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...
DL: I guess my place to just have fun. That was the most important thing. My biggest advice when I speak at camps to kids is if you don't enjoy the game, you are not going to be willing to put in the hard work that you have to put in to get to where you need to be. So the biggest thing for me was enjoying myself playing ball.
To what lengths would you go for a chance to play basketball, even if it were to just to shoot around?
DL: I still love the game, so I would do just about anything, whether it is be outside in the bad weather. Now we have these nice gyms we get to play in, but definitely I would do just about anything to continue to play ball.
Who was your basketball hero and why?
DL: Michael Jordan, easy question. We use to drive from St. Louis about twice a year maybe, when I was younger, me and my father, and go watch Michael Jordan play. He is the best of all time.
What is your favorite childhood basketball memory?
DL: I would say just shooting hoops with my dad out in the back yard. That is kind of where I first started to play. Also in my basement, we had a smaller hoop then finally making it on a bigger hoop and then going on from there.
Best piece of basketball advice you received was...
DL: I would say just to give your best effort every time you step on the floor. I think that is something that is said a lot, but to actually go out and do it that is easier said than done. Every time you go out there and put your best effort in and your best foot forward, you are going to get a name for yourself for being a hard worker.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to play in the NBA?
DL: I would say find something that you are really good at, whether it be rebounding like me, that is what I try to pride myself on. Whether it be defense, whether it be shooting the ball, whatever it is find one thing that you are really good at because you can always help a team if you're really tremendous in one aspect of the game.
How old were you when you received your first basketball and what did it feel like to have your very own?
DL: I would say some of my earliest memories are shooting baskets with my dad and just dribbling the ball around. So I think as young as I was, I had to have been two years old when I remember dribbling a ball around. So it has been forever.
When did you realize you had serious game?
DL: I don't think that I have serious game now. I started to think that I had a chance to be an NBA player really by my senior year of high school when I got invited to the McDonalds All-American game and some of those things and saw that I was being recognized nationally.
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…"
DL: Man, I think the first time I ever stepped on the Garden floor I just looked around and said "Wow, this is Madison Square Garden." I believe I was guarding Dirk Nowitzki preseason against Dallas and I just couldn't believe I had finally come into the NBA and it was just a great feeling.
How proud is your family that you made it to the NBA?
DL: They are very proud. My grandparents, cousins, mom, dad, everybody gets really excited still. They try to catch every game. They get the NBA package on TV so they are excited and they are hoping for a lot more years.