Transitions are hard. Often times, very hard. Human beings, with few exceptions, don’t like change very much. And, when we are forced to change, the transition is almost always the most difficult part of the process. In fact, there is a whole industry built around making business transitions and how to effectively do so without creating corporate havoc. So, if we know that transitions are difficult, and we know that even large multinational corporations hire expensive consultants to help them through those, why are we surprised that a 20-year old NBA rookie is having trouble adjusting to life in professional sports?
Lonzo Ball has been taking a lot of heat from the press and other players in recent weeks, as he has been thrust onto centerstage of one of the NBA’s most winning and iconic teams - a team that is trying to rebuild in hopes of regaining its glory from years past. And, yes, Ball was brought onto the team to be a linchpin in that rebuilding process. That is a lot of pressure - even for a more seasoned player. And, yes, his father has spent a lot of time hyping him up and telling anyone, anywhere, who will listen that Lonzo is the “next coming” for basketball. And, yes, Lonzo’s numbers are not as stellar as everyone wants them to be.
But, let’s be a bit more realistic about what is going on here. We are literally six weeks into the season and it will last another five months. Since the season started, Lonzo has had to transition from being a college player to a professional athlete. Even some of the greatest professional athletes across all sports have commented on how difficult this transition is, and how the level of play and skill goes up a great deal. Only 1-2% of college athletes even go into professional sports. So, all of a sudden, Lonzo is playing with the elite of the elite, rather than the typical college blend of the good, the great, and the spectacular. He has also had to deal with his father’s antics, his brother’s antics, and the constant spotlight glaring on him. I don’t know about you but, when I was 20, that type of pressure would have had me under a table, curled up in the fetal position, and wishing it would all go away.
At The Distillery, Inc., we share with our clients who are transitioning to a life beyond competitive sports that the transition period is the most critical. What you do during that time can dictate how your entire life will unfold. The key thing we share is that change, no matter how difficult, must be viewed as a tool to ignite one’s desire, and unlock one’s potential, so that growth can be experienced. This process is much like the one an athlete engages in by working out in order to build physical strength, stamina, and so much more. Change and transition are crucial ways to make ourselves better at who we are and what we do.
What I have seen is that Lonzo has already had a triple-double. He is watching and analyzing the film on every game and trying to figure out what he can do better, what adjustments he needs to make, and so on. He has kept a relatively cool head, despite the media bashing and all of the other noise going on around him. Ok, maybe he received his first technical foul against the Nuggets the other night. That might actually show that he is starting to step up and play more along the lines of a professional player. I think if we all go back and look at how we performed in the first six weeks of anything meaningful that we ever did, we would see that it took us time and effort to make the transition and grow into a success.
I say, let’s cut Lonzo some slack and let him transition into his professional career with a bit more mercy and compassion, understanding that it takes time to be a true superstar.
By Wendy Rosenthal