National Basketball Association (NBA) champion Brian Shaw is in India visiting three cities — Delhi, Jaipur and Mumbai from 23 - 28 February to promote the game through NBA’s premium events -- ACG NBA Jump National Finals in Noida, Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA City finals in Jaipur and NBA Jam powered by Jabong in Mumbai. He is in India to share personal drills and training techniques with participants of the national finals of ACG-NBA Jump, Indias first national basketball talent search program at Jaypee Greens. The national finals, from 22 - 25 February, marked the culmination of the five-month program that took place across six regions including Delhi, Ludhiana, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. Shaw was one of the best players of his time and won three consecutive NBA Championships from 2000-2002. Following his retirement as a player, Shaw joined the coaching staff of Lakers. He then joined the Indiana Pacers as an assistant coach in 2011 before being named head coach of the Denver Nuggets in 2013. Currently, he is a NBA TV analyst.
Excerpts from an email interaction with Shaw on life as a player and lessons from the game:
You have come to India to promote basketball, which is not a popular sport here.
It [the invitation] caught me by surprise. I have some friends in the States who are from Chennai. I called them up to ask what to expect and they said it was going to be different to what I was accustomed to. They said that I would enjoy my time here, and I have up to this point. This is a part of the world I have never been to and I was very excited about coming to India, embracing the culture and experiencing it. Basketball has been great for me, allowed me to make a living, provide for my family and enabled me to travel the world. I look forward to promoting the game in India through the NBA.
How tough is your job here?
Obviously Cricket is Number One here. Basketball is very new, but I think with some of the NBA programs such as ACG NBA Jump, Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA and NBA Jam in place, the sport is going to get the required exposure and open up opportunities for kids to learn a new game, fall in love with it and become popular after it is developed and cultivated. In the United States, if you introduced Cricket, it won’t be popular and we wouldn’t be good at it. However, with more exposure and development, the game grows along with the talent and opens up avenues. Given the vast population of India, there is a huge talent pool. It is like a seed; you have to plant it, nurture and water it and watch it grow; and that’s the process that is taking place with the NBA programs in India. The players in Delhi, for instance, were very passionate and played extremely hard. It was rewarding to watch them play and I was pleasantly surprised with their performance.
How did you develop an interest for basketball?
Basketball means everything to me. My father put up a hoop above our garage when I was five years old and that is when I started playing. Every day I would get home from school, go outside and shoot hoops and eventually I started watching professional basketball. I fell in love with the game at a very early age and I knew this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Basketball was my motivation for everything. If I didn’t do well in school, I wouldn’t be allowed to play basketball. It helped me put everything in perspective, do chores at home; otherwise I couldn’t play. The thought that something I love would be taken away from me was my motivation to balance my game and education. I was able to get a scholarship in college because of this great sport and I got the opportunity to play professionally. It gave me a chance to make a sustainable living. I was crowned the World Champion five times in the NBA and won one championship with the US men’s team. Later on, when I transitioned into a coach for basketball, it has allowed me to travel to different places and promote something that has been so close to me. Every facet in my life is connected to basketball in some way.
Who inspired you to the game?
It was my parents from the very beginning. My father was the one who introduced me to the game and my parents supported me throughout and attended all my games. They encouraged me to do the best I could. My father was an auto mechanic and he taught me the biggest life lesson -- Anything that is worth it comes only by working hard for it. My mother was the more educated one who pushed school work, art classes and encouraged me to take music lessons. She wanted to expose us children to something different every single time. Things like going to the operas and ballet recitals gave us the opportunity to identify what we enjoyed doing. Once we identified what we enjoyed and were good at, our parents encouraged us to take steps in that direction.
What were the sacrifices you had to make as a child for the game?
Where I lived, I had choices and some of the choices were to have fun/hangout/do something that may not be legal or simply bad things to do. I chose basketball and the sport chose me. Sacrifices were momentary. For example I could go practice or go out with my friends to the amusement park. I chose practice as I knew playing would help me in the long run.
What is your most memorable moment from your playing days?
There were so many memorable moments, but there are two in particular that I would like to share. First, when I was playing for the Orlando Magic and we beat the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. We were going to the NBA Championship to play the Houston Rockets whom we had beaten 12 times earlier. So we thought it was going to be an easy victory. However, they beat us every game and swept the series 4-0. That humbled us and taught us not to count our chickens before they hatched. That was my first time in the finals and we lost. We thought we could win the next year with the same team but then our team broke up and we never got back.
Five years later, I joined the LA Lakers and Shaquille O’ Neal who was on my team in Orlando was also on my team in L.A. We won our first championship in 2000 and the feeling that it gave us was priceless. You work so hard from the first day of training camp which starts in October to make it to the NBA championship in June. Everyone had just one goal, to win the finals. Like they say, you always remember your first time.
How has the transition been – from a player to a coach and TV analyst?
It was extremely tough. I played 14 years in the NBA and was only 37 years old when I retired in 2003. In my mind I was done. The body can only take so much - younger guys come in and take your place. When you have been doing something your entire life and you stop all of a sudden it’s almost depressing, your body starts asking you to get back on the court. Some retired players and older coaches advised me to bridge the gap from not playing anymore and transition into coaching thereby staying close to the game. Even though you are not playing, you are still playing and at the same time it is very different from playing -- there is a lot more to worry about.
What lessons have you learnt from playing a sport that was your career?
You have to have a lot of heart, passion and love for the game or anything you choose to do in your life. You have to be disciplined enough to devote necessary time and develop a work ethic to be able to perform at the highest level. It is essential to understand all the dynamics that go along with playing with a team and being a team player. You have to have the desire to compete and outperform the best. Sometimes you are going to fall and you might not measure up, which only means you have to pick yourself up and go on again. We all have shortfalls and have to do what it takes to overcome them. I am 60 pounds heavier from when I started playing basketball. I am not overweight, but I am more conscious of what I eat and how I work out. The discipline you learn from basketball is what you apply in the game of life too.