Getting to the NBA is not easy. Of the millions of kids playing basketball around the world today, only a 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...
BB: Basketball was not my first love, baseball was. So I didn’t envision Bruce Bowen shooting a three, I envisioned Bruce Bowen making that diving play at the hole at short stop.
To what lengths would you go for a chance to play basketball, even if it were to just shoot around?
BB: The funny thing was guys played the sports that was going on at that particular moment, at least for me when I was coming up. In 5th grade, I was playing football, basketball, baseball, whatever season it was. So if it was basketball season, we were out there playing it.
Who was your basketball hero and why?
BB: I think everyone watched Dr. J growing up but I used to take special notice of Michael Cooper. The way that he wasn’t as big as everyone else but he competed at the highest level. For me to see him doing the things he did, I was inspired that me and my skinny frame could do something quite like him even though he goes up against big guys and things of that nature.
What is your favorite childhood basketball memory?
BB: Just watching Michael Jordan come on to the scene and do certain things with his athleticism that traditional players at that time weren’t accustomed to dealing with, [in terms of] defending. Watching him do [what he did] was probably the biggest inspiration.
Anyone give you basketball advice that you thought was particularly compelling?
BB: It was more so anything I did, it was giving a 110 percent in all that you do. You never know what may happen. I always played hard because I didn’t want anyone to ever label me as the guy that didn’t work hard.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to play in the NBA?
BB: Follow your heart. It’s different strokes for different folks. What worked for me, may not work for you. You have to find your own path when it comes to things of this nature.
How old were you when you received your first basketball and what did it feel like to have your own?
BB: I received my first basketball very early, probably around two but I guess I played around a lot with it. I was an athletic kid, I was always involved in sports. I would play all day and my friends did. We’d spend all day outside playing the game we enjoyed playing.
When did you realize you had serious game?
BB: Well I had a coach named Ed Gorjian that told me that ‘Son you might have a chance to make some money. It might be in the NBA or you might have an opportunity in Europe.’ That was huge for me because Coach Gorjian was at Vegas games and he knew talent.
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..."
BB: I think that took place during the mini-camps. The many mini-camps I went to [laughs]. When I first went to Miami, Coach [Pat] Riley showed me how physical it was. I was really just kind of wide eyed at the whole process. I was like, ‘Wow this is John Starks former coach! This is Patrick Ewing’s former coach, Magic Johnson’s former coach.
How proud is your family that you made it to the NBA?
BB: I think my family is extremely proud. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a solid circle around me. I’m blessed for that because they were there from the beginning.