3 surprising destinations for relaxation

January 16th  |  

I’ve had the privilege of visiting some amazing places. Vacations are an ideal time to get away from the day-to-day grind and recharge. And during some trips in particular, I’ve been truly blown away by the natural beauty, rich culture, wonderful people and really good food.

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If you’re looking for a vacation destination that will leave you in awe, check out one of these three spots:

–  Sri Lanka  –

This island sits south-east of India—it’s a beautiful country with nice people and great food. A bonus: it’s not too expensive either. A few of Sri Lanka’s beach towns are major tourist spots—great for surfers, windsurfers and other water sports lovers.

We stayed at a hotel called Heritance Kandalama—a very interesting and fun experience. It was pretty much in the middle of the jungle, so we got everything that comes with that environment. For instance, every morning when I woke up, there would be this monkey outside of the bathroom window looking at me. Every morning for four days, he was there. You know how they say “don’t feed the animals”? Well, there’s a reason for that.

My wife, Adrienne, started feeling sorry for the little guy and fed him some of the fruit we had in our room. After that, he got a little more aggressive, and the next thing we know, he rounded up his buddies so more monkeys showed up knocking on the glass as the days went by. Adrienne is an animal lover, so of course, she kept putting food out for them. Eventually, they started jumping from out of nowhere and almost got into our hotel room. That persuaded her to stop. So a little piece of advice for you animal lovers out there: When signs say, don’t feed the animals… don’t feed them!

A top highlight of our trip had to be climbing the historic site Lion Rock, this gigantic rock structure where, in ancient times, a king once built his palace. The views, the climb, the fresco paintings on the rock walls are all breathtaking. We could see Lion Rock from our hotel so we were excited the whole time leading up to the visit. And not only did we visit Lion Rock, but we climbed to the top to see the awesome view it had to offer.

Adrienne and I are pretty adventurous, so we decided to take it as a challenge. It’s around 1,200 steps to reach the top—which was especially tough because we only brought a couple of bottles of water with us and it was very hot. We ended up rationing the water as much as possible, but it was worth it. Once we got to the top, we just sat there and enjoyed the 360-degree view of the country side. 

–  Lake Como, Italy  –

Located about an hour and a half outside of Milan, this lake lies in the midst of spectacular mountains. It’s the perfect picturesque place for some rest and relaxation—and fun. I’d highly recommend spending plenty of time on the beaches and in the water, swimming and boating, and just taking in the views that surround you. The people and the towns at the edge of the lake were so serene and peaceful. I could sit outside all day and not move an inch. It felt like I was looking at a postcard every day.

We stayed at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo. One of my favorite things about the hotel was the sheets they used on the bed. They were the best sheets I’ve ever felt in my life. Imagine taking a cloud and mixing it with butter and cream, then adding some silk, and poof… you’ve got those sheets! I’m not gonna lie, the hotel was pretty expensive, but Lake Como is a beautiful and majestic place. Picture the ideal location to have a summer camp at the lake, a lake surrounded by mountains and forests. It was so plush and green—one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

–  Montenegro  –

This European country is across the Adriatic Sea from Italy, just west of Serbia and north of Albania. We flew into the Tivat Airport and spent time in the beach towns along the coastline. Montenegro’s amazing Mediterranean food and friendly people made it a really enjoyable spot to vacation.

I’ll never forget the boat we took to sail along the bay and down a very shallow river. We stopped at a wheat-mill-turned-restaurant where I had the best crepes of my life, topped with chocolate, hazelnuts and whipped cream. If you go, have some of those crepes for me. And if you’re into the club scene, Montenegro is home to some of the coolest clubs—huge, open-air ones—and hottest music festivals.

We ate almost every meal at our hotel, Aman Sveti Stefan. The food was amazing! We thought about trying other places to get a bite, but the hotel had three or four restaurants that are spectacular. They had a wide array of foods to choose from, but the Mediterranean cuisine was the best.

Sometimes it pays off to go somewhere new, somewhere you might not have heard too much about. The opportunity to explore another country and discover all it has to offer is truly life-changing. If you have the chance to visit one of these three spots, do it. You won’t regret it.

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Why I’m Learning to Play the Guitar

December 28th  |  

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Acoustic guitars are just really cool. They make great music—a sound that has the power to convey a lot more than the song itself. And it’s the kind of instrument you can take with you wherever you go, even play it by the fire pit with friends.

