What Lies Ahead for Summer League Ballers Who Don't Make NBA Rosters

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterJuly 15, 2013

Apr. 17, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Chris Copeland (14) looks to pass the ball around Atlanta Hawks power forward Anthony Tolliver (4) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Knicks won 9892. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

For the majority of summer-league ballers, the name on their stylish V-neck jersey is completely irrelevant. Some guys even switch teams without anyone seeming to notice.

The summer league is a showcase. It's a competition, but not one judged on team results.

Even though these gyms in Orlando and Vegas hold about 12 people, there are eyes watching from all over the world. Basketball is global, yet available positions in the U.S. are limited. If you want to play this game for a living, relocation must be an option. One must also have an open mind and a serious willingness to sacrifice. 

For recently drafted players, the summer league is used for development. But for everyone else, it's an audition—or just a chance to get recognized. 

There's only so many open spots on an NBA roster. Unless you're an absolute standout, odds are the first portion of your career goes down under less-than-deal circumstances.

Didn't make an NBA team? You can always enter the D-League draft. If selected, you get the opportunity to play for a pro franchise's minor-league affiliate where the chance of being called up awaits. 

Of course, there's no guarantee and the money is tight. The top D-League performers make around $25,000 a year, hardly enough to get by. 

In the D-League, you get to play right under the noses of NBA coaching staffs. It's a lot easier to turn heads in Austin or Fort Wayne than it is suiting up for Generali Okapi Aalstar in Belgium.

But unlike the D-League, international teams will pay. Young players can live nicely abroad while playing the game they love—just not in Madison Square Garden or Staples Center. 

And you probably won't be able to order that burger you crave at dinner or watch Breaking Bad in English on Sunday nights. You won't have the same crew of friends, nor will your Twitter-follow count skyrocket. 

If you're lucky enough to receive an offer or get drafted by an international team, it would likely require a massive lifestyle change. Imagine, after years of growing up in the States playing AAU, college hoops and summer ball in Vegas, you're now living in Latvia, sharing a bench with older men who don't speak your language. 

It's a take-what-you-can-get job industry. If you're not willing to sacrifice, someone else will be. When Ricardo Ratliffe graduated from Missouri in 2012, I'm pretty sure South Korea wasn't on his list of preferred destinations.

Chris Copeland's first college game was in 2002 with Colorado. His first NBA game came 10 years later. He spent time in the D-League, then went off to play in Spain, Germany and Belgium before returning back to the D-League. 

After years of sacrifice without a guarantee of reward, Copeland is now a millionaire playing for the Indiana Pacers. 

Not making an NBA roster doesn't automatically equate to failure. Nowadays, there are options before a career change is necessary. 

These options may not have been in the cards originally, but at some point, you've got to reshuffle the deck. Basketball never stops for those who don't want it to. It's just a matter of expanding one's horizons and accepting change.

Jobs are out there for those willing to sacrifice.