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..."
MM: Sanctuary, because that was the only time I could just concentrate on myself and not my surroundings.
To what lengths would you go for a chance to play basketball, even if it were just a shoot around?
MM: I use to drive to different states just to get to play. Because where I am from, there wasn't too many guys still around to shoot ball. They were interested in their careers or a job or whatever once I got out of high school. I had to travel to different colleges to get a chance to play pick up games.
Who was your basketball hero and why?
MM: My basketball hero I can say was probably Keith Smart. He really took the time to know who I was instead of just assuming just because I had braids and I had tattoos, that I was a thug. He got to know my family and everybody. So outside of basketball, he really took the time to know me and my family and polish my skills for me.
What is your favorite childhood basketball memory?
MM: My favorite childhood basketball memory is beating the number one basketball team in the state at home and scoring 38 points.
Best piece of basketball advice you received was...
MM: To work hard, be the first one in the gym and the last one to leave.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to play in the NBA?
MM: Think about longevity. It is not about where you are now. It is about where you want to end up.
How old were you when you received your first basketball and what did it feel like to have your very own?
MM: The first time I received a basketball I was 13 and it felt kind of awkward, because at that time I was short and fat and I couldn't move around like I wanted to. It was just a little awkward until I got use to it. They wouldn't let me play when I was short and fat, so I worked hard at my game so they couldn't deny me.
When did you realize you had serious game?
MM: I didn't realize that until my sophomore year of college. Because my first year of college I didn't get to play that much. I was basically put back in the same situation I was in when I was a little kid. So I worked hard again and I got advice from Trev Alberts actually, who played football at the University of Nebraska. He brought me down to earth. He is telling me that I had four or five seniors this year and that I would be the man next year. So I worked hard that summer.
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"?
MM: Actually, no because it is still not reality to me, it is just basketball. Only thing that just struck me was the contract I just signed because I have been working so hard to get to that point and now my family is in a pretty good situation. But being on the court, I have always played for the crowd and played for my team. So, it really hasn't shocked me at any time.
How proud is your family that you made it to the NBA?
MM: They are super proud. They were proud just for me to make it to the minor leagues. From where I am from, that is doing a lot right there. So, they are ecstatic right now.