MidReal Story

Rising Above: A Rookie's Legacy

May 14
Scenario: I'm the most unique NBA prospect to enter the league in the past 30 years
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I'm the most unique NBA prospect to enter the league in the past 30 years
I was the most unique NBA prospect to enter the league in the past 30 years.
I was a rookie sensation, and I was going to change the game of basketball forever.
I was drafted by the Chicago Bulls as the number one pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
I was 6’6”, 215 pounds, and I had a 7’0” wingspan.
I could jump out of the gym, and my vertical leap was measured at 48 inches.
I had a lightning quick first step, and I could blow by any defender with ease.
I had a silky smooth jump shot, and I could shoot from anywhere on the court with deadly accuracy.
I had an incredible basketball IQ, and I could read defenses like a book.
I had an unmatched work ethic, and I was always the first one in the gym and the last one to leave.
But what set me apart from every other player in the league was my killer instinct.
My will to win was second to none, and I would do whatever it took to come out on top.
I was Michael Jordan, and I was about to take the NBA by storm.
When I entered the NBA as a rookie, I left my mark on the league from day one.
My debut game against the Washington Wizards was nothing short of extraordinary.
I scored 37 points, breaking the record for most points in a debut game by a rookie.
I threw down several highlight-reel dunks, and I hit the game-winner with less than a second left on the clock.
My performance was all over SportsCenter and social media, and I had fans, analysts, and players across the league buzzing.
One of those players was Kobe Bryant, who had been traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in a draft day blockbuster.
Kobe was entering his second season in the league, and he was already considered one of the best young players in the NBA.
He had watched my debut game on TV, and he was blown away by what he saw.
Kobe could see that I was something special, and that I had the potential to change the game of basketball forever.
He reached out to me after my debut, and we struck up a friendship.
Kobe was someone that I looked up to as a player and as a person, and we hit it off right away.
We started talking regularly, and Kobe became my mentor as I navigated my rookie season in the league.
It wasn’t always easy for me at first.
The NBA game is incredibly fast and physical, and it took me some time to adjust to the speed and intensity of play at this level.
I struggled with my shot early on, and I had some games where I looked lost out on the court.
But once I got my feet wet and adapted to the pace of the game, I started to show what I could do.
I finished my rookie season averaging 14.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game.
I shot 47% from the field and 35% from three-point range.
While those numbers were solid for a first-year player, they didn’t do justice to the impact that I had on my team and on the league as a whole.
I was an elite defender from day one and was named to the All-Defensive Second Team in my rookie year.
I could guard multiple positions, and I had a knack for coming up with big steals and blocks in crucial moments.
As a scorer, my pure athleticism allowed me to get to the basket at will, where I could finish over defenders with ease or draw fouls with my incredible body control.
And while shooting was not my primary strength, I was still able to knock down open jumpers consistently, which made me difficult to guard when driving to the basket.
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Kobe was one of the first people in the league to recognize the impact that I could have on the game.
In the middle of my rookie season in February 2020, he reached out to me with a proposition that would change the course of my career.
He invited me to Los Angeles for a week to work out with him and learn the ins and outs of the game.
He said that he saw something special in me, and that he wanted to take me under his wing.
I was thrilled by the opportunity to learn from one of the best players in the league, so I jumped at the chance.
When I arrived in Los Angeles, Kobe welcomed me with open arms.
We spent most of the day together getting reacquainted.
We talked about basketball – our favorite players growing up (mine was LeBron James while his was Michael Jordan), our favorite teams (him: Lakers; me: Bulls), our favorite basketball moments, etc.
We also talked about our personal lives – our families, our interests outside of basketball, our goals in life, etc.
We caught up on everything that had happened since we last spoke, which was around the time of the 2019 NBA Draft.
Kobe was a good friend to have in my corner.
He was one of the most competitive people on the planet and he expected nothing less from those around him.
He pushed himself to the limit every single day in order to be the best player he could be.
In his mind, nothing but perfection was acceptable.
He approached practice and training sessions as if they were games.
He put all his energy into his workouts and made sure that he gave his best effort every time he set foot on the court.
He would often spend hours working on his footwork and conditioning so that he would be in peak physical shape when it came time to play in games.
During my week in Los Angeles with Kobe, I followed him around like a shadow and absorbed everything I could about his training routine.
It was intense – more intense than anything I had ever done before – but I loved it.
It pushed me to my limits and made me a better player.
Kobe taught me more than just how to train like a pro.
He also showed me how to think like one.
He told me that in order to be successful in the NBA, it was important to have mental toughness and resilience – two things that he prided himself on.
While physical talent could take you far in this league, your mental approach to the game is what separated the good from the great.
You needed to have supreme confidence in yourself and your abilities and a never-say-die attitude in order to survive at this level.
There would be times when you would face adversity and criticism from fans and media alike but it was important to stay focused on what mattered most: winning games and championships.
You needed to have the willpower and determination to overcome any obstacle that stood in your way and continue to work hard even when things weren’t going your way.
If you did those things, you would be well on your way to having a successful career.
I took Kobe’s words to heart and made them my own.
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After my fast start to the season, I suffered an ankle injury in a game against the Detroit Pistons.
I missed eleven games due to the injury.
It was the first time in my career that I had been forced to sit out for an extended period of time and it was frustrating.
I wanted nothing more than to be out on the court helping my team win games.
However, my ankle needed time to heal so I did everything I could in the meantime to make sure I stayed in game shape.
After going through an intense rehabilitation program, I returned to action in a game against the San Antonio Spurs.
It was like I had never left.
I played 40 minutes in my first game back and scored 29 points on 12-of-21 shooting.
The fans were amazed at how well I played in my return and the media raved about my incredible performance.
They said that I had picked up right where I left off before the injury and continued to play at an All-Star level.
I was happy that my hard work in rehab had paid off but my joy didn’t last long.
In my second game back against the New York Knicks, I took an elbow to the face late in the third quarter when I tried to block a shot by Patrick Ewing.
I fell backward onto the court and hit my head hard.
The force of the collision caused my nose to break and gave me a concussion.
I was in a lot of pain and couldn’t feel the left side of my face as I laid on the ground.
My teammates immediately called for the trainers to come over to help me up as I struggled to regain my bearings.
They helped me to my feet and walked me back to the locker room for further evaluation.
The medical staff wanted me to undergo a series of tests in order to determine the severity of my injuries but I refused to go back to the hospital again after what happened the last time I was there.
I was in so much pain that I couldn’t stand the thought of being poked and prodded any longer than necessary so I told them that I would get checked out later after the game was over.
Despite their pleas for me to stay, I walked out of the locker room on my own two feet with a towel covering the left side of my face.
The trainer said that he would let me know what the results of the tests were once they came back so I went back to the bench to cheer on my teammates for the remainder of the game.
My nose took about a week to heal but I was still feeling the effects of my concussion long after that.
I experienced headaches and blurred vision in both eyes due to the injury which made it difficult for me to concentrate on anything for an extended period of time.
The physical toll from the ankle injury didn’t help matters either as I struggled to regain my conditioning from being out for so long.
After missing seven games due to the concussion, I returned to action against the Philadelphia 76ers.
It was great being back on the court with my teammates again after being away for so long but I wasn’t able to play at the same level that I did before getting hurt.
My rhythm was off due to being out for an extended period of time so I had to find other ways to contribute until I got back into a groove again.
I did just that by playing solid defense and getting others involved in the offense which helped us win games down the stretch.