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...
JG: Way of relieving stress. You go through a lot of stress trying to get everything together. When the basketball season starts, that is when a lot of things can stress you out, whether it is class or not having time to do something. So I always feel like the basketball court is my way of relieving stress and having fun.
To what lengths would you go for a chance to play basketball, even if it were to just to shoot around?
JG: I would say just not skipping it, taking some hours off my sleep just to touch a ball. If I take a couple days off, I feel like a big complete mess. I feel like my body is all bad and tired. So I try my best to go to the gym wherever I am at and just touch a ball and run up and down the court a little bit.
Who was your basketball hero and why?
JG: I would say my Dad because he was a guy around his neighborhood who was one of the best players, but he didn't get the chance to go the lengths that I did, going to college and making it to the NBA. I would just say going to his neighborhood and hearing all the stories that he has had, and all the success that he has had growing up playing basketball and not being able to make it to a college because of the things that surrounded him. I feel the way he has pushed me to be the kind of player I am now, I owe a lot to my father.
What is your favorite childhood basketball memory?
JG: I don't reminisce on the childhood memories because they are the past. I know I worked hard. But I would say just being with my dad. I remember there was this one summer. He is from Norfolk, Virginia, the same area where Iverson is from. I moved down there one summer to live with him for a summer and every day we were on the basketball court. He would come home after work and we would just go straight to the basketball court around 3:00 to about 7:00 at night until the lights came on. I would say just being on the court with my Dad down in Newport News, Virginia, just working on my game when I was younger.
Best piece of basketball advice you received was...
JG: I got a ton of advice from the people that surrounded me when I was in college, John Thompson Sr. and JT III. They gave me a ton of advice. They just told me to keep working hard. Don't let nobody stop you from doing what you want to do and if you work hard, things will come. So I feel like just working hard and don't let nobody tell you what you can't do is probably the best advice I have been told.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to play in the NBA?
JG: My advice is totally different. I was a guy who started off not on the good side in school. In high school, I didn't play my freshman year because of grades. So I would tell them just to start off early, start when your young, having a good work habit in the classroom and on the basketball court if that is what you want to do. Just start off early, start off with a good work habit. And then the better your work habit is while you're younger, the more it will increase as you get older. So just continue to have a good work habit.
How old were you when you received your first basketball and what did it feel like to have your very own?
JG: I know I was real, real young, real small. Basketball wasn't always my first sport. I wanted to play football. I tried out, but it didn't work out for me. That's when I got my growth spurt. I liked baseball. I always wanted to play baseball, never tried it. But when I got my first basketball, not being able to play football or baseball, it was like my savior. Me being at my height, it was something that I could have success at and that was just a relief for me. And like I said earlier, it was my way of relieving stress.
When did you realize you had serious game?
JG: I would say probably after my junior year (high school). That is when I finally realized I could make something out of playing basketball. I started my sophomore year of high school. But after my junior year, going into my senior year we had a summer league. I made the All-Tournament team. I got the MVP. We won the whole summer league. I made the All-Star team and that is when I finally realized I can go into a college and try and be successful. And I feel like after my sophomore year in college, that is when I realized I could have the opportunity to play at the next level, which is the NBA. And now I am here.
Did it ever strike you in preseason, "Man, I can't believe I'm here..."
JG: I think it struck me in our first preseason game. I stepped on the court and Ron Artest was there, Mike Bibby. These are guys that I looked up to. Then the next game was LeBron James, a guy that I tried to pattern my game after just a little bit because of his size being 6'8, being able to handle the ball and doing other things. And just recently playing against Jermaine O'Neal, that's when everything kind of struck me that "Wow, I am now here in the NBA." Now I just have to make something out of it.
How proud is your family that you made it to the NBA?
JG: Oh very proud, very proud. They have always been behind me since I was in high school. Whatever I did, they've always had my back. So I know they are proud of me, doing what I do. But my Dad knows this is not the end. I made it to where I want to go and now I have to try and make a name for myself and try to be successful.