What a Blessing! Here I am on going into my 12th season as a professional basketball player. There has always been and will always be ups and downs, but the key to survival in this game is hard work and dedication.
Twelve years in the game. It is truly a blessing to be able to do what I love to do as my job. Growing up, I always had dreams of being a professional athlete and a businessman and now I am living out those dreams.
Being twelve years in is kind of a weird space, but weird in a great way. The same way I use to try to pick the brains of the veterans that I have been fortunate to play with, I find some of the younger guys coming to me for advice and help. Throughout my career I have had the honor to play along side and get to know some great athletes in career. I was honored to share a locker room with Lebron James, Shaq O’Neal, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and many other great athletes. Then of course I had my fellow Tar Heel vets to lean on and learn from, such, as Brendan Haywood, Antawn Jamison, and Shammond Williams, to name a few. All these guys that I named all had long and very prosperous professional careers and I wanted what they had and more. Besides picking up pointers from them on the court, I soaked up and paid close attention to what they did off the court as well. Being a professional athlete is more than just being able to play basketball. With the label of pro athlete comes a lot of responsibility because you are always living under a microscope, whether you like it or not. Someone is watching every move you make. That someone could be your child, a future employer for life after sports, a possible business partner, or just a child who admires you and wants to one day follow in your footsteps, so the image you have to uphold is very important.
Its funny when I play against or with younger guys and they say “I watched your team win the NCAA Championship when I was in high school, you guys were my favorites”, or “you were always one my favorite players growing up”. I always laugh and then put things into perspective. That perspective being that someone is watching me at all times, and that I am truly blessed to be in the position I am in.
Another thing that is humbling is that the newer generation of players, come to me for advice on how to survive in the cutthroat world of sports. One thing I always tell them is, YOU CAN NOT CHEAT THE GRIND! If anyone knows me personally they know my work ethic. When I’m in the Smith Center in the middle of the night with the music turned ridiculously loud getting up shots, I’m doing it for a reason. I’m doing it because I love my job, and most importantly I love the game. You can only get out of basketball what you put in. Don’t get me wrong there are times when my body is sore or I just rather chill, but at the end of the day my passion for the game pushes me to work harder and I have fun doing what I do.
As a kid I used to take my basketball with me everywhere I went, now a basketball takes my family and I all over the world. I can’t stress enough how much of a Blessing it is to be able to turn my passion into a paycheck, and help others is to me. Just know that I will never disrespect the game I love or the platform that God has blessed with me to be able reach others and help make a difference.
Till next time, good people… STRIVE TO EXCEL!