Damion James was born in Hobbs, New Mexico but moved to Nacogdoches, Texas while he was in elementary school. It was then that the young James began watching the University of Texas basketball team.
James initially wanted to leave his home and join Kelvin Sampson at the University of Oklahoma. But with Sampson leaving for another school, James quickly switched to Texas.
The former Texas Gatorade Player of the Year was looking to be that hometown hero for his school.
Once he got to campus, James' impact was felt right away, from the moment he stepped on the court to his final minutes as a senior. His record at Texas consists of 103 wins and only 39 losses.
But it wasn’t always easy for James. His mother, Katrina Williams, had him at the young age of 16. And once James entered his high school years, she was put in jail for assault.
James grew up not knowing who his father was, but his dad came back into the picture while Williams was in jail.
Jerry Bell, the father who had been absent for most of James’ life, decided to take things slow, and acted as a male father figure role in the young man's life before breaking the news that he was the star player's father.
In an interview with Jason King of Yahoo, James explains how he found out.
"I didn’t know who my daddy was until I was 17,” James says. “One day [Jerry] was over in the projects playing ball, and my mom said, ‘You know who that is, right? That man right there…he’s your daddy.’ I was like, ‘For real? That’s crazy.’ ”
Rather than being upset with all the missed birthday parties and Christmas mornings, James was happy to have two supporting characters in his life, as the real trouble was always just blocks away.
James saw firsthand the drugs and violence his small city had to offer, and that wasn’t the path he was destined to head down. He knew his pro basketball dreams were in reach by his senior year, and nobody was going to stop him.
“The only person who deserves credit for where Damion is today is Damion himself. Coaches talk all the time to kids from rough backgrounds about what’s right and wrong, but Damion was different than most of those kids. Damion listened,” Robert Lucero, James’ high school assistant coach, told Yahoo.
Fast forward to today.
He might not have his mother's last name, or his father's, but Damion has made them both proud. Pushed into manhood before the time was right, James proved he could overcome the obstacles in his life, and see’s the NBA as just another four foot hurdle into the next chapter of his life.
While that chapter may not lead to a one hour ESPN special where James picks his next home, Nets fans hope for something more realistic, like a handful of rings, before the other James has one.