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 reach the NBA?
Luol Deng: I think probably adapting to different cultures because my family moved a lot. Being in Egypt and adapting to that culture, English culture, coming to the U.S. It has always been adapting and getting used to the culture.
Finish this sentence: "Growing up, the basketball court was my..."
LD: Comfort zone. It was really where I felt most comfortable because of what was going on around me, plus certain times I didn't speak the language very well, so it just felt comfortable playing basketball. When we first moved to England, I didn't speak any English, so that would probably be the biggest thing.
To what lengths would you go for your chance to play basketball, even if it were just to shoot around?
LD: When we were in England, the court was about 45 minutes away, but we only used that court twice a week. The other courts we went to were sometimes two hours away. We got there by the buses and trains.
Who was your basketball hero and why?
LD: The biggest one that I tried to be like was Grant Hill. I had a friend who was a big basketball fan and he came home with a Grant Hill tape and we would just watch his highlights over and over again. It was just the way he played the game and the way he carried himself. That is why I always had an eye on Duke, because of that.
What is your favorite childhood basketball memory?
LD: I was really young at the time, but in Egypt there was this outdoor court that we always used to play in and it was a church. The last day before we left, we did this big, kind of like a ceremony, where we played basketball and everybody got to say goodbye to use for leaving and all that.
Best piece of basketball advice you received was...
LD: From my AAU coach who was just like, "Love the game. What would you do for something you love?"
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to play in the NBA?
LD: Don't cheat yourself. Just work hard and learn to love the game.
How old were you when you received your first basketball and what did it feel like to have your very own?
LD: I didn't have a basketball until we moved to England. I mean, it was mine, but it really wasn't because the coach gave it to me to work out with. My club coach gave it to me because he wanted me to work on my shooting. They would tell me to dribble it all the time. That was cool.
When did you realize you had serious game?
LD: When I came to high school in the U.S. because I didn't know how good I was compared to the players here. So when I was 14 I came over and I played and then everybody in the gym at the time was really amazed by how far ahead of my age I was. That is when I started to really realize that I had a chance. The goal was really to go to the best college.
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?"
LD: It happens before every game at the introductions. I can't believe I'm in there. I can't believe I'm starting in the NBA.
How proud is your family that you made it to the NBA?
LD: They are really proud. My family is really a basketball family. All my brothers played. I have sisters that played. My niece plays. I have cousins that play. So basketball is really big and everybody knows what is going on with the NBA everything. They're really proud but at the same time I'm happy that they're getting a chance not only to watch the NBA, but to watch it through me this close.