As I got a little older, I had to become realistic with myself and come to terms with the fact that I would never play in the NBA. I wasn’t big enough, strong enough, fast enough, or just plain good enough to play at that level. I lacked the physicality it takes to be successful in the NBA. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t make my passion (basketball) a big part of my life and find a way to get paid for it; it just meant I had to be creative and think outside of the box.
I was blessed to be able to play college ball because I spent more hours than my peers perfecting my fundamentals and studying the ins and outs of the game. Although I felt I was good enough to play Division 1, I knew it would take several years to work my way into a starting position. I didn’t want to do that. I chose to go to a smaller NAIA school where I could play right off the bat. This allowed me to be a starter and contributor from day one, and more importantly, get my schooling paid for. It was the best decision for me, and it worked out, although there were some trials and “characters” I faced along the way.
Knowing I wasn’t going to the NBA after graduation or signing a big contract for overseas ball, I still felt there was another option. I wanted to try using my unique skill set with a basketball to audition for commercials and movies. It was a long shot, and I knew it. I passed up several safe, high-paying, and secure jobs (a tough decision), but in the end, I had to follow my heart and my passion, or else I knew I’d regret it. I encourage you to never pass up an opportunity to chase your dream. Sometimes achieving it may be just on the other side of fear.
I knew practically nothing about how the entertainment industry worked, especially for sports commercials, but I decided to go “all in” and learn everything I could in order to give myself the highest degree of success. I made a little sizzle reel on my iPhone to show some of my fancy tricks I could do and headed out to Hollywood, the city of dreams.
Although it’s painful for me to watch, you can see my embarrassing video.
What I did know was that nobody was going to outwork me; I was going to give it 150 percent of my time and effort. This meant commitment to grueling, long hours in the gym and experiencing days of frustration and confusion about where this was all heading. But the outcome of my new choices were amazing. I discovered, once I got down the road a ways in this experience, that by tweaking my original dream (NBA/overseas playing), I not only kept basketball as a part of my everyday life, but I was also doing and experiencing things I had never even imagined I’d get the opportunity to do.
I never dreamed I would star in national ads on TV, be in movies, work with and become friends with some of the top athletes and celebrities in the world, be featured by magazines, and be seen all over the world on the opening day of the NBA playing ball with Justin Bieber. I could never have imagined that one day I would get to travel all over the world and make a living sharing my underdog story. I was just an undersized gym rat from a little island in Alaska.
By tweaking my dreams, I’ve gotten to do what I love on a daily basis and been more fulfilled than I probably would have been if I reached my original goal of being an NBA player.
Tweak your dream . . . make it fit you!
Here’s a quick glimpse at some of the fun things to come.
This article was an excerpt from Jesse LeBeau's Among the Giants.