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5 Mistakes Prospective NBA Interns Make

by John Ross about a year ago in basketball
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Common mistakes based on going through thousands of resumes and cover letters

5 Mistakes Prospective NBA Interns Make
Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash

It’s that time of year when more and more applications, phone calls, and e-mails are coming in with those whose dream is to work in the NBA.

I remember being in that space myself 14 years ago. I was e-mailing every person I had a connection to, applying for any job in the NBA I could find posted online somewhere, calling HR departments, and doing whatever I could to get my foot in the door.

And now, years later, I have the opportunity to be on the other end.

And with that, here’s a few common mistakes that prospective interns make that cause your resume to be thrown out:

1 — Copy and Pasted Messages

I likely respond to around 5% of my e-mail and LinkedIn messages requesting a connection, feedback, or something of that sort.

I appreciate them all but there are just too many to get back to. But the ones that have no chance of me getting back to are the ones that are obviously a copy and paste. I’m not interested in being a part of someone’s checklist.

Copy and Paste messages are often easier to spot than you realize. Why? Because there are often so many mistakes. There may be a different font in the spot you copied, or different bolded words or misalignment. I even got one last week that said ‘Hello Maria.’ Followed up by a second e-mail, not even acknowledging the previous one that said, ‘Hello John,’ with the exact same message. I’ve gotten messages telling me how great it would be to work for… OKC (or another team), a simple clue into someone who has copied and pasted a message to every team and forgot to change the team name.

We get it, you’re trying to get a hold of anyone. It’s tough to take the time to personalize 100 messages when you might only hear back from 5. At the same time, copy and paste 1,000 times, and you may hear back from 0.

2 — You Ask Questions that Have Already Been Answered

I’ll probably get emails after writing this article that ask, I read your article, could we connect and you can tell me …“What are mistakes prospective interns make?” I’m not even kidding. After most articles I write, I get people who want to follow up and ask the exact same questions I answered in the article.

Oftentimes, people reference my articles when they reach out and then proceed to ask questions I answered in the article. I don’t mind questions at all, but be specific to what you need and how I can help you. If it’s already written down somewhere prior, then there is no need to ask.

It’s the same as if you’re reaching out to an Author. Don’t ask questions that they’ve addressed in their books. Read their books and then prepare your questions.

3 — Follow-Up

I’ll admit, follow-ups are really tricky. The biggest mistake I see made is following up too much. There’s a healthy balance that can be made and it’s not always clear, you simply have to figure out where you are in the connection and what the other person is okay with.

The reason I say follow-ups are tricky is because we’ve all been there, not knowing when we should or if we should and it can create anxiety. Each person is different in how they like to receive follow-ups but I’ll share a story of someone who did it the best.

A gal from my community group at church asked me if her sister’s boyfriend could reach out to me because he wanted to work in the NBA. My response wouldn’t typically be very enthusiastic (because I receive a lot of requests similar to that) but then she followed up with, and he currently works in the G-League. At that point, I was like, Definitely, have him give me a call! As I’ve said in other articles, if you’re working in the G-League or WNBA or another hoops league, I know you love the game. You’re not just someone with a dream, you’re someone who loves to be around hoops. And if you’re taking the small steps to reach your dream, I’m more than happy to help and support you along the way.

When he gave me a call, he shared about what he was up to and where he hoped to get to. We had a great chat and I told him he was welcome to reach out anytime. He called me maybe every 6 months to a year after that and we caught up and I offered any advice I could. And then he called me to let me know he had gotten an internship with an NBA team (and now has an NBA Championship on his resume as well). In all the times we talked, he never asked me for a job. We simply talked and caught up about where we were in our lives and careers. And when he did get in the NBA, we finally got to meet as our teams matched up in the Playoffs and we had some time to hang. This became a ritual where we would hang whenever each other’s teams were in town and we are still friends to this day.

So first off, yes to follow-ups. I’ll touch base a bit more on Point 4. But no to constantly reaching out. There simply isn’t time or energy to stay connected to everyone who wants to connect. If you call me and I tell you that you should apply for internships and then go get a job in the G-League, that means… call me back when you get a job in the G-League, not keep calling because you want to work in the NBA.

I often get messages from people I have spoken to once before who say, “Let’s catch up!” In my head, my response is, “Let’s not!” Or they will text, “Let’s talk hoops!” Once again, if I’m talking hoops, it’s likely at the office … for you, let’s stick to how you can move your career along, we need not dive into pick and roll coverages.

When I was a year out of college and trying to get in the NBA, I was able to get a phone call with Pat Williams, an Orlando Magic Executive. It was certainly the biggest name I had a chance to talk to and get advice from. We had a great conversation and he closed it by saying, “Call me back when you get your Masters.” Simple enough. 4 years later, I had my Masters.

4 — Say Thank You

When it comes to follow-ups, follow up with a Thank You.

There are times I’ve met with people in person and never heard from them again. All of our time is valuable. Mine is valuable. Yours is valuable. If someone gives you time in person, on the phone, or even on e-mail, follow-up and say thank you.

Some take this to an extreme and send holiday cards and greeting cards, opening day cards and more. Although kind, that is unnecessary unless you have established much more of a relationship beyond a professional connection.

But after a first phone call or connection, a thank you note can always be a kind way of acknowledging your appreciation of someone’s time.

5 — Expectations

This may (or may not) sound surprising, but I get a lot of calls from people who seem to expect me to offer them a job by the end of the call. …trust me, you’re not that impressive. Not many of us are.

First off, getting a job or internship is a process. You talk to me. You talk to others in our office. You apply. You go through HR. You go through management. And we collectively make a decision. That’s how it works 99% of the time.

Oftentimes, I’ll have people frustrated at the end of a call because I am not offering them a position. But just like my friend in Point 3… the people I appreciate the most and who typically make it are the ones who don’t ask for a job. They are simply talking to you to learn and to ask questions. They work, they volunteer, and they make themselves a desirable hire.

You should never call someone with an expectation of anything other than to further learn. Come to the call prepared. Learn what the process of that team is for hiring interns. Learn what you need to do to prepare yourself for the next steps.


In conclusion, as always, know that I’m rooting for you. It’s not an easy process. We all make mistakes. It’s okay if you have.

When I was a prospective intern, I e-mailed Assistant Video Coordinator Tim Grass of the Trail Blazers and titled the e-mail Blzaers.

I clicked send, checked my outbox and was mortified.

After I finished my first internship with the Blazers, I applied with the Los Angeles Clippers. My e-mail to Video Coordinator Raman Sposato started with Hell Raman,

Once again, mortified. I quickly e-mailed and apologized. Obviously, he didn’t care, he had more important things to worry about but obviously, I still haven’t forgotten about it.

It’s okay to make mistakes.

But what you can do, is learn from them. Be better. Grow. And help the next person along the way.

  • Don’t copy and paste, do personalize.
  • Don’t ask questions that have already been answered, do ask questions relevant to your situation.
  • Don’t follow up on the weekly, do follow-up biannually.
  • Don’t forget to say thank you, do follow-up with a kind message.
  • Don’t expect anything, do learn as much as you can.


About the author

John Ross

Born in the cornfields of Indiana... made my through Texas and Virginia for school and landed in Oregon where I work with the Portland Trail Blazers... my loves are hoops, reading, writing, & Jesus

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