There used to be a time when rookies coming into either the NFL or NBA weren’t expected to be superstars right away. That changed when those same rookies went from making a few million dollars over the course of their rookie contracts to a few million dollars a year and multi-millions of dollars over the same period of time. For example, in 2010 the St. Louis Rams drafted quarterback Sam Bradford with the number one overall pick, with the honors of being the top pick in that draft came a big paycheck to match, I’m talking about Luther Vandross big before the weight loss. Before Bradford even took a single snap in the NFL he signed a six-year, $78 million dollar contract, $50 million of that is guaranteed. Take a second to let those sums of money really sink in, it’s down right mind-boggling.
When I think about it from a straight business perspective I completely understand why you would want to get the quickest return on your investment, by that I mean starting a 19 (NBA) or 21-year-old (NFL). But when I think about it from a logical point of view I quickly realize that these are human beings out there. Are you willing to lose everything just because you’re being a bit impatient? I wouldn’t. Granted each one is going to react very different from the other no matter how similar the situations are, it’s human nature. Take Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot of the Dallas Cowboys for instance, both have put up insane stats and led the Cowboys to the best record in the NFL so far. Both looked like seasoned vets out there, it’s very rare that 23 and 21 year olds come into the NFL and plays as composed as they have. Jay Cutler still can’t get that down and he’s been in the league for 10 years. With all that being said, I’m on both sides of the fence on this issue.
I used to think that rookies should get thrown in the fire right away and we find out what they’re really made of. That was before I started reading about the human brain and how it works and then I slowly started to back off that theory. You can have a player with the mentality of a Rasheed Wallace who needs to be yelled at and shown some tough love, or you can have a player like Manu Ginobili who falls to the floor at the drop of a hat so I’m taking that as he is soft and needs to be wearing a fragile sticker on his jersey. You have to find out what kind of player you have on your hands and adjust accordingly. If you misread this guy and shatter his confidence as a rookie, you run the risk of ruining him in the head for as long as the player suits up.
Which led me to another point of thought, a player’s career has as much to do with what said player does on the court as it does with who is coaching said player. How many guys could have handled Michael, Scottie, Shaq and Kobe better than Phil Jackson? Not many. There is a sense of calm a coach has to instill in you before you can fully trust them, you don’t just listen and respect anybody. Let me put it into perspective, Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Pat Riley and Red Auerbach account for 30 out of 70 NBA titles. Four men account for roughly 42% of titles won in NBA history. What does that mean? The man who calls the plays you run and the minutes you play has a lot to do with how successful you will be considered when it’s all said and done.
I tried to make sense of all of this information and tried to come up with a formula on how to know which rookie/when said rookie is ready to shoulder their share of the load. I came up with as many formulas as the amount of sane people who voted for Donal Trump, ZERO. There are so many factors that come into play that you’d be a fool to try to figure that out, plus, where the hell do you even start? I’m just glad I’m not the owners of these teams who have to open up my check book and gamble on the decision-making of a 19-21 year old, do you remember yourself at that age? I would act a fool with the kind of money these athletes get. I guess that’s the beauty of sports, analytics can show you what has already happened, but your gut and intuition tell you were something is going.