Dr. Mark: Tell us about your first year in the NBA.
Mr. Harris: It was tough. When you enter the NBA, and you have always been the best high school, college, and AAU player on a team, you expect to have similar results. For me, that was not the case. I was inactive for the first 7 games and had to sit on the bench in a suit. That was something I had never experienced in my basketball career. Then, when I finally did get the chance to play, it was not a lot of minutes. We had several veterans on the team who played my position, so my minutes were very small. Around the All Star break, some veteran players were traded, so I saw more minutes but not a dramatic increase. I finally did get a chance to start the last two games of the season, and I played well.
Dr. Mark: Can you tell us about the emotional side of your experience?
Mr. Harris: You go through many emotions. There was some uncertainty surrounding my game. Not from management or coaches, but personally. I knew I could play, and I put in the work and continued to put in the work. But when you’re worried or unsure if you’re going to play in a game, then worried about making a mistake or messing things up as well as trying to play perfect for the small amount of time you’re on the court, that brings up all types of personal questions.
But I believe in putting God and family first and then basketball. Also, people around me kept telling me to be patient and that I was a rookie, but I wanted to play because I knew I could play. I started to just focus on playing as hard and smart as I could, and that emotional uncertainty faded.
Dr. Mark: Complete this sentence: Parents and Athletes…
Mr. Harris: Have to put everything in perspective. They have to have that balance, and the earlier the better. For me, it was football. Early on I played basketball and football, and it wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I focused full-time on basketball. I knew basketball was the sport I wanted to excel in. I wanted to get better; plus, I had one of the best trainers in a guy named Christopher Thomas (CT) who really worked with me.
Dr. Mark: You worked with a basketball skills trainer. Do basketball players need a skills trainer?
Mr. Harris: I think so, because you have so much to learn about the game and what is needed to become a good player. Apart from basketball skills training, I enjoyed my relationship with CT. He pushed me to become better. If players are serious about improving, they have to be pushed to their limits and keep building. Having a trainer builds confidence, which is a huge part of becoming a good player. I understand everyone can’t have a CT as a trainer, but finding a really good trainer that actually knows what they are doing is really important.
Dr. Mark: My son, Nathan, is 15, plays HS and AAU basketball. What message can you give to him and his peers?
Mr. Harris: School, first and foremost—you have to get the grades if you want to have an opportunity to play college basketball. The short amount of time you are in high school should be enjoyable, and if you desire to move on to the next level, the foundation you set regarding academics will pay off in college. If you get recruited, take your time. Don’t take the first offer that comes your way unless that is an offer you really want. Selecting a college has to be the right fit for everyone. Finally, don’t grow up too fast. A lot of kids—especially athletes—want success now, and need to realize success takes hard work and patience. Above all else, have fun, and never take it for granted.
Dr. Mark: What is the Gary Harris Brand?
Mr. Harris: I am in the process of defining that now, and at the moment it is centered around God and family first, and then basketball. I have an AAU team that I am involved with. This gives me an opportunity to give something back to young athletes who are trying to go down the same road as I have. I want to share my experiences with them, so they can hopefully have the same or similar opportunities. In time, I plan to expand my brand to other specific areas, but for now, my focus is on assisting young athletes in their overall development and continuing to work hard toward establishing myself in the NBA.
This interview was made possible by Jay Keys