readiness could be the difference between getting a gig or sitting at home.
What I am getting at is that I am probably one of a very, very small group of basketball players who has no high quality game footage on hand and who has not made a highlight tape in 3 years. That transcends general laziness and bleeds over into being irresponsible with how you are managing your career. Game film and highlight tapes are a pro athletes resume. If I was applying for regular jobs and I didn’t have a resume to hand in, I would likely be laughed out of the building. So, I was caught with my pants down, and I needed to whip something up fast.
After 10 hours of highly frustrating work, I produced the following clip. A shaky, sloppily edited, watermarked video with an unconscionably loud horn as its audio track. (Seriously, turn down your volume. I have tried to edit the audio but youtube is NOT having it.) It is like the Zapruder film of highlight tapes. All the footage is from 2 years ago. It’s better than nothing, but that’s about all I can say.
(Update: Made a new clip that looks a little less like it was filmed by someone with Parkinsons. And it has no sound, thank god. I switched the old one out.)
I have not heard what these Italians thought of my footage. I have heard from my agent several different times that a yes/no answer was imminent, only to lose all communication with him for 72 hours. Repeat that scenario 3 or 4 times, and you are looking at how I spent the last 3 weeks. Every time I give up hope, I hear from my agent, who tells me that he has not heard a firm “no” and an Italian contract is still a possibility.
All I can do is wait, and remind myself to not leave my next job without game DVD’s in hand and a professional highlight creator in my contact list.
PS: This is how you do a highlight tape. This little dude looks like an Isiah Thomas/ Allen Iverson clone. He might average 20 turnovers a game in real life, but who will think of that after watching him destroy his fellow high schoolers? Try to figure out how he pulls off whatever the hell happens starting at 2:14. Notice the completely unnecessary things he does to poor #35 at the 2:56 mark. Finally, why are teams trying to press him? What good could possibly come of that?