Playing professional basketball serves as a dream for many young boys and girls. In the National Basketball Association (NBA) and its sister organization the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), players earn six-figure salaries and more for playing what is, essentially, a children’s game. If you want to become an NBA or WNBA player, you need to know exactly what to expect. That requires learning about the typical work environment endured by a professional basketball player.
Players begin their workdays in the early evening, when they show up at arenas for pre-game practice. After performing warm-up drills, players work with coaches in organized team practices, which may run for 30 minutes to an hour. Coaches dismiss players after practice, but team personnel may ask certain players to meet with the media or perform off-court work, including community service. On game days, players rest and eat after practice and return to the locker room to dress. Once they are dressed, players warm up for games by running, shooting baskets, and performing drills.
Players work unusual schedules. Most of their games take place at night and half of their games are played on the road. On game days, players often finish their work late in the evening. They frequently go to sleep during the early-morning hours and sleep until late morning or the early afternoon. According to The New York Times, players frequently take afternoon naps to combat exhaustion from working late nights, traveling, and socializing.
Physical and Psychological Demands
Players tax their bodies physically during practices and games. The physical stress takes a toll, and players often meet before and after games with team trainers, who treat injuries and provide restorative therapy, including massage and ice baths. Players also must deal with psychological demands. They face immense pressure from coaches and teammates, as well as potential criticism from fans and the media. They must answer difficult questions from the media before and after games, and they must block out and disprove critics.
NBA teams travel for half of their games. This includes anywhere from 40 to 70 preseason, regular-season, and post-season games. Teams travel together and stay at the same hotels. Teams hold practices and meetings before games, but players have several hours to themselves during road-trip stays. Teams pay each player $100 per day for spending money on travel days. Players use this money for meals and for transportation to the sports arenas where they play.
NBA Development League
Aspiring professional players sometimes do not find work in the NBA. They often settle for playing in the NBA Development League, which provides depth for NBA teams. The D-League, as it is often called, provides a less glamorous and more taxing work environment than the NBA. Players earn less, and teams are predominantly composed of players in the early- to mid-30s. According to a story by National Public Radio, players often focus on individual success before team success. They sometimes exhibit selfishness in an effort to showcase their abilities in the hope an NBA team will sign them.
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images