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Shabazz Napier Describes How He Got His Career Back On Track

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager

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In the latest episode of The Layup Line, Shabazz Napier discussed his career, and how he got it back on track. This transcription has been edited for clarity. You can listen to the full episode here, and you can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and Spotify.

Kyle Ratke: Shabazz, it feels like you’ve been around forever. Just looking at your Basketball-Reference page doing some research. You’re only 28! I think for fans, they think of your UCONN days. You talked (during the press conference) that you kind of felt out of place early in your career, but over the last two years you’ve averaged right around nine points per game, the two best seasons of your career. And then the two seasons before last year, you shot 37 percent from the 3-point line. For you, where are you at as far as confidence goes? 

Napier: I’m high on my game in confidence. Obviously coming from UCONN being a big staple at the collegiate level, everyone knew who I was, and I jumped to the NBA. And then going to Miami and not playing as well and having a rough start and then going to Orlando, it just set me back. I never put blame on anybody. I feel like I should have done more, I should have worked harder. There’s always these should of, could of, would of moments in life. I think being with Portland helped me a lot because obviously, I’m human. I lost confidence in who I was. I forgot that I’m a great player and obviously it took me a while but being amongst great teammates and great players and great coaches, I learned my ways again. I learned who I was. From that point on, I just wanted to get better. I just feel like going from my first year in Portland to being in Brooklyn to now being with the Minnesota Timberwolves, I feel like I’ve gotten better each year and I’m excited to see what I can do this year. To me, it’s all about my team winning. I think being able to be part of playoff teams and such when I first started in Portland, and then to Brooklyn, it gave me back my winning pedigree and who I was in college. I’m excited, man. I think this is a great group. 

Ratke: So, quick story and I promise you it goes somewhere. After college, I interned at USA Today in Washington DC and for sports journalism, that was a dream. I just assumed I would get a job anywhere I wanted to back home. The papers around here, I interviewed everywhere and before I knew it, I was back at my parents’ house doing laundry doing nothing for six months. I remember thinking I was told I was so talented for so long that eventually, not to say it got to my head, but I don’t know if I did things that I should have done to get where I wanted to be. For you, having so much success at UCONN, was there an adjustment going to the NBA where it was just different? 

Napier: Yeah, it was definitely an adjustment. Being able to be fortunate to win two national championships, obviously, you go into the NBA and they already know who you are as a person. Being able to go to college for four years, they knew who I was, and I took a step back my rookie year. It was one of the biggest regrets I have, and then I went to Orlando and barely got off the bench, which was tough for me because I always felt like I gave everything I had. I was competitive in practice and I feel like I worked for a spot and I didn’t get a spot. Being in front of millions and millions of people, it’s hard not to hear. That’s what made me lose my confidence, lose who I was. Being around my family and my friends, just continuing to have my passion for the game, I realized the only way to go was to keep going. My mom always used to tell me the easiest thing to do in life was quit. So that never came upon my mind. I’m going to prove what I can do, not to anybody, but to myself, because at that point, I had no confidence in who I was. If you had asked me three years ago if I had won a national championship, I would have never known I did because I was confused about who I was. But I think we all go through trials and tribulations no matter who you are, no matter how rich you are, no matter how poor you are. It teaches you how to be a better person and I think it taught me a lot and I’m glad to be where I’m at now.

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