Q+A: Bernard James
Mavs rookie talks about his transition from Air Force Staff Sergeant to the NBA.
by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista
These days, the words “sacrifice” and “battle” get thrown around to describe the modern athlete. For Sergeant Bernard James, they take on a whole new meaning.
SLAMonline caught up with James after he posted a double-double in Wednesday’s summer league game against the Hawks.
SLAM: A lot of guys who got drafted envisioned it since childhood and spent their whole lives dreaming about it. You didn’t, so what was it like hearing your name called on Draft night?
Bernard James: It was big, it was exciting of course. The USA chants were awesome. I’m a patriot, I served my country, I love everyone that’s serving the country now and that has served the country. Just to hear my name called and hear the entire crowd stand up and chant USA, it really touched my heart.
SLAM: Is it different for you, having so much life experience, and then being teammates with guys that are 18, 19 years old?
BJ: I mean, I’ve been dealing with it. I kind of dealt with that in the military my last couple of years. Just being a Staff Sergeant, I had 18-year-old kids that were coming in, that I was their supervisor. Then when I got to junior college, same thing, I had 18-year-old teammates. Florida State, same thing, so I’m used to it at this point. I’ve learned how to talk to people that age and their generation.
SLAM: A lot of people use the words “battle” and “sacrifice” to describe athletes. Do you not like hearing those words to describe basketball?
BJ: It definitely is a battle and it’s a sacrifice, it’s just a different kind of battle. This is a game. Out there in the military, it’s a life and death battle. You’re fighting for your country and everybody’s freedom here. I mean these guys [at Summer League], they’re fighting for them to be able to play this game. It’s still a battle in a sense, but it’s just a different kind of battle.
SLAM: How has your life changed since you got drafted?
BJ: I figured out how many people actually have my phone number [laughs]. It’s pretty much been the same, I keep a tight circle. I stay in touch with my family and my really close friends. It hasn’t changed too much other than I don’t have to go to school any more right now, so I can focus a lot more on basketball.
SLAM: What has it been like being welcomed by the Mavericks’ fan base?
BJ: It’s huge, the fans are awesome. I’m kind of a twitter junky, I’m always on twitter tweeting and they’re always congratulating me and everything and telling me how excited they are to have Jared [Cunningham], Jae [Crowder] and myself in Dallas and the other veterans that just got traded to the Mavericks. I love them and can’t wait to play our first home game.
SLAM: What is the most impactful life lesson you’ve learned or advice you’ve received?
BJ: Never give up on your dreams. Everybody told me for the last three years I was too old and I’d never get drafted. Half of them were saying that I’d never play in the NBA. But I just ignored it, I kept working hard, and here I am today.