NBA player Jerome Williams on handling rejection
*This article was published February 2019
Retired NBA star Jerome Williams (a.k.a. “Junk Yard Dog” on the court) is full of charm, talent and wisdom. A former player for the Toronto Raptors (among other teams), Williams is known for his determination and kindness. But he didn’t always average 6.6 points per game. Find out how Williams overcame adversity, handled rejection and worked his way up from being picked last on the playground to making it big with the NBA.
Can you tell us about a time where you felt rejected?
“Well, there were multiple instances. It started off with just playing on the playground. You know, kids not being chosen — not being picked first or even picked last,” said Williams. “Then, instead of being picked in a lottery of the 1996 draft, I got chosen last in the first round.”
“If you’re not picked first, it’s a form of rejection. I took it in and told myself if I wanted to be picked, I’d have to improve,” Williams added. “That fueled my competitiveness to show those teams that ‘Hey, you missed a good pick!’”
How did you cope?
“I prayed about it — I would go to church and feel better, not only about myself, but about my situation. I reminded myself that this is only a short period in time, and ultimately, it will help me achieve my goal. Rejection helped to fuel a weakness that I had — one that I was able to turn into a strength. In turn, this helped me reach my ultimate goal of playing in the NBA.”
Who did you turn to for support?
“I had two strong, loving and disciplinary parents who made sure I always stayed on track and had the things I needed. They showed me the meaning of hard work — and teamwork — because both had multiple jobs throughout my whole life,” said Williams.
“If you don’t have the support you need, seek that support, whether it’s a parent, mentor, coach, teacher, administrator, neighbourhood/community member, pastor … anyone who has a positive word or encouragement to give you. In order to reach your goal, you’re going to have to be able to ask questions. They’ll be able to help you get the answers you need to follow through and do the best you can do.”
What does resilience mean to you?
“Resilience is being able to overcome. I think of my three ‘Ds:’ dedication, determination and discipline. Resilience involves all three. When the sun isn’t shining, and it’s raining and cold, when things aren’t going your way, you have to remain dedicated to your cause, determined to do what you set out to do and disciplined to make tough choices.”
What advice would you give to young people dealing with rejection?
“I encourage kids to ask questions. Don’t internalize. If you’re rejected, find a way to overcome it through hard work and persistence. And remember that the people who reject you may also have issues themselves, so it may not always be your fault. Everyone is overcoming something — sometimes, you can be the scapegoat.”
Taking rejection in stride (accepting the good with the bad) can help you overcome adversity, do your best and meet your goals. If you need support, you can always talk to a friend, relative or Kids Help Phone counsellor at 1-800-668-6868.
Kids Help Phone would like to thank Jerome Williams and NBA Canada for their participation in this story!
Get information about how your thoughts, feelings and behaviours are connected and what you can do to care for your well-being. Learning about mental health can help empower you with the language to communicate how you’re feeling.
Find resources by group
Practise with tools, tips and resources to help build your skills and improve your wellness in the way that feels best for you. Learn how to identify your strengths, communicate thoughts and feelings, overcome obstacles and connect with support.
Take a quiz
Find out how much you know about specific topics and get resources to learn more.
Play a game
Reduce stress and have fun at the same time.
Map out your support network
Identify who and where your community is to get help when you need it.
Share what’s on your mind
Try different tools to express how you’re feeling.
Make a safety plan
Access tools for safety planning and reporting.
Regain calm and relax with these activities.
Try a self-assessment
Identify how you’re feeling and find resources to support you right now.
Explore lived experiences from other young people across Canada. Learn from real-life youth stories, gain new ideas and ask questions to connect and inspire your own wellness journey.
If you need help right now, you can talk to a trained volunteer crisis responder about anything you're going through. No issue is too big or too small.
Connect with a professional counsellor to better understand what you're going through and help take a step in the direction you want to go.