Thursday, April 2, 2009
Paul Shirley is not one such guy.
As you guys know, my dream gig is to be an NBA bench player. Not a superstar, just the dude at the end of the bench who gives them high fives and does those obnoxious "jump and bump" routines when they score a big basket and come in for a timeout. You know what I'm talkin' about.
These guys get all the glory, and spill few of the guts. They have the best seat in the house for all the games, get to travel, get groupies, get paid, and best of all, they might actually get in the game if things get outta hand. Guys like Stacey King, Mychal Thompson, Jud Buchler, and Will Perdue made careers out of practicing hard and perfecting the art of towel waving. But how fulfilling a job would this actually be?
Paul Shirley was a little touted forward who played at Iowa State in the early 2000's, alongside such NBA prospects as Marcus Fizer and Jamal Tinsley. After going undrafted upon graduation, Shirley began a long and winding road that eventually landed him on 3 (Hawks, Bulls, Suns) NBA teams where he played little. In between, he spent time in Russia, Spain, and various minor leagues in the US, all in hopes of getting a callup to the big leagues. Along the way, he started a very popular blog on ESPN.com, penned his memoirs called "Can I Keep My Jersey?: 11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond", and now has a sitcom in preproduction, all chronicling his life on the NBA fringe.
Since this is my dream gig, I read the "Can I Keep My Jersey" with the intent of living vicariously. It turns out Shirley's brief career (he is now semi-retired) wasn't nearly all it was cracked up to be. While most of us think playing pro ball overseas is a glamorous world of free housing and tax-free salaries, it's not nearly that sweet. Shirley finds himself on month-to-month contracts with teams that sometimes conveniently decide not to pay him. When he gets himself injured, one team forces him to return to the court while he's still suffering from debilitating spinal damage. His agent shops him around the globe to the highest bidder like it's well-paid chattel slavery.
Perhaps most interestingly, when he does make the NBA on a few 10-day contracts, he finds the typical player so completely devoid of character or substance that he instead hangs out with the team's staffers and trainers instead. While many current NBA players aren't mentioned by name, you can piece together who he's talking about if you've got any common sense. I suspect Shirley is not on players like Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, or Joe Johnson's Christmas card mailing lists.
Anyways, by peeling back a layer of fantasy and revealing the cold hard reality of life in the NBA, this book has me re-evaluating whether I really wanna be an NBA 12th man as my dream gig. I don't think so anymore.
Now I wanna be an NBA assistant coach.
Question: If all jobs paid the exact same amount of money, what would you do for a living? Is it possible your fantasy job, much like mine, ain't all it's cracked up to be?