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...
PP: Growing up the basketball court was my peace of mind. When everything doesn't seem to be going your way, you got a lot of things on your mind, you can always go to the court. It was like a church for me, I get away and it's like my place of peace.
To what lengths would you go for a chance to play basketball, even if it were just a shoot around?
PP: Probably sneaking out of the house when I was on punishment
Who was your basketball hero and why?
PP: I am going to have to go with three players. I am kind of biased, growing up in Los Angeles and watching Magic Johnson. But my all-time three favorite players, and we had this discussion the other night, are Magic, Michael and Larry. Just watching those great teams from 80 to 95, from the Jordan era, the Bird era, and the Magic era, it's hard to put a disparity between the three. They are all great in their own right. Since I grew up three blocks from the forum, I have to say Magic Johnson.
What was your favorite basketball childhood memory?
PP: My freshman year on the JV team, I came into the game I wasn't a starter at the time and I played about five minutes and I hit the game winning shot. And I remember my teammates running on the court and jumping all over me and tackling me on the ground.
Best piece of basketball advice you received was...
PP: I would probably say from my brothers. I was disappointed from the 9th grade to 10th grade when I got cut from the varsity summer league. I wanted to transfer schools. I really gave up on the school because we had a really good team. And my brother said you just got to go back and make them a better team and you have to work on your game, and you have to work even harder. You can't run from competition, so you might as well just go back there and challenge yourself to be a better player and that is what I did. Ever since then, I have been challenged to do those types of things and it helped me develop a work ethic.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to play in the NBA?
PP: It is constant work. Don't take the easy way out. There are no shortcuts to this. You've got to take it step by step everyday. Even right now, I will be 30 years old in a week. I can't take any shortcuts. Each and everyday you have to put in the time. That is the only way you are going to get better.
How old were you when you received your first basketball and what did it feel like to have your very own?
PP: I don't even know how old I was when I got my first ball. I probably took one from the YMCA if they had some extra ones.
When did you realize you had serious game?
PP: My freshman year in college, I thought I had a good year. And after that I thought I was good enough to play in the pros.
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..."
PP: I do that still today. When I come to practice, this is a tremendous opportunity and people take it for granted. I have been playing ten years and I am thankful that everyday I get to come to practice and be around my teammates. I have seen players come and go playing two, three years and I am entering my tenth season. So this is great opportunity for me that I am still able to play and I can't take it for granted. So I am just thankful for this right now.
How proud is your family that you made it to the NBA?
PP: Probably as proud as can be, I am very fortunate and blessed. They pray for me all the time and they are thankful for me.