When Did Your NBA Dream Die?

Intramural BBall Champs

University of Wisconsin 2008 Intramural Champs

Damn you, Shaun. Recess had just ended and I was confidently walking back to Mr. Marusic’s third grade classroom, a little sweaty after recording a triple double (probably and approximately) while leading my scrappy band of glue guys to Summit Elementary playground victory for the third day in a row.

“I think you’re going to make the NBA. I really think you will. The next Dan Majerle, I can see it,” Shaun told me.

I actually believed him. I could shoot. I regularly won lightning. My basketball IQ and heart could make up for limited athleticism. I was DEFINITELY going to have a growth spurt.

I’ll never forget the day he said that, and I just as vividly remember the moment I knew I’d let Shaun down. I wasn’t going to make it. I had used Jump Soles for an entire summer in public at the YMCA track, hopping around an indoor track like the world’s most hardo Easter bunny in training while moms pushing strollers and wrestlers trying to make weight jogged around me. I knew I needed to improve my vertical and quickness, and this public semi-humiliation was all going to be worth it when I touch the rim, potentially even dunked (if that growth spurt kicked in) and I became a legitimate college prospect.

At the end of the summer, it was time for the moment of truth. I had completed the Jump Soles program, and it was time to see what that $99.99 had bought me. I stood at the YMCA free throw line, visualized my approach to the rim, took a deep breath and went for it. I believe i can fl…nothing but net. I couldn’t even touch the rim. Holy shit it’s over. 

Frank and me

The lack of NBA talent and measurables is a harsh  reality many basketball loving bros have to deal with, and the moment when dreams of NBA glory turn to compromised thoughts of “I guess I could still coach” is one that stays with all of us for a long time. With the NBA draft tonight, eight bros shared with me the moment they realized they weren’t going to be a professional basketball player.

Burke Hair (NBA Comp: Detlef Schrempf)

Burke AKA Detlef

I don’t understand the question. Because when I get on the court and hit two baskets in a row, I know that with a summer of training I could be the next Matthew Dellavedova. Only way cooler and with fewer dirty plays. Or maybe more dirty plays. Just tell me what you need me to do, coach Hoiberg.

Jake Stern (NBA Comp: Tony Allen)

Jake Stern Knicks

When I was around 12, I went to a Jewish sleep-away summer camp in Connecticut. The core of summer camp was play a ton of basketball, get a little swimming in, occasionally do the low or high ropes courses, and try to hook up with girls. This was the bubble I lived in for one month every year – it was great. I was also at the peak of my basketball skills at this time (my peak was at 12, yes) and was the best player in my age group. If not the NBA, I’d probably still land on my feet and play some college ball.

The following summer I went to an instructional basketball camp instead of sleep away camp. This was sort of the tip of the iceberg of me realizing my NBA dreams were misguided. One of our instructors was a D III bball player. I watched him practice, never miss a shot and look like a total monster. I self reflected and did some math there. I don’t know if there was really one moment, but the descent progressed steadily through middle school bball and then high school. After sophomore year, I realized I wasn’t going to have a Michael Jordan-like turnaround in my HS career, bailed on riding the pine for our school team and elected to play rec ball with my friends at the JCC league, which was awesome. We sort of dominated and won the chip our junior year, and I got to somewhat re-live my glory days as a 12 year-old at Jewish summer camp.

Chase Kieler (NBA Comp: Klay Thompson)

Chase Kieler Kobe Stopper

I can’t say I’ve fully realized yet that I’m not going to make the NBA yet; I’d say 5% of me still believes I will make it…………But if you force me to try to recall when the belief went from 100% to 5%, I’d say it was probably when I went to play in the Big Time AAU Tournament in L.A.   It would have been the summer going into my senior year of high school.  I was actually on a decent AAU team called the Wisconsin Force based out of Madison.  We had some good players on the team including Michael Nelson (NBDL) and Kyle Weaver (NBA) at the guard positions, so I wasn’t starting. Cockily, I felt I would quickly show my coach in the first game that I deserved to be starting.  I think I ended up getting some garbage minutes and probably had something like 0, 1, 1, 0, and 0 for a stat line.  I had never played against players that good. The tournament was absolutely loaded, I think Dwight Howard and Josh Smiths’ team (Atlanta Celtics) didn’t even end up winning it.

That being said, if I continue to work on my game, rehab my body, and put the right fuel in my body, I think there’s still a chance I can sign a deal overseas and pull a David Blatt and end up in the league – there’s still time.

CCK #24

Combo Guard

Ricky Angel (NBA Comp: Wally Szczerbiak)


Watching Sportscenter for the first time as a kid I noticed that a lot of NBA players did not exactly look like me. I then looked in the mirror, and yep, confirmed that I was in fact a different color. That was precisely the moment I knew the dream was dead.

Casey Ehrenberg (NBA Comp: Danny Green)

Casey AKA Danny Green

My hopes and dreams were dashed pretty quickly in my early middle school years. As my peers around me began to grow, I, unfortunately, did not. I never fully recovered emotionally.

Mitch Martinez (NBA Comp: Carlos Delfino)

Mitch aka Carlos Delfino

The already dimly lit dream faded to oblivion when I realized that the forest of leg hair I had cultivated signified the end of my growing.  At 5’10” with limited speed, quickness, agility, and a vertical that could be measured with less than two standard rulers, I surrendered to my unavoidable path towards cubicles, not arenas.

Mark Rasmussen (NBA Comp: Jared Lorenzen)

Mark Rasmussen NBA

My moment was at summer camp between first and second grade. I was the fat kid who wore his t-shirt in the pool. And the fat pool-shirt kid can maybe (definitely) walk-on for the Butler Bulldogs, but the NBA ain’t happening.

Brock Martinez (NBA Comp: Draymond Green)
Brock NBA DragonBallZ

The first time I saw my birth certificate and read my last name.

Danny Weiss (NBA Comp: Beno Udrih)

Danny with Derrick Rose

IM basketball, sophomore year of college. I played as well as I could and dropped 16. My team lost by 30. I realized that day there’s no place for a low-efficiency, shoot-first, below-the-rim two guard in the league.

Keep your head up tonight bros. I’m sorry for letting you down Shaun. And fuck your wingspan Jay Bilas.


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