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..."
DF: It was my friend. I always found myself at a basketball court either with friends, or really, it was my friend if my friends had family obligations or other things that they were doing. It was that one thing that kept me from being bored or going out into the streets and getting into other things that I had no business being involved in. I always found the court or went to a gym. So it was my friend in that way. It was always there for me.
To what lengths would you go for a chance to play basketball, even if it were just a shoot around?
DF: My high school was about a mile from my house, and so there would be times that I would walk up there not knowing if the coach was there or not. And as a kid I was up there and the gym would be closed and I would be in tears, because I couldn't go in the gym. So I would walk back home then I would wait, then walk back up there and see if he was there. If he wasn't there I would be upset again and I'd walk back home. I would just walk back and forth up there and dribbled my basketball up and down the street until he came in there and I was able to get in.
Who was your basketball hero and why?
DF: Magic, even though obviously there is no comparison (laughs) in terms of size or anything like that. He was always my favorite player that I loved to emulate when I was at home. My dad was a big Lakers fan. So I just followed in his footsteps and followed Magic and the Lakers. I loved the way his personality was and the way he played the game was just infectious among his teammates. It seemed like he really just loved to play basketball and he always just made everybody else better.
What is your favorite childhood basketball memory?
DF: The first time I dunked a basketball. It wasn't until my senior year that I even started trying to dunk. I was in the gym by myself one day and I started with volleyball and I kept trying and dunking and dunking. Once I got the volleyball in I stepped up to a basketball and I kept going from there.
Best piece of basketball advice you received was...
DF: The most consistent thing was really to just go out there and play hard and give it your best effort every time you step out there on the floor. I think that has been the single piece of advice that has stuck with me and really helped me throughout my career. I think that is the best thing you can do as a member of a team.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to play in the NBA?
DF: I would say not to grow up too fast (laughs). Really try and learn the game at the respective level you are at. If you are in the fourth and fifth grade, you don't necessarily have to try and be those guys on TV. You can emulate them and want to be like them but I would say learning the fundamentals of the game will carry you further than anything else.
How old were you when you received your first basketball and what did it feel like to have your very own?
DF: My first basketball, I had a Dr. J nerf hoop set when I was like two or three years old. I remember seeing pictures of myself at like two and three years old playing on a Dr. J hoop set, and it was amazing to see how early just the love for the game and the desire to want to play was in me.
When did you realize you had serious game?
DF: Probably the summer before my junior year in college, that is when I realized I could play beyond college. I got a chance to go down to Houston, Texas one summer and play against some guys that were in the NBA at the time and some guys that were playing in some other professional leagues, and I held my own pretty good. I think leaving out of that situation left me in a place where I felt like if I continue to work hard, I could maybe play with them one day.
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..."
DF: I don't know if it ever has during a game. I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. During the game, I think I am so wrapped up in the moment. I am not thinking much about other things. But I know for a fact that I felt the joy and the pleasure of being able to play this game at several different instances out on the court.
How proud is your family that you made it to the NBA?
DF: I am sure they are proud of me. I think I am more proud of them to be honest, for nurturing and supporting me in ways that allowed me to take this step. I would like to think that they are proud of me and that is fine but I am proud of them. They did all the work.