I REMEMBER MY very first draft exercise was in opposition to Joe Johnson and Rodney White. I would by no means heard of those guys. One went to Arkansas. One went to UNC Charlotte. Each of them have been actually, actually good.

I got here into the draft course of as a really uncooked athlete who had labored exhausting within the pre-draft months to work on my leap shot and spherical out my sport. So after I received to a exercise, and it was like, “All proper, we’re going to play 1-on-1,” not having completed a ton of that, it was eye-opening to see that there have been proficient guys throughout the nation that I hadn’t even heard of.

Because the draft course of went on and I am understanding for groups, my exercises progressively received higher. I used to be making an attempt to chase Jason Richardson or Shane Battier on the draft board — however none of them would work out in opposition to me.

My agent on the time, Todd Eley, informed me the league wasn’t inviting me to the Inexperienced Room for the draft. I used to be like, “I used to be simply on the All-Remaining 4 Group. I used to be a preseason All-American. I simply was within the Nationwide Championship Recreation, X, Y and Z … and you guys do not have me within the lottery? You guys do not have me in your Inexperienced Room?”

I ended up being the primary particular person drafted not within the Inexperienced Room — and there have been tons of men that have been nonetheless within the Inexperienced Room ready for his or her names to be referred to as. But it surely simply let me know that a number of this has to do with how individuals understand you.

Notion is actuality.

Richard Jefferson did not need to play for the Nets initially, however their commerce for Jason Kidd modified his tune. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE through Getty Photographs

AT FIRST, I did not need to play for the Nets.

I received the decision that I used to be drafted by Houston. And being the younger, assured child that I’m, I used to be like, “Yo, they have been one or two video games out of the playoffs, and it is Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley and me? We’re good.”

My highschool group was named the Rockets. They have been the Rockets. I used to be like, “That is meant to be. I am actually excited, That is superior. I am within the Western Convention.”

Then, 15 minutes later, they’re like, “Oh, hey, you are traded to New Jersey for Eddie Griffin.”

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I keep in mind speaking to Byron Scott, the Nets coach, and I used to be depressed instantly. I had no concept who was on New Jersey. I did not know something about them. I knew they have been mainly the Clippers of the Japanese Convention, besides L.A. a minimum of had “L.A.” on their jerseys. No less than you have been dwelling in L.A. I knew nothing about New Jersey. I used to be a West Coast child my entire life.

Scott might inform I wasn’t comfortable. And I did not have an excellent exercise for them as a result of I did not give a s— about them. He was like, “Hey, don’t fret. I really feel like we’ve got some issues that may make you content, and we’re actually wanting ahead to getting you out right here.”

Like a 12 months later, Byron was like, “Do you perceive how mad I used to be? F—ing, we simply drafted some child, and he sounds f—ing depressed, and I am making an attempt to f—ing make him comfortable.” Then clearly the Jason Kidd commerce occurred, and the remaining is form of historical past.

Eddie Griffin died some time again. He was solely 25. He had some demons he was operating from that haunted him. The sliding-glass doorways, it is a kind of issues the place a lot of your first few years dictates your career trajectory. They’re your childhood within the NBA: who you are round, what you do, the work ethic that you’ve, your taking part in time, your confidence. All of it just about kinds what you may be for the subsequent portion of your career.

Dunking on somebody was Richard Jefferson’s jam, however he did not flip down uncontested dunks once they introduced themselves. Corey Sipkin/NY Every day Information Archive through Getty Photographs

I WANT TO thank Tim Walsh, the athletic coach for the New Jersey Nets. At the moment you have got 19 completely different individuals as sports activities scientists, sleep scientists, therapeutic massage therapists and on and on. However again then, the pinnacle coach was all you had.

A man like that may speak to you while you wanted to be talked to. He would make it easier to while you wanted to be helped. He would test you while you wanted to be checked. He would just be sure you would do all of the issues to hold your physique proper.

The coach might actually steer a locker room. A participant may are available in and be having a foul day. Tim would decide up on that and move it alongside, like, “So-and-so’s having a troublesome day” or “So-and-so’s coping with some s—.”

Or one thing so simple as, “Coach is in a foul temper. I informed him that, like, solely two guys might follow, so he was pissed off.” Stuff like that.

As I moved on in my career, I wished to be that very same hub within the locker room. Whether or not it is serving to out a younger man or letting a veteran vent — even when he was flawed — to know to let him vent.

Or giving a teammate recommendation on an damage. Like, say a man did not need to get his ankles taped, and he was a second-round decide. I might be like, “Hey, you do not have a assured contract, do you?” He’d say, “No, however I simply hate getting my ankles taped.”

