The Day Job vs. Side Passions Dilemma via Baron Davis

Every team — corporate or athletic — needs a motherfucker. Baron Davis, a superstar point guard and one of the leading talents in the NBA, is the Los Angeles Clippers’ motherfucker.

Or is he? Sports Illustrated has a great feature on Baron in their latest issue. At 29 years old, Baron probably maintains one of the most active and interesting personal lives of any NBA player — he lectures Congress on health issues and the inner-city obesity crisis, consulted with Barack Obama during the campaign, cites Malcolm Gladwell when explaining social phenomena, produces documentaries, invests in internet start-ups. All good right? Maybe not, if it distracts from his day job:

When you’ve been involved in a successful presidential campaign, produced an Oscar-worthy documentary and include among your goals for 2009 brokering a truce among Bloods, Crips and Latino gangs, it’s easy to see how tossing a ball into a basket against, say, the Milwaukee Bucks could seem somewhat trifling. And while Davis won’t cop to it, there is a sense in some corners that his extracurricular activities have exacted a price on his basketball…

Davis is finding out that the line between being perceived as a Renaissance man or a dilettante can be a fine one. Asked about Davis’s competitive resolve, Hornets coach Byron Scott says tepidly, “My take on him is that he’s a very talented point guard, and I’ll leave it at that.” Recently, Roper, the Crossroads coach who now works for Davis’s foundation, had a heart-to-heart with his former player. “I told him we all get distracted by what’s attainable and obtainable, but first and foremost, you’re a basketball player. Focus on what made you what you are. I want to see you be an All-Star for the next four or five years and turn the Clippers around. Movies and whatnot can wait.”

My buddy Kevin Arnovitz, who writes about the NBA for, has an interesting re-frame:

Here’s a question: Would you take umbrage — both as a parent and as a taxpayer — if you learned that your kid’s fifth grade public school teacher was coming into the classroom a little less prepared this semester because she’s been serving as the chair of a cancer research walk-a-thon, which requires as much as 15 hours a week of her free time, time she’d otherwise spend composing lesson plans? What if her side project wasn’t a charity? What if she were spending those hours starting a business that indulged one of her many passions outside the classroom?

In this scenario, no, I wouldn’t mind. But what if I were CEO of a company with an employee who decided to indulge her many passions outside of work to the tune of 15-20 hours a week? I’d like to think I’d be supportive, if it didn’t prove too distracting, though I can’t be sure. There are no easy answers to the day job vs. side passions dilemma that so many of us face.

Related Post: Are You Your Team’s Motherfucker? In the comments, Chris Yeh says he is a “situational motherfucker” but claims he can “step up to full motherfuckerhood when necessary.”

14 comments on “The Day Job vs. Side Passions Dilemma via Baron Davis
  • Comments last month from the president of the Dodgers raised the same issue of focus. She asked if fans would rather have 50 youth fields in the community or a free agent like Manny Ramirez.

    I think her implication is wrong because the fans want the sexy free agent. If she’s right, though, fundamental assumptions still matter. It’s nice to give back, and it’s probably in the team’s long-term best interest to build fields and create new fans. And there’s no need to endorse the price tag for someone like Ramirez, specifically, but will there be fans at Dodger Stadium if the team neglects its on-the-field product? “For the kids” doesn’t pay major league ticket prices.

    Same with any business. Sure, it’s nice to do stuff for the community. It makes us feel good. But staying in business and being as productive as possible at the correct task has to remain first priority if we want to continue doing the feel good stuff.

  • Absolutely agree. If a company gives all its money away to charity, soon
    there will be no business to give money to charity in the future. If the
    Dodgers start sucking, soon there will be no revenue to fund its community
    outreach programs.

  • From the LA Times: “the team and its foundation are separate entities and the funds to pay for the fields won’t be taken out of the team’s operating budget.”

    It’s an irrelevant comparison to begin with, and self-righteous grand-standing by McCourt.

    By presenting a false dichotomy, she is attempting to make the media feel bad in order to avoid serious questioning. They’re justifying the potential inability to sign Manny by making the fans and journalists were immoral for wanting good baseball.