I’ve always wanted to play a musical instrument. I started learning the piano in Toronto but stopped playing out of frustration. Now that I’m home and have some time to learn something new, I had an opportunity to try it again—this time with a guitar. I recently bought a guitar from a guy who also gives lessons, so he has been teaching me the basics with a couple of lessons each week.

I figured if I kept working at it no matter how frustrated I get, I’d for sure be playing in six months. That’s the angle I take with learning anything new: Just be patient and don’t give up, and it’ll eventually happen.

I try to take the guitar with me, keep it close at hand so I can play whenever and wherever I have the chance. The ability to make a good time with family or friends by just reaching into the truck is awesome. Right now, I’m learning to play blues and old school rock and roll. It’s challenging, but when you get a chord change right, it’s such a great feeling to hear that beautiful sound. 

Playing the guitar has also turned out to be a family-friendly hobby. My kids love to hear me play. They want to make noise and try it out for themselves. And my wife can’t get enough. After all, she was raised on rock and roll, and we really connected through sharing music back in our dating days (and we still do).

After only a few lessons, I’m still working to perfect certain chords. I practice, make mistakes, try again. It’s a process that makes you appreciate the true talent out there. I’m looking forward to getting more comfortable with my guitar, learning more each week, trying out some of my favorite songs and sharing my love of music with family and friends.

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2015: my summer of concerts

December 16th  |  

This year, I’ve had a chance to really connect with music in a way I never have before.  From the very beginning of the summer to the end, I went to five or six music festivals. Having the opportunity to see bands and musicians on stage, to hear their music live, to be surrounded by other people who love music, to discover new artists in new places—it was something I won’t forget.

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For me, the highlights would have to include seeing Drake, The Weekend and AC/DC. They all had great shows. Beyond that, here’s a little recap of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen:

April: Coachella (Indio, CA)

This festival takes place during a time of year that I usually never have time off, so I took advantage of my downtime this year and checked it out. I felt like a kid again, taking in all the sights and sounds. Between the tried-and-true bands and the up-and-coming ones, I felt like I heard a wide range of music here.

June: Glastonbury (Pilton, Somerset, UK)

I’d heard a lot about Glastonbury but now I know what it means because I’ve actually been there. It’s so much more than music; honestly, it’s the most creative place I’ve ever seen. Being in England, I got to see what’s popular in another country and walk around with a little anonymity. Hundreds of thousands of people attended the festival, camping out for days, selling art and handmade stuff, discovering new music. Such a cool experience.

July: Tollwood Summer Festival (Munich, Germany)

We stumbled across this festival while in Munich. Just a few stages in size, it took place in a park that was created for the 1972 Summer Olympics—and hosted pretty much every type of music. Our impromptu discovery gave us a chance to hear some really good music in an incredible location. I mean, you’ve probably never heard of the bands who were performing, but the atmosphere was great—very family-oriented, a lot of people just hanging out—and they had amazing food and beer.

July: Reggae on the Mountain (Topanga, CA outside Los Angeles)

We went to this festival on a whim, just stopping by for about an hour or so. With two stages and a couple of food vendors, it’s not a huge festival, but its setting amid the mountains is spectacular. And with the smaller crowd, it has a more intimate feel than the other massive gatherings out there.

August: HARD Fest (Pomona, CA outside Los Angeles)

For a taste of alternative music and new talent, I joined all the young kids and die-hard fans at this very electronic-oriented festival. I like a little EDM (you know, electronic dance music), so it was cool to see the guys who are really killing it. It was also cool to see how creative the DJs get with the light and screen shows they have going during their time on stage. This festival exposed me to some different types of music and emerging artists in a live environment—a great way to discover new-to-me music.

If you’ve been to an awesome music festival, let me know about it. I’m always interested in new places, new music and new experiences.

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What I want to teach my kids about giving back

December 2nd  |  

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Given my career and lifestyle, I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world. And those experiences have given me a different perspective. I’ve been able to go beyond my own day-to-day world and see how others live. In places like South Africa, Ghana and India, I’ve seen spectacular sights—as well as poverty in its truest form. It’s one thing to know that something is going on, but when you are there and view it with your own eyes, it makes an impact. It changes your outlook.

