It's tricky for those that are young and competent. You want to grab the world by its throat like you know you can, but you'd better be prepared to rub some necks while you're at it. There's a fine line between prodigy and punk, and it takes a special kind of wisdom to know the difference early on.
Michael Jordan knew it, as observed during Sunday's premiere of 'The Last Dance'.
"From the first day of practice, my mentality was, whoever is the team leader on that team, I'm going after him. And I'm not gonna do it with my voice because I had no voice. I had no status. I have to do it with the way that I play."
Of course, during the Jordan era, paying your dues came naturally. Now, in the brand-building era, players don't pay dues, dues are paid to them - in the form of recruiting rankings, social media influence and sometimes dollars - all before they even get to the NBA. How do you expect Lonzo Ball to bow down to Rajon Rondo, when Rondo has six million less Instagram followers? What do you charge, Rajon? $100,000 a post? Please.
Not to mention, one of the many influences of LeBron James on the post-Jordan NBA is the culture of outspokenness. From "The Decision" to "The Shop," LeBron made it uncool to just "shut up and dribble."
But, LeBron didn't make his televised Miami Heat announcement until he'd dragged a Cavaliers team to the Finals by himself, and he didn't found his media company, Uninterrupted, until after he'd won his first championship with The Heat. Before speaking, he earned his proverbial voice.
Many haven't waited so long. Trae Young, during his sophomore season with the Hawks, was so vocally dissatisfied by the support he was receiving, he had to be reassured by the team that he'd be getting help soon. That was in December, and Atlanta was just 6-17. Karl-Anthony Towns created enough rumblings of unhappiness, through the typical NBA backchannels, that the Timberwolves traded for his friend D'Angelo Russell. Minnesota has one winning season in the Towns era, and they lost in the first round of the playoffs that year.
Devin Booker's different. The Suns haven't won much during his time in Phoenix, and Booker seems uninterested in brand-building or demanding until they do. Even with the 70-point game. Even with the revolving door of head coaches. Even after his supposed sidekick, Deandre Ayton, missed half the 2019-20 season because of a diuretic suspension.
Last time Booker spoke - in a webcam interview with Maria Taylor - he talked about how content he was with the organization.
"With the guys we have right now, the front office, GM, (James) Jones, I'm behind these guys 100%," Booker said. "We have the same mindset that it's time to do this. This season was a step forward for us. Not knowing how it's going to continue, but we're on the right path and I'm looking forward to it. I'm very excited."
While the rest of the NBA does their best LeBron James impression, Devin Booker is trying to be like Mike. Or, maybe like Kobe, who's mannerisms matched Jordan when he entered the NBA.
There's value in earning your voice before you speak. People listen, without trying to poke holes in what you're saying. Organizations work with you, rather than kowtowing for fear of abandonment. Expectations are set proportionally to your play, not the brand you've built or the promises you've made.
Devin Booker isn't Michael Jordan. Nobody is. But, like Jordan, Kobe and LeBron, he's managed to avoid the temptation of entitlement before earning a chance at a title.