I might be direct: “Put one thing on your ankles as a result of when you sprain your ankle and you may’t carry out for these subsequent two weeks, they’ll waive you. They may waive you.”

These are issues that guys do not even take into consideration.

These have been the belongings you would see a coach like Tim do on this league. I stored that in thoughts when it was my flip to be a veteran presence. And after 17 years within the league, consider me, I used to be a veteran presence for lots longer than I used to be a younger pup.

The teachings Richard Jefferson realized from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich allowed him to be a contributor nicely into his 30s. D. Clarke Evans

THE BEST COACH I performed for was Gregg Popovich.

I simply want I might have given him a greater model of myself.

The San Antonio Spurs, like most organizations which have that a lot success, are to date forward. They have been light-years forward earlier than being “light-years forward” grew to become a factor.

Once I got here into the league in 2001, it was nonetheless about doing f—ing two-a-day practices for 4 days throughout coaching camp. So it wasn’t unusual to come into coaching camp 10-12 kilos heavy. You’ll lose that weight over a month of camp, and that is simply form of the way it was. You’ll play some preseason video games, you’ll begin consuming salads, and that was it. By opening evening you have been superb.

That is how I realized the NBA. Now after I was 21-22 years previous, it did not matter. I wasn’t going to achieve weight, and I might burn something off it doesn’t matter what I ate or how a lot I drank.

However come 28, I used to be nonetheless making an attempt to do that very same trick, and I confirmed up to a franchise the place all of their gamers have been prepared to go.

I nonetheless had that very same early 2000s, late ’90s mindset. That was my introduction. I struggled from the beginning. Have a look at different gamers. Whether or not it is LaMarcus Aldridge or Brent Barry, a number of guys have struggled in San Antonio who had success different locations.

“Pop did not care when you averaged 20 factors a sport. In case you went beneath a display that you just weren’t supposed to, he was calling a timeout, cussing you out and most likely sitting you down.”

Richard Jefferson on Gregg Popovich

Pop guidelines with an iron fist, as he ought to. There is a excessive degree of expectation. Your mind will get so mind-f—ed on the issues that they need you to focus on that you just virtually neglect to shoot.

It was an eye-opener. Earlier than that, even on good groups I performed for, it was like, “I am among the finest gamers. If I am going beneath a display after I’m not supposed to, you are not going to take me out as a result of I common 23 factors a sport.” Pop did not care when you averaged 20 factors a sport. In case you went beneath a display that you just weren’t supposed to, he was calling a timeout, cussing you out and most likely sitting you down.

So for me, at 28 or 29 years previous to have that sort of teaching for the primary time — my grandmother having simply handed away — I used to be somewhat shell-shocked. I simply didn’t play nicely in that scenario. However the one factor that I’ve realized is that if issues aren’t going your means and you act like an a–h—, it is solely going to compound it. If issues aren’t going your means and you act like knowledgeable, you have got a greater likelihood of getting by it. That is one thing that I’ve taken with me since being a Spur.

I believe a part of the rationale why I had success in my career after being there’s due to all I realized: how to hold my physique in form, how to be a Three-and-D participant versus needing the ball in my arms to be efficient. I realized how to observe a sport plan with out fail.

So after I was in Golden State and I wasn’t taking part in, or if I used to be some other place and injured, or on one other group when issues have been up and down, I had to remind myself that my scenario does not dictate my success. My angle does. I realized that in San Antonio.

I can by no means say sufficient good issues concerning the individuals and the group.

The 50/50 nature of the 2003 Finals between the Spurs and Nets was each irritating and a life lesson for Richard Jefferson. Noah Graham/NBAE through Getty Photographs

SPEAKING OF THE Spurs, the 2003 NBA Finals have been nearer than anybody realizes — quite a bit nearer.

Years later, I used to be sitting with Tim Duncan, and I admitted we had no likelihood in opposition to the Lakers in 2002. We have been all inexperienced. The Lakers have been a f—ing behemoth.

However that subsequent 12 months, that subsequent season, we have been assured, we have been primed. We won 10 straight video games going into the Finals. That is fairly exhausting. We would have made it look simple after we did it in Cleveland, however that is fairly exhausting.

Now that we have been on the identical group, I stated, “Tim, what’d you concentrate on the Finals we performed?” He was like, “I assumed it was 50-50.” It was the identical for us. I assumed we had an opportunity.

What made the distinction? What gave them the sting in beating us Four-2?