We have clean running water, electricity, shelter and food. When I feel the urge to complain, the knowledge that other people go without these basic necessities makes me realize how blessed we are. I’m thankful and appreciative of the abundance in my life.

When I joined the NBA, I felt like I’d accomplished a very big dream of mine. And I wanted to use that for good. It isn’t about just putting my name on something or giving money. I strive to contribute my time, listen to other people, learn their stories and share inspirational words.

These experiences and this mindset are things I want to pass along to my kids. In the future, as they grow older and understand more, I want to expose them to other parts of the world—to take them to Africa and India to visit and volunteer. I hope these travels are just as life-changing as they were for me.

And a bit closer to home, my wife and I plan to get them involved in the local community—back-to-school benefits, holiday gift giving, all kinds of philanthropy. We’re especially passionate about helping kids. In my own childhood, I attended free basketball camps, and those opportunities paved the way for my future in more ways than one. I’d love to continue to give back with my kids by my side, showing them that being grateful, generous and openhearted is simply a way of life.

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My first and only experience playing football

November 3rd  |  

I played one season of football, back in eighth grade. I stuck with it for a single season, but after the very first practice, I knew it wasn’t the sport for me.

That first day on the practice field was hot. I greatly underestimated how hard it was to breathe hot air through a face mask. Those who’ve played football know what I mean.

My first time really getting hit, I went up against our best player in a tackling drill. As you could probably guess, he hit the crap out of me. I learned two things right off the bat: 1. It’s not cool to get hit like that, and 2. The ground hurts! I remember thinking: What have I gotten myself into? I wondered how much more painful it would be when I was facing an opponent from another school, rather than a teammate.

The coaches were tough, but it made me tougher. My dad came to most of our games. As a receiver on an all-run team, I never scored a touchdown—which sucks. But I worked hard and ended up enjoying my time on the field with friends and teammates. And when the end of the season arrived, I said goodbye to football without any regrets.

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The first 10 songs that play when I hit shuffle

October 15th  |  

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This experiment—seeing which 10 songs would come up first when I hit shuffle—shows off my taste in music. It’s a totally random mix, and that’s how I’d describe what I like to listen to.

“Venus vs. Mars”Jay Z

“It’s Always You”Frank Sinatra 

“Sidestep”Robin Thicke

“I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)”Jay Z

“Paradise”Big Sean

“Fine Again”Anthony Hamilton

“Hello”T.I. feat. CeeLo Green

“Cry Me a River”Michael Bublé

“Blood on the Leaves”Kanye West

“Soul Kitchen”The Doors

I listen to music all the time—in my car, sitting outside, relaxing at home, while I’m on the road. I don’t really have specific music or a particular playlist I listen to before games to get pumped up. I just like to hear good, familiar music so I can focus and zone out a bit.

I grew up on old soul music, Patti LaBelle, Luther Vandross and the like. My dad had a record collection and would often listen to jazz. Then I got into early rap, more hip hop and R&B.

My musical horizons really broadened when I met Adrienne. Music is an incredible way to get to know someone, their upbringing and what they like. We came from different backgrounds—she grew up in Indiana in the country, while I was from a more urban area in Dallas. When we were dating, we started to share music.

We both knew the hits, but we’d send each other songs and it turned me onto a huge world of new types of music. She exposed me to more rock and roll, ’90s soft rock, folk music and a lot of different female artists like Alanis Morissette, Jewel, Nelly Furtado and Ingrid Michaelson.

I wouldn’t have some of the songs I have except that Adrienne shared them with me. Like on my shuffle playlist above, I probably wouldn’t have Michael Bublé or The Doors. But Adrienne likes them. Her dad listened to ’60s and ’70s rock, bands like The Doors, when she was young.

Because of this experience, I’ve come to love sharing music with other people. You never know what you’ll like. There’s just so much out there. And because of my eclectic taste, I’m usually surprised by what comes up on shuffle—everything from hip hop from the ’90s and 2000s to Johnny Cash, from Coldplay to The Black Keys, all kinds of stuff.

I hope you’ll check out some of the songs from my random mix here. You never know, maybe you’ll find something new that you really enjoy. And if you have any cool songs you think I’d like, let me know and I’ll have to give them a listen.

