No two paths to NBA success look the same.
Tim Duncan used all four years of eligibility at Wake Forest en route to four championships, while Kobe Bryant won five titles without ever setting foot on a college campus.
Most kids pick up a basketball before they know what it is. Hakeem Olajuwon famously touched one for the first time at age 15.
Michael Jordan wore the same pair of college practice shorts under his uniform his entire career.
One point remains constant for those who are hoping to make waves in the Association: There’s always more to learn. Each of those four legends had guys to lean on for advice throughout their careers.
This can come from a number of sources. MJ had coach/wizard Phil Jackson. In college, Olajuwon apprenticed under Moses Malone, who was a center for the Houston Rockets at the time. Paul George created media frenzy this season by asking likely playoff opponent LeBron James to be his mentor. DeMar DeRozan, Lance Stephenson and Brandon Jennings are disciples of the P. Miller Ballers program. Yes, that’s Percy Miller aka Master P.
The locker room, though, is the most common place that players turn to for guidance. Only five guys can be on the court at a time, rotations tend to go anywhere from nine to 11 deep, and rosters max out at 13. And fans only see players a few times per week during games, when in reality teams are together all the time.
So guys have a lot of time to form relationships—often of the mentor-mentee variety that is crucial to young players’ development.
Let’s look at some of the veterans who selflessly take time to educate the next generation of ballers, especially since those young guns are often working toward taking their mentors' minutes and roster spots.