Starstruck No Longer: How My Opinion Of NBA Players Changed

By: 06.06.12
Richard Jefferson

Richard Jefferson (photo. Zandy Mangold)

I covered about five or six more workouts, in addition to Derrick Favors‘ introductory press conference, throughout the process and at each one I was tempted to do the same thing. It was awesome being taken seriously by these players, but in reality, I wasn’t even taking myself seriously at the time. I still had to try and sound even-keeled during interviews because I was so giddy about the fact that I was talking to these players for one of the premier basketball publications in the world. Despite the fact that some of the guys I was interviewing were my age, that never really registered with me as I saw them in a completely different sphere than I saw myself.

This feeling was one that lingered throughout my sophomore year as a Vanderbilt manager. As a sophomore, I became a full-time manager and was on the bench during games in a much more official role then I had as a freshman. However, I was still kind of shocked at how much access I had to teams, and players who would be at the next level in a matter of months. I still felt like a kid in the candy store when it came to letting teams like Kentucky and Tennessee in to our gym for shootaround, and that sentiment carried over into last summer when I continued to cover draft workouts for Dime. I can finally say that as of May 24 of this year, around 4:30 in the afternoon, that feeling disappeared.

At that moment, because of a string of tweets from ESPN’s Chad Ford, I came to the realization that the players I grew up worshipping, the guys I’ve interviewed over the past few years, and the players I’ve met as a manager, were at the end of the day just normal people. These athletes have exceptional talent, but as people, they are just like you and me. No different. I realized this because Chad Ford tweeted about John Jenkins, Jeff Taylor and Festus Ezeli, Vandy’s three stars from last year, and talked about their NBA potential. Then it hit me: I know these guys, and I know them really well.

I’ve hung out with John since the beginning of my freshman year and we’ve been through a lot of good times together. Jeff has kicked my ass in FIFA on more than one occasion. I’ve had to move Festus’ car multiple times because he parked it in the referee’s spot before a women’s game. I always thought of these guys as future NBA players at Vandy, but that was never my first thought when I saw them. These guys were friends of mine and normal college students and for some reason I guess I thought that when they went to the NBA that would change, that I would suddenly be in awe of them.

In reality, nothing has changed. They are the same guys I’ve gotten to know over the past three years, and now they are on the verge of achieving their dreams. I couldn’t be happier for them. They are people; they just have exceptional athletic talent. That shouldn’t change how we view them, or how we talk to them, and that is a lesson that John, Jeff and Festus taught me and one I will carry with me the rest of my life.

What do you think?

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