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My Rookie year-Jordan Clarkson

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My Rookie year-Jordan Clarkson

... The Players Tribune:

or the majority of my rookie year, I had to lug around a fake baby doll in a pink stroller whenever I was entering and leaving Staples Center. On Christmas Day, in front of a national TV audience, I made the “Not Top 10” on SportsCenter for missing a wide-open layup. Day in and day out at practice, I had to defend Kobe Bryant and received firsthand tutoring.

What I’m saying is, it was a pretty entertaining first year in the league.

Just over a year ago, I was drafted in the second round, 46th overall, by the Lakers. My reaction: Time to prove myself.

Right after that, the Kobe clinic started. It was before the preseason and all the guys were at the gym playing pick-up — just the players. Kobe comes in. Everyone’s choosing their matchups and no one picked up Kobe. Surprise, surprise, right? I was the only one left.

“JC, you got Kobe!” Someone yelled.

It wasn’t even preseason yet, but Kobe was going full speed. Somehow he made it look as if he was just gliding around.The first possession, he caught the rock along the baseline and hit a turn-around jumper in my face … a shot I’ve seen him hit literally a thousand times on TV. 

“Hey, don’t hurt yourself, young fella,” Kobe uttered to me.

It was one of my “Welcome to the NBA” moments. I experienced a few of those moments during my rookie year. I had the unenviable task of guarding Kobe throughout training camp. There aren’t too many guys who get an opportunity to sit down, talk to Kobe and actually pick his brain, but I was afforded this privilege. It was an incredible learning experience for me, to say the least. For all the stories you hear about Kobe talking trash and demanding a lot from his teammates, on many occasions he’s picked us up, too. He leads by example; however, you don’t hear about that much in the media.

Aside from the rookie duties, another huge aspect was developing friendships with team veterans. Nick Young and Carlos Boozer took me under their wings on the road. The bond wasn’t always about basketball. It was more about us being a family off the court.

The fans also played a huge role in making me feel accepted. Laker Nation is different from any other fanbase.Despite having a losing record, our fans showed love both at home and on the road. Once you’re a Laker, all eyes truly are on you.If I could speak to the rookies who were just drafted — that was me a year ago — I’d tell them to have an open mind. Don’t let other people’s perceptions affect you too much. You’re a work in progress, not a finished product.  There will be inevitable lows. Don’t let those become what you’re known for. It will be your reactions and ability to adjust that will define how successful your rookie campaign is.

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