My Hoop Dream Became My Reality

The last time I was in a documentary it was 2006 and I was a senior at Marshall High School in Chicago. Arthur Agee, one of the stars of “Hoop Dreams,” asked if he could follow me around and film a sequel. Arthur played at Marshall. He’s from my neighborhood. I watched “Hoop Dreams” growing up. Yeah, I wanted to do it, to show people I could play in college, play at the highest level.

My whole senior year, a camera crew tailed me all around Chicago, everywhere I went. I felt like a movie star. To me, it was a highlight film, scoring 40, beating a--. When we made the state tournament, everybody in my area was telling me, “Last time we went down state were shooting ‘Hoop Dreams!’” With me, they were shooting ‘Hoop Reality.’ You can find it online. Arthur and I are on the cover.

“It was the summer of ‘08 and I had to make a choice: basketball or the streets. I needed money and I wasn’t going to take a 9 to 5. I chose the streets.”

I don’t think about the movie much anymore, but in August, I was flying from Chicago to L.A. for a Clippers season-ticket holder event. Fox Sports West had filmed a documentary about my journey, as part of their “Before the Bigs” series, and I watched the final draft on the plane. I watched it once. Then again. And again. And again. I was so emotional, I watched it four times. I felt like I was seeing the past 10 years of my life wrapped into 55 minutes. It was real. It was intense. It was my personal sequel.

When Arthur and his cameras left, I had just been suspended from Arkansas, and I was back home in Chicago. It was the summer of ‘08 and I had to make a choice: basketball or the streets. I needed money and I wasn’t going to take a 9 to 5. I chose the streets. It was normal for me.

So much happened that summer. My daughter was born. My cousin was killed in a shootout and died in my arms. I flipped my old white Magnum three times and climbed out the driver’s side window. I didn’t have a scratch. In the ambulance, the EMT said, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but you were supposed to die in that accident tonight.”

I was done with Arkansas, done with college basketball, but still working out. One day, at Hoops the Gym, I ran into Will Bynum. For guys like me, hood guys from Chicago, Will “The Thrill” Bynum was a mentor and an inspiration. He did what I wanted to do, what Derrick Rose wanted to do, going from the projects to the NBA. “Will,” I said, “I’m shooting it well, I’m putting up numbers, I’m destroying everybody. What else do I need to do?” I’ll never forget what Will said back to me. “Everybody in the NBA can score. If you want to get there, you’ve got to do it with defense.”

Behind the Scenes of Patrick Beverley “Before the Bigs” premiere.

It was time to choose basketball again. A month later, I was in the Ukraine, taking 20-hour train rides, using my oven to heat my apartment, and turning myself into a lockdown defender. I followed Will’s advice all the way to Miami.

“I was in the Ukraine, taking 20-hour train rides, using my oven to heat my apartment, and turning myself into a lockdown defender.”

I think about Miami a lot. I had it made. This was the first year of the Big Three and the 15-man roster was set. Dexter Pittman and I were the rookies. The only question was whether I’d be the second point guard or the third. I remember it so clearly. End of the preseason, LeBron is cooking in practice one day, and Coach Spo yells: “Somebody needs to step up and guard him!” Mike Miller walks out. “I got him, Coach.” LeBron makes a post move and Mike Miller breaks his thumb. I start thinking: “They’re not going to cut Mike Miller…They’re going to try to replace Mike Miller…And they’re going to want a shooter”. That was Jerry Stackhouse. I was the low man. If Mike Miller doesn’t get hurt, I’ve got two championships and probably three, because no offense to Jason Terry I’d have locked his a—up and we’d have beaten Dallas too.

If I’m being honest, though, I wasn’t mentally ready for all that. I needed the next two years overseas to polish my game. When I made it back to the NBA, with Houston, I was prepared.

Last season, I was excited to be in L.A., but I wasn’t right. I was hurt Opening Night against the Lakers. I was hurt when we played Toronto in Hawaii. I was still having the best year of my career, even though it only lasted 11 games. Sitting out after knee surgery, I didn’t go crazy, I just felt isolated. I spent a lot of time by myself, thinking about who I am, what I like. I realized how much I enjoy studying the game of basketball: how to run the point the right way, how to play-make, how to look at our team’s habits, other team’s habits. I read some books – “The Courage to be Disliked” is a good one – and watched “Game of Thrones.” But more than anything, I watched the NBA, thinking about what I would do in certain situations. I became a student of the game.

This might be the closest team I’ve ever been on. It’s full of workers and grinders, guys who have something to prove and are not backing down. I want to be the right kind of leader, not just the rah-rah type. I’ve done that. I need to lead this group by example. Like with Shai, I don’t need to tell him anything right now. There will be ups and downs, times I’ll have to let him know we need more from him, but at this point I just want him to have fun and keep everything fresh, like we all did when we were kids. He sees the way we practice, me and Avery. I give him a little bit out there. Giving everything, I might hurt myself. I used to do that. I wanted to be the biggest dog on the court. Now I try to save it for the game.

That’s part of growing up. I’m older now, more established. Every couple years, I still watch the movie I did with Arthur, to see my immature self. A lot has changed since then. My hoop dream became my reality.