Jeremy Tyler likes to talk about dreams. But we can forgive the Golden State Warriors' second-year man for that. Remember, at only 21, Tyler's last three years have been such a surreal odyssey that he probably wakes up wondering whether the life he's living has any basis in reality at all.
Since just 2009, Tyler's basketball life has been a whirlwind. After a phenomenal high school junior year in San Diego, Tyler skipped his senior season—backing out of a commitment to Louisville—and hopped a plane to Israel. There, he was paid $140,000 to ride the bench for Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli Super League, playing just seven minutes per game.
In 2010, Tyler found himself with the Tokyo Apache in Japan. He played 33 games there, averaging 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds as a 19-year-old.
The Charlotte Bobcats drafted the 6'10", 260-pound man-child with the No. 39 pick in 2011, and promptly sold his rights to the Warriors. He played minimally for Golden State—his raw athleticism hindered by inexperience and a confrontational, prideful resistance to coaching.
Now, at just 21, Tyler's humbling journey has given him the life experience of a man twice his age.
In a recent interview with Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle, Tyler opened up, revealing his hard-won, thoughtful maturity. Said Tyler:
You know that perfect you, the one you see in your dreams? I realized I've never seen myself that way in reality. I came in believing that I was already all-everything. Now I know that there are a lot of guys who are better than me. Once you start respecting the skill in this league, you start getting a lot better.
Clearly, Tyler is saying the right things, as many NBA players learn to do upon entering the league. But coming from a young man who's struggled on three continents during a tumultuous—albeit brief—basketball career, Tyler's words mean more.
He's world-weary at a young age, a student of a crash course in self-imposed bad decisions. But the same youth that contributed to that series of rash choices also gives Tyler the resiliency to persevere. Tyler's words indicate that he's learned enough to do that.
He's recognized that a resistance to a coach's input has held him back. And he's listening now, for the first time:
It was a prideful element of my personality, but I'm trying to get past it. Everyone who is here was the man. We were all the scorer, the captain, the leader. In the NBA, if your team needs someone who can sprint back on defense faster than anyone, grab all of the rebounds and contest shots, then that's what you better do to the best of your ability.
Ability is not something Tyler's short on, either. He's got unlimited athletic potential. But as is the case for most players his age, the hard part is harnessing that potential and turning it into something that will help him contribute to an NBA team.
Humbled by his nightmarish journey, Jeremy Tyler still has big dreams. If he melds his new-found perspective with his undeniable talent, he's got a shot to make them a reality.