Raptors’ Fred VanVleet isn’t finished betting on himself after cashing

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The man was prepared.He has prepared for this moment most of his life. So to become an elite point guard in the NBA, prepare to earn over $ 100 million before the age of 30, and become a role model for those who dare to dream big – none of this surprised Fred. VanVleet.

He is not Nostradamus. He didn’t predict the exact details, or the down-to-the-minute timing, or the likelihood that an undersized guy from Rockford, Ill. – a neglected, underfunded town about 80 miles to the west of Chicago – become a folk hero bordering on Toronto, playing for Canada’s only NBA team.

But the Raptors point guard always believed his journey would take him somewhere, and that he would be the one to take that path. Not a forehand – nothing is that easy – but an easier shot or maybe even possible because it doesn’t waste energy on the things that hold so many people back: being pushed aside by the doubt of self or even self-loathing or being excessively dependent on others to measure your self-esteem.

The Wichita State graduate who took the stage in his draft party and – even being ignored in both rounds – predicted big things for himself on Saturday morning, signed the richest deal never won by an undrafted NBA player: four years and $ 85 million. A nice bump from the two-year $ 18million deal he signed in 2018, in itself a significant increase for someone who had played the first two seasons of his career on rookie minimum.

VanVleet is now one of the highest earners in his draft class, and no one is less surprised than him.

“Anyone who knows me knows how I’m doing … I always feel like I’m right so it’s not a big deal for me,” he said remembering his confidence in the draft, preserved on YouTube, like mandatory viewing for those who know in their bones that the world is wrong about them. “I really wanted to say those words. It came from the heart, but I really felt like I was right, and I knew it would work for me. At that time, I might have been one of the few people to believe this, but we are here today.

VanVleet was speaking on a Zoom call as he wore a golf shirt from his collection of designer clothing for sale on his branded website – “thanks for the take,” he said, when asked. subject – and sitting in front of a backdrop with his company logo and poker chips styled with BOY – for Bet on Yourself, the slogan he made his own.

Super-imposed on the “O”? A bag of money. So yeah, just to say that VanVleet has been preparing for this day for a while.

It is this infallible confidence – both central and underrated at the same time, melting into a pleasurable, zen sort of self-confidence – along with his acting that has made VanVleet both remarkably valuable and popular as a than Raptor. He showed up in his sophomore year when he helped turn the “crowd bench” into one of the best second units in the NBA and the Raptors Championship when he rocked a terrible shooting crisis during of the first two rounds of the playoffs. torching the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors en route to the title and again last season when he started alongside Kyle Lowry, and set career records of 17 points and six assists in one of the leagues most toughest, smartest, and most efficient backcourts.

VanVleet’s story reverberated around basketball – an undersized, relatively un-athletic, high IQ point guard like Malachi Flynn (taken by the Raptors 29th overall last week) would have been a first-round pick if VanVleet hadn’t shown how skill, intelligence, and mental toughness translates into the absence of a 36-inch vertical or six-foot-six wingspan? It’s hard to pin down the causes and effects, but VanVleet is a pretty practical example of what’s possible.

“There are guys being drafted now that I know for a fact they wouldn’t have been drafted in my class or before my class, just because the teams are looking at him like they don’t want to miss the next one. Fred VanVleet, or that kid could be Fred or better than Fred or whatever, ”he said. “Just being that guy who leads the way and opens the door for other guys to come after me… it’s cool for me to see, for sure.

But the example of VanVleet goes beyond basketball or even sports. The whole idea of ​​”Bet on Yourself” is really about not letting others determine your worth. VanVleet knew what he could do, said it out loud, then set about doing the work to make it happen, confident the results would follow.

It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s something everyone should aspire to, and a message VanVleet is happy to preach.

“It’s a way of life. We put words into it that mean something to people…. [and] I’m just proud and excited and extremely humbled to be able to start seeing him go from sport to normal life, ”he said. “We have people with regular jobs who come to us and tell us that they hate their jobs, and they have that passion and they want to pursue that passion. These kinds of things mean the most to me – that way of life and that lifestyle of knowing your worth, loving and trusting yourself and not waiting for someone else to tell you that you are. are awesome, just go out there and make it happen. ”

But part of the charm of VanVleet is that its visionary side is always tempered by a sense of grounding. He made headlines as he headed to free agency when he spoke about his desire to “get paid” in free agency on JJ Reddick’s podcast. It looked bold and maybe a little grandiose if you didn’t know the person or the background. What was most often overlooked was a few breaths later, VanVleet was quick to point out that he wasn’t in control of the process and that wishing for something didn’t, and he would accept with whatever he ended up doing. get.

“I wasn’t a lottery pick, I wasn’t the guy people thought I was the player I am; I’m not a maximum guy without a quote, ”he says. “… [so] I don’t have a number in my head, like “I can’t take anything less than that”. No… I will take the best offer on the table.

After all, the most important part of “Bet on Yourself” might be the fine print following the catchy part.

“I will add that it is not always this story. It doesn’t always work, ”VanVleet said. “There have been a lot of downs throughout this trip in how I had to get to this point. But I got to this point. This is the important part. Once you break away from the social media world and have the happiest day in the world every day, you can deal with the ups and downs, just focus on the end goal, and understand that it’s a marathon.

Even in his prime, VanVleet lived it. For a while it looked like there might be a bidding war for his services as the best playmaker available who could have pushed his deal into ‘max’ or near max territory – something like that. ‘around $ 124 million over four years, maybe. But it didn’t work, and at the time, VanVleet’s only offer was from the team he wanted to stay with anyway.

There was no disappointment, only relief and appreciation.

“I think the most important thing for me is just to be able to relax and breathe out a bit for once,” he says. “I’ve been on this trip… since the moment I really started playing basketball. It’s a lot of angst and pent-up feelings to try to get to this moment. So being able to breathe out, just let go and feel good about how well we’ve done before we get ready for camp and get ready for next year.

But VanVleet is already looking to the future, envisioning bigger things. This is how it is wired. He’s not going to stop betting on himself now.

The most telling detail about his big contract wasn’t the number or the length, it was that it included a player option for the fourth season, allowing him to control his fate and proof that he believed that there were bigger things to come.

Could he imagine a day like today?

“I mean a much better day today, that’s what I had in mind, so I’ll leave you with that,” he said. “But this is just one more step in my journey. This is really just the start of the next chapter [or] at least by closing a chapter on what has happened so far. And now I feel like I’m on a level playing field and I made it, and I have both feet inside the door, and I’m in the room and now it’s time to really take off and take it to another level.

“So, I’m excited about what lies ahead for the future and that’s all I think about these days. Obviously when we made the deal, and we made it, it felt like I had time to celebrate, reflect and relax.

“But I’m already looking at the rest.”

Preparations have started.

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