Imagine having the ability to foresee your NBA career in a way that everyone respects you. You have the likeness and respect from everyone in the league. The players, coaches, execs, all the way up to the owners and down to the janitors. Regardless of the conjured respect, something big is missing. Accolades.
Ask yourself this question, “would I give up the earned respect to chase the accolades?” Before I go any further–this is not a shot at any of your favorite athletes. Instead, this is me simply bringing up the topic that many people don’t think about until after the fact. For example, there are players like Allen Iverson who went his entire career gaining all of the respect from his peers because he was an animal on the court, but that respect never equated to winning. On the other hand, there are players like Kevin Garnett who was disliked around the league outside of teammates because of that grit he played with and the bounteous trash talk he brought with him to every game. Although, that is what helped him become an NBA champion. Kevin Durant will always be reminded by fans and even some peers that he left OKC to join the team that beat him, the Warriors. We all know this story. They went on to win two straight NBA Finals in which KD won two Finals MVPs, but he lost an abundant amount of respect in order to gain those accolades he yearned for. Meanwhile, a player like Damian Lillard is normally asked if he ever plans to leave Portland to chase a championship. His replies are all roughly the same stating his loyalty to the city of Portland and lack of challenge in joining forces to win championships.
“If I go play with three other stars, I don’t think that many people would doubt that I could win it. We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?” Damian told Complex Sports the last time he was asked about it just before this season.
A.I. is in the Hall of Fame and KG is on his way there this year in his first year of eligibility. KD and Dame are both well on their way to the Hall of Fame as well despite taking opposite routes as well. There is no wrong answer here. Everyone takes the route that they find best for their career and personal brand. It is just about the road you take to get to the top of the mountain.
With accolades, it is obvious you will need a large trophy case that you will have limited space in anyway. Everyone will know you deserve being mentioned with the greatest players in the history of the sport. You may even have more fans as you would without the accolades due to the fame and notoriety that trophies bring, but that level of respect from your peers may be missing. If you’re not motivated by the respect and positive opinion on other people, this would be your route to take.
With respect, you have what can be deemed as an internal trophy case. You know that no matter who you talk to you among your peers, there is a high level of respect held for you and a smile waiting to greet you. It is more likely everyone shows up to your events and birthday parties every year. If you’re a good enough player throughout your career but fall short when it comes to winning games, you can even be in the “greatest to not win” conversation or any other consolation prize giveaways that fans will talk about in the latter years. At the end of the day, we all want to be loved for who we are and what we do, right?
Ultimately, both are great decisions depending on your mindset on the sport of basketball and what makes yourself happy but you can only choose one for this hypothetical question. Accolades are great to have and in the competitive world, hang over your peers’ heads. As humans, it is almost natural to excessively want more and more. Being praised and spoiled with accolades can have an addicting effect on some people even. Although despite all of that, I would choose respect. While we do play the game to win, we also play to have fun and simply enjoy the time we have playing the sport we love. The amount of years we have to play the game is not something that is certain and neither is winning. So, while doing my best to win every game, the main focus will always be to have fun and enjoy my time on the court with my teammates competing against the opposition.
P.S. The purpose of this article is to get us to think about this topic now versus later. To be able to make the decision before we start rather than think back and wonder what if we did this or that differently. If you put that deep thinking into it now, the confidence in what you do will raise itself. Enjoy.