I’m hanging up my basketball shoes. I’m saying goodbye. I’m done. I’m retiring from basketball.
None of those phrases really work for me but maybe they work for you.
After five seasons of basketball in Europe I’m not returning.
About six weeks ago I decided not to continue my professional basketball career. I didn’t tell anyone but my head and heart combined after many grueling days and nights of pro and con lists (both in my head and on paper) to come to a conclusion: It’s time to move on.
Back in April my team offered me more money to come back and play for them. I was flattered and happy that they had enough confidence in my abilities and were pleased enough with my efforts last year to want me back. But I wasn’t as happy as I thought I should be.
Talking to people about whether to play a sixth year in Europe told me a couple things. First, that everyone has an opinion, and second, just about everyone wishes they could play basketball for a living. After listening to everyone and their brother tell me what they would do, what they thought I should do, or that they supported me in whatever I chose, I decided I really needed to make my own decision.
Sounds easy, but if you know me, you know I struggle to decide on a pair of socks for the day, let alone a huge decision that would change my life as I knew it. I could have told you what every single person I knew wanted me to do but not the most important: me. So I got to thinking about whether or not I wanted to go back and play basketball. Did I love playing basketball and getting paid for it? Yes. Did I love the competition? Yes. Did I love traveling a new country? Of course. But, that was basically where my list ended.
Every time I thought about getting on a plane to sit uncomfortably for eight hours over the Atlantic Ocean while leaving my family, friends, and beautiful Maine behind I got sick in the pit of my stomach. I never liked leaving, obviously, and the time leading up to my departure was always stressful until about two days after I arrived in Germany when I started counting down the days ‘til I flew back home.
Then I asked myself why I started playing in the first place. That answer was easy: I thought playing basketball in Europe would provide me the time and space to “find myself.” (I realize now that I have no idea what that phrase even means, if anything at all.) I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, what career I wanted to pursue, I didn’t even know who I was when I was 22.
The career searching: that wasn’t happening. After teaching stints, self-help books, and even personality tests I still am not certain about what I want to be. All I know is that playing basketball in Europe was not moving me forward anymore. If I know anything at all, I know I always want to be moving forward and pushing myself.
Pushing myself. We know why I started playing but why did I continue to do so for five years? I wanted to reach the top division in Germany and see what kind of challenge that brought. Thank God for my parents who taught me to be independent and a self-starter or I wouldn’t have survived. The whole style of life in Europe and the European mindset is completely different to how I view sports and life in general. I was looking for an environment that tested me. I wanted something like college basketball when pushing myself was my life, when after every practice or workout I bent over with my hands on my knees and felt so good, so proud that I made it through. College basketball challenged me and I was searching for something more at the next level.
I never really found it.
After thinking through these things it became obvious to me that it was time to try something new. Like any relationship, you can’t really move on until you have let something go. If I always had a backup plan (basketball) waiting in the wings, then I was always comfortable. I heard something once that makes complete sense to me: you have to make yourself uncomfortable if you want to grow. European basketball was getting too comfortable, too easy.
Finally about a month ago I told my agent, who told our team’s manager, who passed the word on to the newspaper in Rotenburg, Germany and my decision was permanent. I cried when I sent that email but felt very relieved just a few days later. Even as I’m typing, I’m not sure what the next chapter holds in my life, but I do feel that I have made the right decision and I am excited about the possibilities.
–I have to thank everyone who had a part in my professional basketball career. I absolutely owe so many people so many things for all the memories and opportunities and experiences. I am so fortunate to have been able to love something so much that it paid me back the way basketball has. But my kind of thank yous are much more personal and include a hug which as much as the internet can provide, it still can’t provide that…