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...
ME: It was my ticket to get out of the neighborhood and get out of the situation I was in. And getting my family in a better situation, so we didn't have to struggle the way we did when I was growing up. Also, to help out the younger kids and the community so they can have a safe way to play basketball. So they won't have to do the things I did to play basketball to get where I am today.
To what lengths would you go for a chance to play basketball, even if it were just a shoot around?
ME: I had to go out in the front yard and make one. I put a milk carton on a light bulb and just played basketball like that or put a garbage pal on the other end and played like that.
Who was your basketball hero and why?
ME: It was my oldest brother. From the time I was growing up, he was playing basketball. He was doing the same thing I was doing when I was in high school. We went to the same high school. So I grew up watching him. He was my inspiration for picking the ball up and wanting to achieve. He also helped me in a different way, by choosing the right route instead going the wrong way and hanging with the wrong crowd. So he was the big lift for me playing basketball to get to where I wanted.
What is your favorite childhood basketball memory?
ME: When I broke the scoring record, I scored 72 points in a game high school.
Best piece of basketball advice you received was...
ME: Work hard, stay focused and strive for your goal.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to play in the NBA?
ME: If that is what you want to do, you have to go for it. You can not stop until you get there. That means when you set your mind to doing something, you have to work hard to get there, but when you get there, you have to work twice as hard to stay there.
How old were you when you received your first basketball and what did it feel like to have your very own?
ME: I never had my own basketball. We played with tin balls or we would find a kick ball to play with. I never had my own basketball.
When did you realize you had serious game?
ME: The night I got drafted. It was great what I did in high school, but it didn't matter until I got to where I wanted to be. That is in the NBA and that's when I knew coming out of high school and a team drafted me out of high school, that is when I knew I had game.
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..."
ME: It never strikes me in a game. Last year when I used to walk around the locker room or being around my teammates, I would look at the wall and it would strike me. I have grown up another year and I am over that. But that is the only time I had it.
How proud is your family that you made it to the NBA?
ME: They are very proud because of the tough situation I came from and what I chose to do. Meaning other people in my family said they were going to do this or that and never did it. I did and I succeeded. I got out of the situation I was in and put them in a better situation, so they are very proud of me.