Adjustments and Sacrifices
11-year Veteran, Dawan Robinson shares some of his experiences during his career while playing Overseas. He talks about some of the sacrifices players have to make if they want to achieve success and have a long career. And details a crazy situation that he went through while playing Poland.
The hardest part about playing basketball overseas is the adjustment. Players have to constantly deal with the language barriers, the difference in style of play and more important the culture. The positives are that the teams will try and do their best by making life easier for you and your families by helping to ease those adjustments. Teams take care of your housing and amenities such as cable and the internet, as well your car, insurance, and all your travel needs. All with the hope of making your life easier off the court, so you will be able to perform better on it.
European basketball is completely different from basketball in the states. Not only just the style of play but also the preparation and practices demands. Teams usually spend their preseasons isolated in the mountains running and practicing in high altitudes to build stamina. Two a Day practices are the norm in European basketball. Unlike the NCAA or NBA, there aren’t any restrictions on how long practices are. It’s not uncommon for practices to be 2 to 3 hours long. The referees and the physical play are also an adjustment players have to make. A lot of the referee’s calls are inconsistent and they tend to favor a more physical style play.
For me, the hardest part when I first came to play in Europe, was being away from my friends and family, especially during the holidays. Missing all the wonderful memories with your loved ones during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve. Sometimes I feel like I’m not even a US citizen anymore. I spend more time over here in Europe than the USA. Even after being in Europe for 11 seasons, ten months away from your family and friends is never easy. Hopefully, you have a lot of flight tickets (You can negotiate flights for family and friends in your contract with teams) to fly friends and family over to visit.
No one said being successful would be easy!
Hard work is always required to be successful anywhere but here it is needed even more in my opinion. I’ve seen players get released at the start of the semi-finals in the playoffs because the team thought they needed a change. So if you’re not working and be productive, they will not hesitate to terminate your contract and bring in another, more willing American player in to replace you. The one thing that you must do to have a long career over here is to be professional, work hard and being able to quickly adapt to different playing styles and situations.
Even though there are many up and downs, the experience makes it all worth it. Never would I have thought growing up in Philadelphia, that basketball would grant me and my family the opportunities to see the world. Being able to see so many beautiful places in the world is an experience that is priceless. I’ve played in France, Poland, Italy, Israel, and Slovenia all in the span of an 11-year career. Each country has allowed me to have many different experiences during my career. The majority of them have been amazing, but there have been definitely been a few crazy situations, that probably many of you reading this won’t believe.
One crazy situation happened to me during my 2nd season while playing Poland. I spoke earlier about the difference in cultures between European countries and the USA. I found this to be truly evident during my time in Poland. Racism still exists largely in some European countries as many people aren’t exposed to many African Americans in these countries. My wife and I would walk around the city and people would call me “the N word” like it was my name!!! It happened on so many occasions that I had to learn how to deal with it fast. The first time it happened, I was soo shocked that the guy was around the corner when it finally hit me that he really called me the “N word”. My wife and I were stunned because this was the first time in my life this had ever happened.
Then I recall a time when 2 teammates and I were in the city center for a night out a local club and a guy try to literally walk through us. Now, of course, things got serious real quick. After a heated argument that lasted for about 5 minutes, as we looked around us, people were coming at us from taxi cabs, flowers shops, and corner stores. It literally was about 12 against me and my teammates. Now, one of my teammates was white and the other was African-American like myself. The repeatedly said, ” we don’t want you (referring to my white teammate) we want the 2 “N words”. They continued to follow us as we back ourselves against a big church wall trying to attack us from different angles. We back into a club and about 4 waited outside until we came out. At this point I was so annoyed, I just wanted to fight and get it over with. So I walked out with my teammates and they called about 2 more guys. They continued to try to attack us until we backed into a tunnel where they could only attack us from the front and then all hell broke loose. They had brass knuckles and picked up whatever that was in sight to try to attack us. The incident lasted awhile until I chased a few of them away with a pole. We finally ran back to my car, we jumped in and pull off and they threw rocks and whatever else they could find at the car. Definitely was crazy and eye opening situation.
The positive of playing basketball overseas by far out weight the negatives. Like I said earlier, there is no better experience than having the opportunity to travel the world and getting paid to play a game I love. For that one bad experience, I have had a million great ones while playing in Europe. But I felt that rather than share those it’s important to share the bad experiences so younger players can also learn from those as well. Playing overseas definitely takes huge sacrifices.
I’ve learned you really have to be strong mentally and physically to deal with it all in order to have a long career.