Making it in the NBA

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A Life of Sacrifice

Raptors’ VanVleet Talks About the Sacrifices Needed to Succeed in the NBA

When considering the handful of NBA players in the league compared to the world’s population, there’s only a distinct few who can truly consider them self the best basketball players on the planet.

The road to the NBA is an uphill battle, it is filled with trials and tribulations, and even the most athletic prospects in the game had to dedicate hours in the gym – pouring in countless nights after practice to perfect their craft. No question, the journey to the most elite basketball league in the world is a difficult one, but to remain in the league is a challenge in itself. Remaining with the best of the best is a completely different animal and the pressure to continue to work and to continue to improve is an expectation that many within the NBA have failed to meet.

“It’s an everyday thing,” Says Toronto Raptors’ point guard Fred VanVleet. “People see the games and the contracts, the money, and everything that comes with it, but there is a lot of sacrifice that goes into that. You know, being on the road pretty much all year and not being able to see family for an extended amount of time and not being able to be home. There’s a lot of things that go into it so you give up a little bit, but it’s still one of the best jobs in the world and you can’t take that for granted. There’s a lot of stuff that  goes into it. Like I said, countless hours in the gym, time put in, you got the spotlight on you at all times when you go out in public so you can’t act crazy like a normal person would or should at some times. You got to be able to deal with that. It’s just a part of it.”

Seemingly integrated into the culture built by the team’s President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri, VanVleet is exactly what a team like the Raptors value – if not a player that would be valued across the league. A no-nonsense guy, an undrafted and undersized point guard out of Wichita State, the second year guard plays with a chip on his shoulder, and realizes that for him to remain in the league, the work is only getting started.

With that being said, he understands how important it is to keep out the outside noise and not fall in love with the glamorous lifestyle that comes with his job.

“It’s pretty easy. You just be a pro,” explains the 23-year old guard. “For me at least, I’m a simple guy, I like to spend time with my family and friends and hanging out at home. You know you’re so busy that there’s really not a lot of time to do anything else. Like I said, what you’re working for is more important than what’s out there. So it’s an easy choice to make. So all that stuff that’s out there – the partying, the thrills, whatever else, the girls, alcohol, whatever guys are into. It’s not worth somebody’s contract that’s being paid out that can take care of your family for generations. So it’s pretty simple man, and even if you do want to live that life, I think that if you think about it in terms of like I go to have a, god willing, 10-year, 15-year career, after that, you can do whatever the hell you want to, right? So it’s like any good job, you got to make sacrifices and if you have a big-time corporate job and you act like an a**h*** all the time, you will be fired and it’s the same thing in the NBA.”

From winning the last roster spot on the team out of camp last season, to putting in his time with the Raptors 905 over in the G league, VanVleet is now only getting started. As he continues to carve out a unique role for himself in the NBA, the work that he has continued to put in, has remained unchanged.

Growing up in the bad areas of Illinois, VanVleet had to make a decision fairly early on of what his future would look like. With a lot of negativity surrounding him, the former Shocker remained focused, never hindering his eyes from the end goal.

“Pretty early, I would grow up in not the best areas,” says VanVleet referring to his time growing up in Rockford, Illinois. “So between one or the other, it’s a bit of an easier choice to make. Do you want to be out on the streets or do you want to have a better future for yourself and go to college. Obviously in school, you got to do your work to have good grades to play, so it’s kind of that thing going on, but those are choices you got to make and decide what you want to be. Is this stuff worth it, or do you want to look into stuff long term and try to take care of your family forever.”

Reaching the NBA is a grind, but the sacrifices and the work that must be made on a daily basis is what truly separates the great NBA players from the guys who find their way out of the league as quickly as they found their way into it.

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