The Rookie’s Conundrum

The most electrifying rookie this year Ja Morant was invited into the Slam Dunk contest during All-Star Weekend. He declined his invitation with sources stating that maintaining good health is his main priority. This leaves a lot of fans disappointed in his decision, but why? He has been beyond entertaining all season long so why is it so disappointing that we won’t see him participate in the dunk contest?

The reason for most fans (including me) feeling let down by Ja’s decision is simple–we’re greedy. All fans are greedy of course. We want the highest possible chance of being entertained by every event and we know that if we are missing one of the most entertaining players in the league, (let alone the most entertaining rookie) our chances of high octane entertainment is lowered. It puts us in a paranoid state of mind where we need to know who will participate if not the players we want to see. The worth in the event needs to be restored someway, somehow. Especially when it comes to the most polarizing yet criticized event of the weekend outside of the actual All-Star Game itself. The contest we seen in 2016 that included the showdown between Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon doesn’t happen very often but we still expect it to occur every year. Why? Because we’re greedy due to our high standards that raise even higher after a dunk contest like we seen in 2016. It’s simple. Now, let’s place ourselves in Ja’s shoes for the remainder of this article and think about why he declined to focus on his health.

The first thing to think about is the fact that he is just a rookie and has a long career ahead of him. One of the toughest parts of a rookie’s first season in the league is adapting to the lifestyle of an NBA player. A huge part of that lifestyle, is taking care of the body. Every real hooper knows how hard it is to take it easy when they hoop. There is never a time where they don’t want to get on the court and play whether if it’s just dribbling, just shooting, or actually playing a game of 5-on-5. There is an itch you cannot scratch away when the passion is strong. Good thing for kids growing up, they get to play every play at 100 percent and practice every day at 100 percent because their bodies can handle that. Every year, all year long they play hundreds of games between AAU play and school season play. Do the math and by the time you get to the NBA where 82 plus games are played in the season at the highest level, your body is already aching and in need of a great amount of rest. Nobody at the age of 19 thinks of rest. Instead, hoopers at that age are thinking of ways to get better and how much work they think they need to put in to do so along with how they can accomplish every goal that puts them in the Hall of Fame. Normally, that includes participating in All-Star Weekend.

Other than health, family time is imperative. Life in the NBA calls for an abundance of time away from family. The All-Star weekend gives players a full week vacation if they are not participating in any events in which many of them use that week to spend time with their family and friends. Outside of the summer, that week is the only consistent week that they have to spend time with their families without worry because otherwise, their traveling schedule is sporadic.

As fans, we would rather not see another young, galvanizing player like Ja get hurt. We want to see him have the longest career he possibly can because we love to watch him play and we love the energy that he brings to the game of Basketball. With that being said, Ja is absolutely right to decline the offer this year. Hopefully he is able to give the fans what they want to see in the upcoming years by participating in the Slam Dunk contest. For now, his in-game dunks will suffice.

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