Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Contract

I’ve been a BYU basketball fan as long as I can remember.  When I was a kid, the season was a little shorter and there were hardly any games on TV.  Most of my early memories of BYU basketball were generated by listening to the radio.  Paul James, whom my dad seemed to really dislike, was the play-by-play guy.  In my early teenage years, guys like Gary Trost and Russell Larson were among my basketball idols.  While a student at BYU, I attended a number of games in the Marriott Center and loved watching future NBA player Travis Hansen who brought some athleticism and passion to BYU’s team, something that, admittedly, it sometimes lacks.  Jimmer Fredette, though, was a whole different level, even though I remember the first time I saw him on the court thinking, “Oh boy, another wimpy white guy that will bring nothing but embarrassment to BYU basketball.”

Book cover.The Contract: The Journey of Jimmer Fredette from the Playground to the Pros by Pat Forde (ISBN: 978-1-60907-140-0) is essentially the story of how Fredette overcame naysayers like myself throughout his life and achieved one of the lofty goals he has set for himself in his life by making it from a backwater in New York to the NBA.  The book draws its name from the highly publicized contract that Fredette signed with his older brother, TJ, pledging that he would do whatever it took to get to the NBA.  Fredette had a supportive family, and the book chronicles bouncing balls in the house and a makeshift full court in the back yard that was the place the neighborhood kids wanted to be.  Most of all, though, he had TJ there to support him and serve as an unofficial coach and trainer throughout his formative years.  The book actually spends a significant number of pages discussing TJ because of his large role in Fredette’s progress both as a basketball player and person.  The book chronicles Fredette’s rise through high school and college, where he proved me and about a few million other people wrong by sweeping national player-of-the-year awards his senior year and being the tenth pick in the NBA draft.

The book ends with that accomplishment, and those who have followed the Jimmer’s career since then know that it simmered and then went out as far as the NBA is concerned, but why is a bit of a debatable subject.  The more important thing from the book are the lessons of hard work and dedication.  I also believe there’s one more lesson to be learned, and it’s one reason, I think, anyway, why Fredette was popular and remains so even though his NBA career never really took off: humility.  Fredette, like most elite athletes, is a driven, competitive person.  You have to be to get to that level.  One reason I never excelled at athletics when I was young was that, while competitive, I was never driven and never put in the hard work.  It’s nice to read a book sometimes that reinforces the concept of hard work.  The stories of the drills concocted by TJ for Jimmer or hard hours put in out in the makeshift gym in the garage can be turned into life lessons.  I enjoyed the lessons and had fun reading about Jimmer’s younger years.  I thought the book was long on TJ, although I understand his role and (again) know that Jimmer is humble and willing to give credit for his success to others, where it’s due.  I also might have liked a little more substance on the high school and college years.  For fans, it’s a must-read book; for the more casual observer, it might seem a little on the dry side.

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