My Amazing Journey -- Chauncey Billups

Getting to the NBA is not easy. Of the millions of kids playing basketball around the world today, only a very small percentage will make it to the Association. Along the way, there will be highs and lows, ups and downs.

As they prepare for the 2007-08 season, 30 current players reflect back on their journey to the NBA and some of the things they went through to fulfill their dream of playing basketball for a living.


What was the biggest obstacle you overcame to make the NBA?
Chauncey Billups:
Being from Denver, I think was one of my biggest obstacles. It's pretty much a football state. It's not out there for basketball. It's not like [a coach] can just call out and say here's a great player. So it was hard, I had to go to different camps and things. People would probably talk before I got there, they would be just like he's ok because he's not playing against anybody [competitive] every night. So I would have to constantly prove that, and I love the challenge, but every single stop I would have to constantly prove that I was for real.

Growing up, what would you have done to play basketball, even if it was just to shoot around?
CB:
I would have done anything. Of course, if I had chores or things to do around the house like cut grass, taking the trash out, all those kind of things... I would come home, cut the grass, take out the trash, clean my room, all in about 30 minutes, as fast as I could. I might not do a good job, but I would do it so fast so I could go to the rec center and play ball.

Did you have a basketball hero as a kid and why that person?
CB:
I liked Magic Johnson. He was my favorite player. I thought Jordan was the best, but Magic was my favorite player because I just felt like he was a winner. He did every single thing he could to win. He played multiple positions when he had to. He would score more on some nights when he had to. I just loved Magic, he was my favorite player most definitely.

What was your favorite childhood basketball memory?
CB:
I think it was the tournament that my team won in Grand Junction, Colorado back in the 6th grade. It was just a team from the inner city, all black team and we went to a tournament in Grand Junction that was pretty much all white. We went undefeated and won the tournament. It was great because out there, there wasn't a lot of people who wanted us to win. So we felt like we accomplished some thing that was great.

That must have been a great experience in itself to prove all of the naysayers wrong, right?
CB:
Ah yes it was. It really taught us about more then basketball in that tournament. And we fought through that man... Some inner city kids, some neighborhood kids not ever dealing with that before. Coached warned us how it was going to be but you can never know until you go through something like that. That was probably one of the most special moments in my childhood.

Finish this sentence... "Growing up the basketball court was my... "
CB:
Safe Haven. It got me away from all of the things in the neighborhood. When I was on the court, I was on the court man. I was just happy, I wasn't thinking about anything else that was going on in my life. That was my safe haven.

So it was like your own little zone I guess you could say?
CB:
Right.

Any one give you basketball advice that you thought was particularly compelling?
CB:
One of my coaches told me, "When you win something, everybody gets the credit, as opposed to trying to be the star of the team, trying to score all the points." He told me to play to win. He taught me that then and since, I've always played for the right reasons. I think that's one of the reasons why I love Magic so much.

What advice would give you someone who wants to play in the NBA?
CB:
It doesn't happen overnight. I think one thing that people don't understand is how hard you've got to work. It's repetition that you've got to put in. People just see you on TV, see you driving around in nice cars, see you doing this and that, kinda make it look easy. [They need to] see what you are putting into the gym, the countless hours. The constant pushing of your body. Trying to get ready, trying to get into shape. They don't understand that part of it. I think sometimes when they do understand that, you find out if you really love the game. That's something that you find out about yourself when you get a little more serious it.

When did you realize that you had serious game?
CB:
Probably around 9th or 10th grade is when I felt like I had a serious chance to do something really special. 7th and 8th grade, I really just played the game because my main goal was to get a scholarship to go to college. Like I said before, there weren't a lot of guys from my neighborhood who went to the NBA. My big thing was I just wanted to go to college. I knew if I got a scholarship, that I could go to college and if I didn't, my parents probably wouldn't be able to support me going to college financially. That was my big goal. 9th grade, I was a state player of the year at that age. So then and on, I felt like maybe I might be selling myself short if I just continue to think that way. Maybe I should think big. So I did that and I started thinking big and I was blessed man.

Did it ever strike in the middle of the game playing in a packed house that, "Man, I am actually here"?
CB:
My first game of my NBA career, I was in Boston. We played against [Michael] Jordan and the Bulls and that was when they were on their run. They had won like 5 championships up to that point. There was a time during that game where I was like really in awe. I forgot about what plays we were running. I was on the Free Throw line and Jordan was standing back across the court from me. I was just looking at the guy like "are you serious right now?" I'm really out here on the court playing with Jordan... and [Dennis] Rodman. You know what I mean, I was like "How did I do this?" It was unbelievable. That's the only time I've been in awe... but there have been a few where I try to take myself out of the situation, like "Damn, look what happened, look where I'm at." I respect the game and I don't take anything for granted.

During that game did you reach out to Jordan and say anything?
CB:
I didn't man, I just said "Hi" and met him but I didn't really reach out to him like that. I think I was a little too intimidated at that point. That year went on and we played them more times and I was able to talk to him and express that to him and he signed some shoes for me and my daughter, who was just born that year. It was great.

How old were you when you received your first basketball and what did it feel like to have your very own?
CB:
I think I started playing when I was 9 or 10. So I was probably 11. Man, it was like... I slept with that thing. I didn't want that thing leaving my sight. It was like a prized possession. I treated that thing like it was a gold medal or the NBA trophy or something.

Lastly, how proud is your family of that you made it to the NBA?
CB:
My family is so proud of me. Like I said, this is something I've been doing for over 20 years... when you're reach the top of the line at anything through hard work and dedication, it hasn't been easy for me so they know I haven't been given anything. I've worked for everything and they are extremely proud of that fact.

"Every single stop I would have to constantly prove that I was for real."
"Every single stop I would have to constantly prove that I was for real."