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.
Finish this sentence: Growing up, the basketball court was my...
AB: Sanctuary. It was just a place I could go and forget about everything going on as a kid, forget about homework, school and friends. If you get in argument with your mom or your dad, sister, whoever, you could go there and forget about anything that was happening in your life, which it still does (make me forget about everything) actually.
To what lengths would you go for a chance to play basketball, even if it were just a shoot around?
AB: I got my dad to put lights up on my court. I had a little court in the backyard. It was really small, actually about the size of a key. I got my dad to put spotlights up so I could play once it got dark, and I actually put about a 10-foot high mesh for the ball when it went over the fence. I would play in the rain and whatever. I would pretty much play until the neighbors got angry with the ball bouncing.
Who was your basketball hero and why?
AB: My basketball hero is probably Drazen Petrovic. He is probably one of the greatest Europeans to play the game and just the way he played with passion and left it all out on the court, that was something I really liked. And he was really fun to watch.
What was your favorite basketball childhood memory?
AB: My favorite childhood memory is probably getting through a lot of adversity, getting cut from a team. When I was 15 I got cut from a representative team, which is similar to an AAU team here. Then the following year I actually got selected to represent the Australian junior team within a year. So that was probably my best memory. My parents hired me a personal trainer and I really put my head in and got to work. I worked out everyday. And that is basically what got me here.
Best piece of basketball advice you received was...
AB: Leave it on the floor. I think whatever happens on the floor should stay on the floor. If you are having problems on the floor you shouldn't bring it home and vice-versa.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to play in the NBA?
AB: It is all about hard work. I think there are a lot of people out there that think it is being tall or strong or quick or whatever. It doesn't really matter as a kid. I think if you are committed to getting to do what you want to do in life, you can do it. So, (my advice is) just hard work.
How old were you when you received your first basketball and what did it feel like to have your very own?
AB: I played a lot of ball sports when I was a kid. Probably I had a basketball when I was five or six. It was one of those little kid's balls. It was great to actually own your own basketball and then try and save up and get an expensive indoor one too, which would take you about a year.
When did you realize you had serious game?
AB: Things started to come together for me as a 17 year old. I got a scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport, which is kind of for select future athletes who could represent Australia in the future Olympics. They give you a free scholarship. That was kind of when it came together that all my hard work was paying off and I could really make something out of my life basketball-wise and live off basketball.
Did it ever strike you in the middle of a game in front of a packed house, "Man, I can't believe I'm here..."
AB: Definitely, it definitely does. It is something that you're thankful for everyday. You are playing basketball and you've got thousands of people coming to watch you every night and millions of people around the world watching you. And obviously you are getting paid great money to do something that you love, which is not an opportunity that a lot of people in the world get. So you have to be very thankful for it.
How proud is your family that you made it to the NBA?
AB: A little bit too proud I think. They are loving parents, so they definitely tell every man and his dog that I play in the NBA. They are very, very proud. They always mean well, so it is great. They are always trying to get me to bring home bobbleheads and jerseys and all that type of stuff to hand out to friends. I am the topic of conversation everyday.