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...
DW: Growing up on the basketball court was my way away from my childhood. It was a place that really felt like home to me, my comfort zone. A place where Iíd go to blow steam off or to make a decisionÖanything like that.
To what lengths would you go for a chance to play basketball, even if it were to just shoot around?
DW: Aww man anything. Rain through the snow, I was there. If I wasnít supposed to be inside, like if my grandma told me to stay in, Iíd be like can I stay outside to at least play basketball. Iíd risk the chance of getting into trouble just to play the game so. The game was real important to me growing up.
Who was your basketball hero and why?
DW: Obviously Michael Jordan. I grew up in Chicago so I became a fan of the Bulls, a fan of Michael Jordan. He was the best player to me that Iíve ever seen. Also he was the kind of player that I could model my game after. I wasnít tall like some who were overly tall. I was kind of the size of a shooting guard so I modeled my game after him.
What is your favorite childhood basketball memory?
DW: As a child or watching the Bulls? Watching the Bulls, my favorite was watching them win a championship against the Lakers. When he[Jordan] finally beat Magic, finally got over the hump and he was starting to become not only a great player but a winner. That was when I first started to falling in love with the game of basketball.
Best piece basketball advice I received was...
DW: I think the main thing was to believe in my self, believe in my ability and my work ethic. [That] I can do it, if I continue to get better and strive to be the best that one day I can be. Donít give up. Once I heard that it kind of stuck with me.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to play in the NBA?
DW: On the same lines, really letting them know that your dream can come true but these steps and hurdles youíre going to have to jump over are not going to be easy. Youíre going to have to work extra hard, harder than anybody to get there. Itís not going to be easy but you can get there.
How old were you when you received your first basketball and what did it feel like to have your very own?
DW: I was about five years old and my daddy gave me the ball. I learned how to dribble and run around with the ball and get comfortable with it. I didnít like basketball at first. I wanted to play football and do other things but it became a love of mine because I had this ball with me everyday.
When did you realize you had serious game?
DW: You know I always had dreams of going into the NBA but probably not until College. Even in high school, I still had dreams but it was like ďyea you know, it might[happen].Ē Even though you still got to believe in yourself but college was when stuff starting becoming a reality. I played in my first year and I knew reality was about to set in soon so.
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..."
DW: Man so many times. You look around and you see 20,000 fans, whether they are screaming for you or screaming to make an issue, you just look around sometimes and say ĎIím blessed to be playing in the NBA. Iím blessed to playing at the highest level there is.Ē There is a feeling inside that you get, it makes everything that much better. Because you are doing something like that.
How proud is your family that you made it to the NBA?
DW: Very, very proud. Statistically, I wasnít projected to do it. So to do it, to overcome, to be able to do the things that Iíve done in the league so far in a short period of time, Iím very proud.