What the NBA Draft Taught Me about Writing (and Life)

Dawn Bevier

Writing has nothing to do with luck, and much to do with patience and hard work

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Though I am not a sports aficionado, my seventeen-year-old son and husband are, so I spent the majority of last night watching the NBA draft. As a writer, I found myself connecting to these athletes on a deep level, eyes welling up with tears as I watched their eyes do the same.

As an academic and teacher, I must admit that, in the past, I have cursed society’s god-like appreciation for these young men who will make more money in one year than I have made in my twenty-two years teaching. So they can dribble a ball between their legs. I can change futures in my work with children, and even, at times, make words dance on a page with a few pecks on a keyboard. Why do these young men deserve the acclaim of the masses while so many other noble individuals’ lifetime efforts go unnoticed?

Then, I listened, really listened to their stories. Some of these stories were told in blurbs flashing across the screen, images of these new celebrities as children, training in their backyards or playing at their old high schools. The most powerful stories, however, were told in the watery glistening of their eyes on the verge of tears or the choked words they spoke as emotion claimed hold over their vocal cords.

Story Number One: Zion Williamson

I sat glued to the first story of the night, that of Zion Williamson, who joined the New Orleans Pelicans as the first round draft pick for the NBA.

Williamson, at first glance, does not look like the lean, lanky stars that grace the glossy hardwood floors of the basketball court. His six foot, seven-inch frame weighs in at just over 284 pounds, much heavier than most of his competitors. In a game where speed and light-footedness are crucial, it would seem that Williamson was at least at a partial disadvantage. However, he took his supposed disadvantage and made it work for him.

He harnessed the immense power of his body and channeled its force to make him more dynamic. In addition, he worked hard to achieve the speed which lighter athletes have naturally as a result of their genetic makeup.

Williamson took “nature” and “nurtured” it, making what would seem to be a disadvantage his greatest strength.

Speaking of nurture, as a child of nine, Williamson woke up at 5 a.m. every morning to practice his shooting and cultivate his speed. From that point on, he focused his blood, sweat, and tears on making his sports legacy a reality.

Story Number Two: Ja Morant

The second draft of the night occurred when the Memphis Grizzlies scooped up Ja Morant from Murray State University. In high school, Morant went unranked by recruiters, and his story of being discovered is truly one of a kind.

Murray State coach James Kane attended a basketball game where he was scouting out a player in the main gym. He popped out for a few minutes to get food at the concession stand. Hearing the echo of another basketball bouncing in a side gym nearby, he took a quick peek at a three-on-three game. One of those three was Ja Morant. Kane describes his first impression of the then-unknown player: “Just a few minutes of watching Ja, you knew he was special.” After following Morant from that point on, Morant later committed to Murray State, where his skill was honed and his status heightened.

Like Williamson, Morant was also diligent and dedicated as a boy, often training with his father by practicing jumping drills using old tires from an 18- wheeler.

So What’s The Take-Away?

You’ll notice there are no stats and fancy basketball lingo accompanying my words; as I said before, I am not a fan of sports. However, I heard each of your stories, as well as my own, echoed in the facts and words I heard uttered last night. I also heard hope, fluttering louder even than the rounds of applause that rang as each player realized his dream.

I realized that those early morning drills that streamlined a young child’s skills are the same drills I do now as I write in the early morning hours. I, a child to a profession that seems daunting and elusive, refuse to give up my dreams. Words are free throws; sentences are tires to be jumped; paragraphs are games to be played.

These athletes all had unique stories, but two things they had in common were hard work and patience. And so must I. Perhaps I have realized as a writer that I am not ready to be a pro. Well, I am ready, actually, but my skills are not. So these are my drills, my scrimmages, my practice sessions, and I must be patient. I must believe in the process as they did.

Also, the story of Ja Morant’s story moved me in a way I could not at first understand. To some, his discovery might be a reason to downplay his success, as many could say it was luck that James Kane went to get a snack and happened upon Morant playing in the side gym. To me, it was the meeting of opportunity with hard work.

Each of us pours our heart and soul into the words we write and publish. As I said before, this is the practice round. But perhaps there is a literary James Kane lurking in the background, hungry for a poem that will move his ragged soul or an inspirational story that will move an audience. You, my friend, could be the sweaty player he hears typing furiously, dynamically, on the keyboard. We all could.

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Sanford, NC
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