For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a professional basketball player and until recently my entire life was built around my passion of basketball. More than stories of NBA perks, groupies, riches, fame and achieving dreams this is a series about Transformation and finding yourself through deeper things in life than surface extravagance. At the end of the day, I think we all struggle to find the things which make us happy and complete and many times the things we think that will make us happy do not until we open up to bigger experiences.
I am a better man today because of my mindfulness through my unique experiences. This past year in Denver was a dream come true. Not only was I surrounded by young talented players and coaches I also loved the people in the front office and I vibed very well with the city. As a matter of fact, the city of Denver oozes potential in so many ways that I’ve yet to see anywhere else. Yes, that includes Miami. This third year in the NBA was the best yet because the young jitters were gone and now people in the league had gotten a chance to see what I can do.
Before I had come to the Denver Nuggets I had played in 2014 for the Miami Heat and the Memphis Grizzlies. Previously, I’d just won a G League championship, MVP and finals MVP, while leading my teammates to a historic record-breaking season. I had no idea how spoiled I was from the NBA’s constant perks. Everyday was a mental challenge to maintain my professionalism, even though I couldn’t fathom that I’d been one foot out the league. It got to the point where I’d make it my goal to take all my anger out on every matchup opponent, especially the ones that were sent down from the NBA teams. But that’s a story for another day.
My point is in order to better my life off the court and manifest new blessings, I’d have to humble myself and simplify my goals. I’d have to accept that my game needed improvement and that I’m only a G League player (until proven otherwise), but I’m going to be the best one everytime I touch the floor. Who cares about the private flights, 24/7 customer service, or being famous, right? Limiting my pessimistic thoughts in the every moment gave me the opportunity to work on some things I hadn’t previously got the notion to do, such as, studying X’s and O’s, long range shooting skills, charisma in diverse crowds, and different perspectives of mental toughness. I chose to embrace the new. It wasn’t easy as I learned this later that year. It paid off. The following year I was back in the NBA. So back to my time in Denver..
Loving my team and appreciating the opportunity, my year in Denver gave me a huge morale boost to work even harder. I would watch film on defending and even learned in-person from great defenders like scout, Chuck Hayes. I strived to be the first in the gym and the last to leave it. I’ve always been motivated and hard-working but the fact that pinnacle had been reached made me more determined than ever. Never before had I been more confident in my abilities to rebound, score, defend and even expand to shooting 3’s. I’d worked my ass off to destroy any obstacle that could hold me back from my destiny.
This third year was going to be my year and it was as if things finally came together. From years of conditioning and training, my body moved like a well-oiled machine and my mind was strong and clear. I also began working on my spiritual strength too in order to become a trifecta of determination. Mentally and physically, I was ready and I knew this was a spot that I had earned. Every morning, I’d get up and try to read a few words of gospel, attend chapel before games sparking alliances with other players and attend yoga to relax my mind. Everything about me was going to be as strong as possible, in my plan.
“The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.” -Mark Caine
I had an amazing start to the season, while playing for the Nuggets, I got a standing ovation playing in the Fedex Forum against the Memphis Grizzlies and that meant the world to me, coming from my hometown and the team I used to play for. Not only was I happy with my pinnacle to this point, people recognized it too and that was an extremely proud moment for me. There is nothing like hard work paying off. This was it. This was my dream. But it was actually happening. The life I’d been chasing, dreaming and praying for was manifesting before my eyes.
Everybody was so supportive too. I got a lot of hometown love, from my visits to St. Jude to getting recognized in the nightclubs. Imagine if you were able to play professional basketball for the team you grew up admiring as a kid. I’d visit my family members from the hood in complete shock of how much they had my back. For instance, I’d visit my grandma and aunt telling them I felt as if I could’ve done a better job competing for playing time, but in their eyes “Coach is hating on my baby. You’re too good not to be playing. “So-and-so can’t coach,” they’d say. “Such-and-such can’t pass.” Family… Gotta love ‘em.
I stepped onto the court one night and it was any other game and I was ready to give it my all and give the team a boost. So on November 2nd, I checked into the game against the Golden State Warriors. In just six minutes of play, I finished the game with 2 points, 2 assists, and a few rebounds. An article had me listed as leading the league in PER for 2 consecutive years. I remember reading it and being amused because those stats were without the minute requirements. Those type of efficient numbers right there was what I was getting paid the millions to do. Finishing the game, I was happy with my performance…but something felt wrong. Little did I know this something would change my life forever.