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Why blogging is my next step

August 24th  |  

As athletes, people never really see us out of our uniforms. They just see us on the court, field or track, and at the time, we’re really focused and intense. That can lead to preconceived notions about who we are. People know me for what I do—for playing basketball. But a lot of people don’t have a chance to see the other sides of me.

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I was really surprised when I had some teammates say they didn’t know about my hobbies and interests. I guess I’m an introvert at heart. Once I have people around me, people I feel comfortable with, I open up and relax and I can be my awesome self. That realization inspired me to start sharing more.

I thought a blog would provide me a space to give fans, friends and everyone else a deeper look into my personal side. I want to use this as an opportunity to do something a little different and talk about what I enjoy doing, what’s meaningful to me, what I find interesting.

In the future, I plan to write about the things I care about: my family, cooking, music, travel, fashion, technology, among other topics. And in the process, I’ll try to create a clearer picture of my life, on and off the court.

For those of you who only know me in uniform and in the heat of competition, I hope you’ll come to know me a little better through these posts.  And I welcome your comments and thoughts too. I’ve learned a lot from the people around me. I’m really open to what’s to come and look forward to this new journey.

 

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What I’ve learned from my recent health ordeal

August 20th  |  

Being in the hospital was a true wake-up call. It’s crazy how these things happen, but being told I had blood clots in my lung, being confined to the hospital for over a week, not being able to do things on my own—it really changed my perspective.  Before, I understood to a degree what people in hospitals go through. But usually I’m the one going to the hospital to cheer people up and hopefully give them some words of encouragement. When the roles were reversed, I was able to experience things from the other side.

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During my stay, I wanted nothing more than to do all those little, everyday things, like go for a day without pain, take a shower, go to the restroom without having someone help me to the door. I wanted to move without help and pain and an IV and drainage machine, to have that autonomy.

I really looked forward to having visitors because they gave me some reminder of what I’d been doing before and what was going on outside the hospital walls. Those times when people came to visit were bright spots in my days.

My brother came down from Atlanta, arriving the day after I got the news. And he spent time with me every day I was in the hospital. The only thing we had to do was watch TV—“Family Guy,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “SportsCenter”—and talk. Having his company took my mind off of the reason I was there.

My trainer would stop by over lunchtime each day and we’d eat together. My best friend visited every night for a few hours. They really picked up my spirits with their daily presence. Sometimes, when I wasn’t feeling well, they’d just watch me sleep. Other times, I’d have to take some of my medication and when it kicked in, I’d feel woozy and tired. But they understood and still returned the next day.

Pat Riley came to see me one day and we just sat there and talked for a little while. He shared stories about basketball and other players who had been hurt during his career. He always has a good story to tell.

Spo—Erik Spoelstra—came by too and dropped off some self-motivation and business-related books for me to read since I had more free time on my hands. We both enjoy reading, so it was a really thoughtful gesture and helped me pass the time.

Dwayne Wade stopped by right after Spo and we spent some time together and talked about how quickly things changed. As a good friend and teammate, he understood how much of a bummer it is to not be able to play, and I knew my absence put some more pressure on him too.

It meant a lot that Pat, Spo and Dwayne all came to visit, especially because they came on game days after playing a game the night before. They had every reason to say they were tired and were just going to catch up on rest, but they came anyway to talk to me and check on me.

Seeing my children was pretty tough. I’m usually the invincible one that they can climb on and wrestle with, but I was in a bed and in pain. I didn’t want them to see me like that. Still, I tried my best to let them sit on my lap so I could talk to them and play as much as I could. My son was asking questions, wanting to see the doctor and looking at the numbers on all the machines. My daughter just wanted to play with me.

Throughout my time in the hospital, I urged my wife to go home to the kids because I didn’t want to be a burden, but Adrienne only left my side for a night or so. She was with me every step of the way, and I couldn’t have gone through this experience without her. Having a supportive partner by my side was invaluable. She was always there, making sure everything went well and that I had everything I needed. 

My family really reminded me what I was fighting for. They made me want to put on a brave face and show strength. I realized that things weren’t that bad because I still had my kids, my family.

Now, I’m on the mend, thanks to the skill of my doctors and the support of my family, friends, team and fans. I’m committed to visiting people in the hospital in the future because I know how much it meant to me. I’ve come through this experience with a new perspective and a deeper appreciation for the people in my life. It’s made me realize how lucky I am. And for that, I have to be thankful.