We did not lose as a result of Jason Kidd was s— or as a result of Tim Duncan was so extremely dominant. That wasn’t it.

The individuals who performed extraordinarily nicely for them have been Steve Kerr, Speedy Claxton, Malik Rose, these guys. The fellows 10 by 13 within the rotation — these random spots that shined of their roles.

Have a look at the Finals I performed in in opposition to Golden State. Have a look at Shaun Livingston or Andre Iguodala or Leandro Barbosa or any of the ninth-, 10th-, 11th-man rotation-type guys every other 12 months that assist win one sport, one half, one essential possession. They’re at all times an important.

Once I received to the NBA Finals once more in 2016, and I am the 10th-best participant on our group, I understood that my position was severe. My tasks have been actual. I knew I might have a severe affect as a result of I would seen it earlier than.

Have a look at a man like Dahntay Jones. He received his quantity referred to as in Recreation 6 of the 2016 Finals, and in four-and-a-half minutes, he earned his ring. Hadn’t been there all 12 months, joined the group on the final day of the common season and will get plugged in due to foul bother. We wanted to keep our lead and hold the momentum up. He scores 5 factors, will get Draymond Inexperienced to decide up a foul, and we hold rolling.

What if he could not try this? What if he got here in and coughed up two turnovers and missed two photographs, and it is a five-point swing again within the Warriors’ favor earlier than halftime? We could not have been mad at him had that occurred — he hadn’t performed all 12 months. However that did not occur. He was ready, and he carried out.

The 2003 Finals, we did not lose as a result of we weren’t nice. We misplaced as a result of we weren’t as full. It taught me how essential guys 10 by 13 change into in an NBA Finals.

So after I was the 10th-best man 13 years later, I used to be prepared.

Richard Jefferson admits that he was a nervous wreck throughout the 2016 NBA Finals. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE through Getty Photographs

HISTORY WILL REMEMBER me as a stable basketball participant who performed a very long time. I used to be by no means a terrific participant. At my greatest, I used to be an excellent participant.

For me, I wished to win.

That is what I loved. That was my favourite a part of the sport. That is a part of the rationale why that San Antonio factor form of f—ed with me as a result of that is all they have been about.

How would I’ve dealt with strolling away with out that championship with the Cavs? Going to the Olympics and not having that go the best way I wished … Dropping within the nationwide championship sport with Arizona … Dropping in two straight NBA Finals in my first two years within the league. All of these issues, man, to begin with, it is like, “Richard, are you aware how lucky you might be to get to these locations? Ninety-nine-point-nine % of individuals by no means get to expertise that. Like, they do not.”

So I have a look at it like, hey, if I might have left with out that chip, I nonetheless would have been joyful and comfortable for all of the stuff I skilled. However one thing inside me would have identified that I got here up brief. And for an individual that simply desires to win and prides himself on that, nicely, that may have sucked.

I keep in mind throughout the 2016 championship run, Channing Frye and these guys have been hanging out with Justin Timberlake in San Francisco earlier than Recreation 5. And I used to be an excessive amount of of a f—ing stress ball. I used to be holed up in my room. I used to be a wreck.

Bron noticed me on the airplane and was identical to, “Richard, I do know. Richard, I do know.” Bron seems over and simply sees me, a zombie staring off into area. You guys know me. I by no means shut up. On flights I am at all times both watching one thing, or I am speaking to someone, or I am cracking jokes or doing one thing.

All I might take into consideration was the way it took me 13 years to get again there to the Finals. I used to be on actually good groups in between, too. I imply, actually good groups.

However you go down Zero-2 …

And despite the fact that we won Recreation Three, the strain got here proper again on us tenfold after we misplaced Recreation Four. There was by no means any level the place you can exhale and say, “OK, all the pieces’s going to be all proper.” Or, “OK, we’re superb.” Nope. No. No, your complete time from blowout losses to a blowout win to f—ing blowing a sport, my degree of stress was monumental.

“There was no enjoyable being had by me. I child you not. There was nothing enjoyable about that NBA Finals. Even wanting again on it, I’ve, like, post-traumatic stress dysfunction.”

Richard Jefferson on the 2016 NBA Finals

I wasn’t sleeping. I used to be on f—ing autopilot mentally as a result of I simply wished it so unhealthy. I knew I did not have one other 13 years to do that. There was simply an excessive amount of stress. So, yeah, I could not f—ing go hang around with Justin Timberlake or hang around with anyone. That wasn’t the place my thoughts was. My thoughts was in a room, not watching movie, not scouting the Warriors’ bench, simply making an attempt to keep calm and get some sleep.

