These days athletes are just as powerful as rock stars or actors. The person is now a brand and every move an athlete takes may not always be in his or her own favor. Brands matter significantly , but in securing a stable and prosperous future, many actors and athletes have put themselves and their own careers in jeopardy, and on a macro level they also put their personal brands in jeopardy.
In the basketball world we have seen young athletes jumping from high school to high school, talented players with well-known reputations for their inflated ego or the use of inappropriate behavior on social media. On the courts, where the stars have made it , we see players who have lost everything or filed for bankruptcy, committed criminal acts as big as murder and as small as traffic light infractions, we have seen divorces or domestic take the athlete through a media frenzy, but most importantly we have seen how all these things contribute to the damage of the athlete’s personal brand.
Alex Kline, a writer for Coaching For Success, writes that ,”It is easy to shrug off what detractors say, but in the world of basketball perception creates reality. This especially applies in the case of the modern day youth basketball player: one who constantly doesn’t understand that their actions today will impact their future tomorrow. That is unfortunately the stigma surrounding the majority of young basketball stars these days and it is only getting worse.”
When athletes eventually realize that their wrongdoing can seriously affect their careers both on an off the court, a higher level of self awareness of the person as a brand is achieved. The athlete recognizes that the idea of simply being a basketball player for the rest of one’s life is an impossible feat. While young basketball players are being taught new ways to expand their game on the court, much-needed lessons must come off the court first and foremost in order for them to succeed both during and after basketball. This is where identity diversification comes in. I wrote about this in my post, Ball is Life: The Importance of Identity Diversification in Basketball. where I discussed why it is important to build a career outside your sole talent.
As people, we have cognitive response to everything that happens. Like sponges, we absorb information about our surroundings, especially people, and diagnose each situation in a matter of seconds. Branding is tied in with cognition. For every person we have ever interacted with, and even those we admire from afar, we have thoughts, insight, gossip and an overruling opinion as to whether we would be friends with that person, hire them, want to work with them, ignore them, or even hurt them. While few realize it, Michael Jordan is not the only one with a “Jordan Brand”. Every person has a brand. For basketball players, their brand consists of what they do on the court mixed in with how hard they work, their love for the game, what they do when no one is watching, how they interact with peers and strangers, how they handle new opportunities and struggles, whether they handle themselves well with the media or not, their social media pages and essentially anything else they do. The way they speak, walk and smile all factor into their “Jordan Brand”.
Unfortunately, young athlete who are just beginning their careers do not have tunnel vision or think long term about their choices. They do not realize the short and long term impact of every move they make and how it affects their personal brand. What is their plan after basketball and how will their brand either acclimate them to new opportunities or throw them for a wild reality check? Do all of them truly want to be broadcasters or coaches? Or are they only limited to these professions because of their limited qualifications and that those whom they have alienated won’t give them a chance in another field? No one has the answer to that as it is on a case-by-case basis. What we do know, however, is those who treat others right are typically rewarded, while those who choose differently typically are not. It is that simple, yet so complex to many. The answer to this might also be identity diversification, and I have written about this here
As the class of 2015 transitions from their glory days of dominating games as seniors, the true test of one’s character and brand will be their transition to college. How will they handle going from the amateur ranks to the dog-eat-dog world of college basketball: an unpaid job with a second occupation in academics and a true test of one’s love for the sport and their character. College is where everyone goes to find out who they are and what they are truly passionate about. It is only a matter of time before each of these young basketball stars builds their brand. Hopefully it is for the better, and hopefully not for the worse.