Finding My "Why"

Jefferson Mason
Oct 19, 2022 11:33:08 AM

I’ll never forget hearing that from my AAU coach when I was heading towards my sophomore year in high school. To be honest, I don’t think he meant for his question to be something groundbreaking but it actually was for me. 

The reason it made me think so hard was because up until that point, in my mind, I had just been playing basketball because I liked to and my friends played. I kept thinking to myself, maybe that was just it and enough for me. I soon realized this wasn’t the case for me. One thing I know now is hearing those two questions would change my perspective on the game as I knew it moving forward.

When my AAU coach initially asked me those two simple questions my mind led me down the path of figuring out the simplest way to answer. My friends played and I liked playing so wouldn’t that be my why? As I thought more I realized that those two things weren’t enough for me to explain why I was spending an abnormal amount of time trying to successfully put a ball through a hoop and why I cared so much about the result of that. As I dug deeper within myself I realized that there was another reason leading me down this path to be the best basketball player I could be.

I remember sitting on the living room floor when I was 8 years old watching Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls play. My older brother could often be seen jumping around yelling trying his best to mimic everything our Dad was doing. My Father was a die hard Jordan fan just like most sports fanatics in the 90’s. He was vocal and animated every game we watched and I could tell from an early age that basketball really meant something to him. It didn’t take me long to get personally invested in the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. Every win and amazing play made the game more interesting to me and seeing my Father’s passion and excitement got me even more stuck on it. Between 1996-1998 my older brother, my Dad and I were on pins and needles watching as many Chicago Bulls games as we could.

After winning his second 3-peat championship, Michael Jordan retired for the second time in 1999 which was tough for fans everywhere. That same year in the summer we found out my Father had terminal cancer. It was such a whirlwind of emotions for me. I was 11 years old and I don’t think I really comprehended what cancer was or what it did to people. I just assumed he would get treatment and that would be it. As time passed I quickly found out that wasn’t the case. Radiation and the disease progressing made my Father shrivel up to a fraction of what he was at his peak. To this day it’s something I’ll never forget. Several short months later at age 48 my Dad passed away.



People process things differently when tragedy happens. Some people turn to work, school or something consistent to block out the pain of losing a loved one. Others turn to anger, hate or something less productive. I turned to the thing that made me the happiest while also giving me positive memories of my Father. 


In my teenage years shortly after my AAU coach asked me those two simple questions, I had figured out what my “why” was. I wanted to honor my Father, faith and family through basketball and I wanted to be the best version of myself I could be. Even now as an adult I truly understand this and thank God I was able to take a tragedy in my life and use that as fuel to keep going. Throughout my playing career this “why” was the pillar to my work ethic, but as I continued to advance in the game I gained more reasons to keep going while staying motivated. The desire to be a positive role model in my community, the passion to make others around me better and the love for exploring the world were just a few more “whys” added along the way.



In my personal opinion, the ultimate goal for every player and coach is to understand what purpose basketball will serve you because not knowing will lead to a lack of fulfillment and frustration. Adversity often derails us from our goals and deters us from the hard work that's needed to succeed and overcome. Everyone won’t have a reason or why as deep as mine, but I bet you’d be surprised what your reason is if you looked deep within. The hardest part is looking at yourself in the mirror and meeting with loved ones, mentors and coaches to help understand the person you want to be and are becoming inside and outside of the sport you play. This will lead to stability, consistency, and success regardless of how far basketball takes you. You’ll enjoy the grind and persevere through tough situations. My “why” helped me when I felt like giving up or felt I deserved something I wasn’t ready for. It kept me level headed, humble and thankful. I challenge you to go figure out your reason and your true why. It’ll make everything moving forward with sports and life so much better!

I’ll leave you with the same questions my AAU coach left me with…

What is your why for playing the game of basketball? 

What’s your reason for working so hard to make your dreams come true?



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