There was no enjoyable being had by me. I child you not. There was nothing enjoyable about that NBA Finals. Even wanting again on it, I’ve, like, post-traumatic stress dysfunction.

You possibly can win a battle and nonetheless by no means need to undergo that once more.

In life, in something, you may come out victorious and by no means, ever need to try this once more as a result of it was simply that worrying. And that is the best way it was. Not that I did not benefit from the aftermath and the method. However in that second, when you can perceive, that sequence in opposition to the Warriors for me was reliving the nationwide championship with Arizona. It was the 2004 Athens Olympics. It was the 2 failed NBA Finals in New Jersey. It was going to San Antonio and having 61 wins and shedding within the first spherical of the playoffs.

However after we won Recreation 7, all of that, not that it wiped away, however made it OK. It was like all the pieces that you just went by received you to this level, and it is OK.

Richard Jefferson’s dedication to his food regimen and health allowed him to throw down dunks even within the latter phases of his career. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE through Getty Photographs

DURING MY BASKETBALL career, I used to be an athlete. Clearly that is what I introduced to the desk. I used to be that prototypical small ahead: I might run, I might leap, I might defend, I might publish up, no matter.

However my favourite factor to do was to dunk on individuals.

Alonzo Mourning. Chris Bosh. Nenad Krstic. Shelden Williams. Kevin Willis. Mark Madsen. Jonas Valanciunas. I might search these out. Once I would see new huge males come into the league, my favourite factor was to attempt and get ’em. I might have an open Three, and I might decelerate my pump pretend to pull in a defender simply so I might go get that huge.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Edy Tavares. Klay Thompson. It was simply a lot enjoyable, and I used to be extraordinarily blessed to have such string of well being that it allowed me to do it in latter components in my career. Once I dunked on MKG, I simply put him in a physique bag, and I used to be 34 years previous.

To be in my mid-30s and nonetheless be dunking on individuals, that’s so uncommon. That is most likely what I’m proudest of in my sport. I attacked with form of a fearlessness after I was younger, not wanting to do something apart from leap and attempt and dunk on somebody. And even after I was previous, there was an opportunity somebody was going to get dunked on, even in my 17th season.

However after I return and watch a spotlight of mine, I do not return to watch the dunk. I search for all of the individuals’s reactions. I would like to see what their bench did. I would like to see what their coach did or what the followers did.

When your bench flinches or jumps or goes, “Oh, my God,” that is the fan in them. That is the basketball fan that simply has a intestine response. After which they collect themselves, like, “Oh, s—, I am the one taking part in basketball right here. I am unable to be a fan proper now.”

That is what makes me snigger as a result of that is uncooked emotion. That is actually uncooked emotion.

Richard Jefferson may not characterize his NBA career as “nice,” however he is devoted to being nice in sports activities media. Jason Miller/Getty Photographs

I’M READY FOR what’s subsequent. If I had to give myself a grade, when you have been to ask me: How a lot did you maximize your God-given expertise in basketball? I would most likely give myself a B-. I would be harsh.

My objective on this subsequent a part of my life in broadcast media is after I look again on what I did with this chapter, have the opportunity to give myself an A+ grade.

“Highway Trippin'” was a step in the best path. I stumbled onto one thing that resonated with individuals, but it surely got here from me simply wanting to get reps, me simply wanting to get higher.

Michael Strahan has confirmed himself to be the Michael Jordan of the media area. He has redefined success in that realm.

So for me, I am going to watch Strahan in all the pieces that he does. I simply respect him a lot. One other man is Jalen Rose. He has, like, 4 shows on ESPN.

Now that I have been watching Jalen and watching Strahan, I am calling video games. I am in studio. I am doing stuff for ESPN like Get Up, The Bounce and SportsCenter.

I would like to do each single factor I probably can and get as many reps as I probably can in order that when alternative comes calling, I’m locked in. I’m super-focused, and I am exhibiting all people how exhausting I am prepared to work.

You see me doing Get Up at 6 a.m.. That evening you flip on the Nets and see me calling the sport. Then, the subsequent morning, you see me doing Get Up once more. Then, that Saturday you flip on your favourite school group, and you see me calling the Pac-12. What does that say?

If I would like to get to their degree, I’ve to not solely study however I’ve to attempt and outwork them. I really like Michael Strahan, however why cannot I be higher than him? Like LeBron James, is that boastful to say that LeBron desires to be higher than Michael Jordan? No.

But it surely’s like, OK, if that is what you need, you understand how exhausting you have got to work. That is what I am simply making an attempt to do: Put myself in that area, and sometime earn that A+.

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