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A blowout win: 1 Takeaway from Summer League

Summer League can teach us a lot about how to view life.

2023 NBA Summer League - Boston Celtics v Orlando Magic Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Just one takeaway today: perception is everything.

It ended on a high note. A blowout victory over the Orlando Magic ensured the Boston Celtics ended their time in Las Vegas with a win.

The harsh reality of Summer League is that not everybody who played for the Celtics this past week will remain with the team. Some players will make the trip back overseas. Others will begin hunting for new opportunities within the United States. A large portion of players will be staring a season in the G-League right in the face.

Part of fighting for your dreams is understanding the setbacks that will occur along the way. Not everybody is born with the physical gifts to excel at something from the jump. Sometimes, you have to fight and claw for every inch of success that comes your way. And make no mistake, being good enough to take part in Summer League is certainly a success worth being proud of.

Think about it. Millions upon millions of people play the game of basketball around the globe. Only a select few make it into the collegiate ranks before the herd gets thinned again, and the best of the best head into the professional leagues — either in America or in Europe or Asia. Being a professional basketball player at any level is a success.

Watching these players hustle for a chance at taking the next step in their careers is incredibly profound. It resonates with me. The hustle. The determination. And the uncertainty of whether you’re going to get to the Mountaintop, whatever you deem that to be.

For me, I used to believe that mountaintop was living in the United States, covering the team as a full-time media member. Yet, this past year, I’ve envisioned a second mountain. It’s just as big and just as difficult to climb. The only difference is things at the top look slightly different. I’ve learned that having control over my own income streams, and choosing who to work for, is of the utmost importance to me. As freelance, not all of those choices are in my control at present.

So, I climb. This new mountain top looks similar to the other — it’s just that one key aspect is different.

Isn’t that what these Summer League hopefuls will be waking up to realize today or tomorrow, or maybe even late next week? No matter what, they’re probably going to be playing professional basketball next season; it’s just that one key aspect will be different. Being a professional in Europe, China, the G-League, Taiwan — it doesn’t matter. You’re still playing basketball for a living. Yes, the NBA is the mountaintop. And every year, these players will be taking steps to reach the summit.

But what if they just climb a different mountain?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my own personal journey toward my dream, it’s that what you see in your mind's eye is fluid. Dreams take shape as you get closer to achieving them. Not everything is going to be how you imagined it. Accepting that you can be living your dream while not being where you dreamed of being is an incredibly complex realization to work through.

Five years ago, I set out to cover basketball as a job. In my mind, that meant moving my family to the United States. It meant traveling from city to city, attending every game, every practice session. To this day, that dream lives on, with some slight alterations. The only difference is I’ve also accepted that I’m living my dream right now. I wake up every day and write about, talk about, and create content That’s what pays my bills. Isn’t that what I set out to accomplish?

Essentially, I’m in my own version of the G-League, where I’m thousands of miles away, with no clearly defined path, waiting for the phone to ring and for my journey into the big leagues to begin. Yet, just like the majority of players we’ve seen taking the court for the Celtics this summer and for the other teams that have taken part in Summer League, that phone call might never come.

Does that mean I failed? Does it mean they failed? Do they suck because they’re not at the prerequisite level to be part of a 15-man roster, or is it that others with more god-given talent are ahead of them? Do I suck because I started my journey later than most, with an ocean operating as a roadblock? Or do we simply shift our perspective?

I would argue with anyone that the key to happiness is learning how to control your perspective on the things in your life. I struggle with that. I would assume countless members of this year’s Summer League tournament will struggle with that, too, once gameplay reaches its conclusion. And I would wager a guess that some of you reading this struggle with that, too. Human nature is to want the best for both yourself and your family.

So, I ask you...who defines what ‘the best’ is?

I used to dream of working for The Athletic or ESPN. Now, I dream about having a large YouTube presence with a community of fans and controlling my own income stream.

Yam Madar likely dreamt of playing in the NBA; now, he’s signing a contract with Fenerbahce in Turkey, one of the biggest teams in Europe, and will become a multi-millionaire. Did Jay Scrubb enter Summer League expecting another year in the G-League? Or is he just happy to be a JUCO standout that is among the best players in the second-tier of American basketball? You would have to ask him that question, but my guess is that he’s proud of his achievements.

Last weekend, I wrote my first Takeaways article for CelticsBlog after taking over from Keith Smith. I was so nervous. It felt like the first day in a new job. There was a time when I could only have dreamt about having a recurring article for a site as respected as CelticsBlog...but here I am.

I could be foolish and see this as nothing more than a stepping stone to the next big thing. Or, I could choose to live in the moment, adjust my perspective, and realize that writing these takeaways is another aspect of my dream that has come to life for a website that means the world to me and is among the best in the world. I choose the latter. I choose to be grateful and proud of my achievements and let whatever is meant to come next find its way to me.

Last weekend, countless players made the trip to Summer League. They had likely dreamt about playing on such a big stage for the majority of their young lives. Most of those players will leave without a contract offer. Should they view it as a failure? Or adjust their perspective and realize that for this past week, they finally got a taste of their dream life...or even that they’ve been living their dream life all along, they were just too hyperfocused to see it.

Perspective changes everything.

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