    Anyone can say the same thing about two goods.

    “Angry I didn’t get you an X-Box for Christmas, Jimmy? Well, would you rather have an X-box or feed the homeless?”

    By this logic, no one would have anything. And it’s even truer in the business world.

  • This sounds very similar the 60 minutes interview with Pete Carroll last night: I don’t know how these guys find the time, but you have to admire guys surrounded by egomaniacs who can keep their priorities in check.

  • Yeah, well, exceptional as Baron Davis may be– while all this testosterone is steaming in the mental locker-room I’m thinking how many of the guys who are motherfuckas on the court and on the field are so often motherfuckas in the other venues of life, too.

    I can honestly say that I never had a coach I liked or respected as a human being. Most of those I had were World War II or Korean War vets– retired Marine Corps NCO’s or ex-prizefighters who tried to instill cutthroat battlefield values into me and my beachbum peacenik buddies (this was the height of the Vietnam War), with little success.

    I was always disgusted by the discrepancy between their savage deportment in the gym or on the field and the glaringly hypocritical way they carried themselves in church or at public functions.

    Now trash-talking playas have been commoditized by corporations who’ve helped turn much of US sports into a revolting minstrel show, the same way they’ve co-opted hip-hop and glamorized the gritty street life of urban culture and peddle it to white kids in the suburbs.

    I applaud Baron Davis. He has an abundance of spare time and uses it to improve himself and the lives of poor black kids who come from the same disadvantaged background he did.

    Fuck corporate sports. Take the money and run, Baron.

  • Or maybe it helps his basketball? Baron is one of the most badass players in the game, and if it wasn’t for unfortunate injuries and some shitty coaching from Nellie, he’d probably have a lot more concrete basketball accomplishments.

    Don’t forget how much he dominated during the GSW run — that was some of the best basketball I’ve seen anyone play. He plays fearlessly, and perhaps that is because basketball is such a trifle.

    Nevertheless, cool info on Baron 🙂

  • I guess one needs to explore what his “true calling” is, and often it might not be one’s day job…

    So till you’re sure you’ve found your “passion” (that project/job/role that you love waking up in the morning to get to work on), you’ve gotta keep looking, and experimenting… Cos once you’ve found it, work is fun!

  • Actually, even when you’ve found your “passion”, its a good idea to keep explore other interests…

    Cos as you grow and evolve, and so will your “passion”… (a la Bill Gates)

    And of course, variety is the spice of life innit!?
    : )

  • It is very well documented that the best thinkers pursue a multi-discipline approach that creates ample opportunities for cross fertilization. However, for this to be successful requires much more discipline and probably less sleep. Baron’s problem is probably related to discipline and not too many interests.

  • Didn’t you make the same trade-off between your passion (starting and building a business) and your high school life? I think you said something to the effect that your grades and social life suffered in high school, but the end result was better than simply focusing on high school.

    I think it’s the same for the average working stiff. Extra curricular activities may be harmful to a day job, but the hopeful intent (in the case of entrepreneurial activities) is to make the leap to something better while trying to survive.

  • Interesting point. I agree that if your day job isn’t fulfilling you, your side projects will hopefully one day become your main thing, and during that transition period you just want to survive and not overly jeopardize either.

  • I agree that juggling multiple interests requires discipline and more efficient use of time and resources. As Ben and I discussed recently, if Baron is fulfilled and energized by his off-the-court pursuits, this could yield better on-court performance. (It is also fairly obvious to me that BD’s off-years in the NBA are always tied to injuries–which may be tied to a lack of commitment to his conditioning–but that is speculation on my part.)

    Also agree that the “signing Manny vs. fields for kids” either / or choice is a false one. Signing Manny MAY yield greater regular season ticket revenues, and MAY yield a playoff appearance (and the HUGE financial windfall that making the payoffs means for an MLB team) for LA that wouldn’t have happened without him, and those extra revenues MAY cover Manny’s salary and leave enough to invest in inner-city baseball programs.

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