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How to serve up a great outdoor meal

August 19th  |  

Not too long ago, my wife, Adrienne, and I did a wine tasting with some folks from the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley areas. They were so passionate about food and wine pairings that it inspired me to host a dinner party and create my own menu, complete with wine and beer pairings. My menu, table setting, colors, all the details tied back to a Napa Valley theme.

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I had two main goals for this meal: to gather good friends around the table and to serve food and drinks that highlighted the season. And after going through the process, I came up with a few tips for planning a really great outdoor meal:

Plan ahead.

It’s a good idea to start making plans at least a couple of weeks before the party. Adrienne loves getting people together and throwing parties, so in talking with her, I’ve gained a lot of insight into how much impact the small details can have. If you’re into Pinterest, make a new board to gather all your inspiration—invitations, recipes, décor, the whole nine yards. Maybe you have a theme or a color scheme in mind. Or maybe you start out with a specific food or drink. Whatever your initial inspiration, build out your meal from there.

Do your research.

I really enjoy learning about beer and wine, so I did some research on seasonal varieties of beer and different wines pairings that would complement the food I planned to serve. Dive into what you’re interested in and do a little research to learn more, get inspired and find new ideas. And I’m not talking about boring research like you might have done in school—this is your chance to have fun with it!

Think seasonally.

When it comes to outdoor meals, the season is a big part of the experience. Keeping the spring season in mind, I knew I wanted to serve food that was at its peak during this time—vegetables, fruits, and an incredible main course of lamb shanks. Light, fresh foods and crisp wines would be a great way to celebrate the renewal of nature, the great outdoors and all that spring has to offer.

Try something new.

A special meal or party is the perfect time to think outside your usual rotation of foods. You can really make it memorable by preparing or presenting the food in a unique way or by serving a new type of dish or drink. I like to work with my chef to experiment, sample new dishes ahead of time and make any necessary adjustments. That way, I can feel confident that everything will turn out just right the day of the party.

Create an experience.

You know that experience you have when you eat at a restaurant with inventive chefs and knowledgeable sommeliers? I like to get ideas from places I’ve been—restaurants, different cities and countries—and bring that type of gourmet experience to my home. Consider some of your favorite or most memorable meals and use details from those times to inspire your own spread.

With all my plans set, the dinner party turned out even better than I envisioned. The Napa Valley theme ran through every aspect of the meal, and we could all enjoy the good weather, good food and good company. I hope these tips can help you create an outstanding outdoor meal of your own.

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Why family is the ultimate support system

August 19th  |  

Competing at a high level involves a lot of pressure. And when I’m out in public, my guard is often up. Those are just the realities of my job. But within the walls of my own home, I can feel fully comfortable.

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My kids don’t care who won last night’s game. They like basketball and want to see Dad happy, but when it comes down to it, they just want to play and have fun with me. I’m “Dad” to them, not a basketball star or an athlete. Even after a rough night, when I go home to my family, I know I have to leave basketball at the gym. I have to resist taking any frustration or disappointment with me. My kids encourage me to look on the bright side.

After the 2011 finals when we lost, I was devastated. But my daughter Trinity, who was about three years old at the time, told me, “Don’t be sad, Daddy.” And I realized at that moment, I can’t be mad or upset—it was time to hang out with my daughter, not dwell on the outcome of the game.

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Marriage, like basketball, is definitely a team effort. My wife, Adrienne, is a huge support for me. She attends every game, bringing friends along to cheer me on, even after a long day. Her presence motivates me. I remember our crucial win over the Spurs in Game 6 a couple years ago. Toward the end of the game, I’ll admit I was considering a loss. I had doubts about whether we could pull off a win.

But I looked over at Adrienne and she was standing up and clapping, not looking at me, just cheering for our team. There were people walking out, people who thought the game was pretty much over, but her positivity snapped me back into the game and I ended up making some big plays. I’m not sure that would have happened if I hadn’t witnessed her show of support.

From the perspective of an athlete, having a peaceful home and a supportive family makes a world of difference. My wife, kids and extended family are truly my biggest fans, my most enthusiastic cheerleaders, my most faithful supporters.

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