My first All-Star Game
I remember sitting in the 200 section of the 2005 All-Star Game in Denver. Watching Dwayne and LeBron represent themselves on that court on one of the biggest nights in sports wasn’t easy to watch. I have to admit, I was jealous of my future teammates. I played in the rookie sophomore game for the second year in a row and it was a huge accomplishment, but I wanted more. I was so disappointed that I didn’t make the All-Star team.
I’m pretty sure they don’t know this, but LeBron and Dwayne have always been big motivators for me when we were coming up in the league. It drove me crazy seeing them have huge success in the prime-time games during the season when it counted. I wanted accomplishments and recognition and they were getting plenty of it because of their stellar play. I watched them compete—in that All-Star game and then in the playoffs—and it fueled me beyond belief.
I felt like my dreams were right in front of me but I couldn’t reach out and get them. I wanted to be mentioned with my peers. I wanted to be on the big stage playing while everyone was watching. That desire pushed me to get back to working out every year after the season was over. I would take about two or three weeks off and then be back at it. Working out in the Texas heat while I watched the playoffs was huge for me. By the time the finals were underway, I was playing pick-up basketball almost every day.
The next year, the All-Star game was in Houston, Texas, and because Texas is my home state, I wanted that to be my first time making the team. I worked so hard and believed so hard that I would make it. It’s all I thought about. Back then, media coverage in Toronto rarely passed south of the border and I wanted badly to change that.
I remember getting the news that I would be an All-Star. It was a cloudy, cold day in Toronto and my cousin was driving me to an event after practice. We were calling everyone we knew trying to figure out the process and get the inside scoop on who the coaches had picked. I wanted to find out before it hit the media but that was impossible. There was a lot of anxious waiting that seemed to go on forever. I was super nervous because our record as a team wasn’t that good and winning is always a top priority when it comes to this type of selection.
I didn’t want to sit in the stands and watch Dwayne and LeBron again. I wanted to be right there in the locker room, at the events and doing everything that the big dogs—the All-Stars—did during All-Star Weekend. I couldn’t see it going any other way. Our head of PR told me when it was official. I just remember being relieved and super excited to be participating. I’d earned a spot on the East Team, and it did so much for my confidence as a player and as a person. It showed me if you want something bad enough, you can achieve it. No one expected another All-Star coming out of Canada so soon, especially after Vince Carter got traded to New Jersey. No one told me I should give it a shot. I made the decision on my own after seeing my peers be successful and I’m glad I did.
Participating in the weekend as an actual All-Star felt surreal, like I was watching a movie. I was obsessed with the NBA as a child and I loved watching the dunk contest and the All-Star Game. Those dreams that I’d had were becoming real! One of my favorite parts was the All-Star gear: the sweats, T-shirts, hats, my custom shoes, anything you can wear. Wearing those clothes made me feel special—that and actually being in the locker room with my heroes, being there with Vince as an equal, with Shaq, Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace. As athletes, we rarely get to talk and hang out with other guys from different teams. It’s always super serious on the court in the NBA, especially competing against the great players. Seeing how funny those guys were was such a shock. And then putting on that jersey and playing in front of my friends and family was the cherry on top of the whole experience. Taking the photos, doing the media and wearing that star like a badge of honor was a total rush. After that, I became even more obsessed with ball. I wanted more! I thought to myself: If I can accomplish this, what else can I do?
It felt amazing to accomplish my goal of making the All-Star team. I had been playing against LeBron since I was 17 and Dwayne since I was 19 and I wanted to be on the same path they were on. I thrive off of competition and I’ve always been that way. I don’t think those guys know how much they drove me to work hard, to try to be great. It was a surreal experience playing for the Heat with them because they’re amazing players and amazing guys. You come into the league thinking about individual accomplishments and goals, so you never really think about who will be by your side on that journey. Watching my dreams unfold with guys I’ve known since we were teenagers made it incredible.