CHARLOTTE — Cleveland Cavaliers forward Antawn Jamison was a wide-eyed rookie during the previous NBA lockout.
Now 35, he remains one of the few active players left who played during the shortened 50-game season in 1998-99.
Jamison didn't concern himself with thoughts of the current lockout last week. As the league's collective bargaining agreement was expiring in New York, the Charlotte native spoke to AAU basketball players in the Kennedy Charter School gym.
Jamison told the group of 11-year-olds about the importance of believing in one's dreams and working hard.
"There are going to be a lot of people who tell you that you're not going to be successful," the former Providence High and North Carolina star told them. "Don't listen to that."
Jamison asked who wanted to play in the NBA one day. Every player raised a hand.
"Ever since I was (your) age, I wanted to be a professional NBA player," he said. "You guys are 11 years old. Do you know how many 11-year-olds are trying to make it to the NBA?"
Jamison said he didn't know what he had gotten himself into when he decided to follow his dream of playing professionally. Believing there would be a season, he decided to forgo his senior year at North Carolina to declare for the 1998 draft.
He was chosen with the fourth pick by the Toronto Raptors and quickly was traded to Golden State for former college teammate Vince Carter. The lockout began six days later and lasted 204 days.
Jamison found himself without basketball for months. When the lockout ended, the season was chaotic, hurried and players were out of shape. The NBA had to squeeze its remaining schedule into three months.
"It was the worst ever," he said. "I wasn't mentally prepared for it. It was just one of those things that was a tough process to deal with, and it definitely affected me throughout that season."
Jamison said players are more prepared as a result of the last lockout. The union has been informing members of a possible work stoppage for four years, he said.
More importantly, Jamison said, the players are more unified today.
"It's totally different from what it was when I first got into the league," he said.
Jamison said a new collective bargaining agreement will either get done quickly or the whole season could be lost. The players are prepared to stand firm for an entire season if necessary, he said.
If the season is lost, Jamison plans to return for at least another season or two. The dream of winning an NBA title still motivates him, he said.
He said his best opportunity to win a title was two seasons ago with Cleveland and former teammate Lebron James. Last summer, James left for the Miami Heat and the Cavaliers struggled to a 19-63 record.
Still, Jamison isn't giving up on his dream.
"I had really only one opportunity ... throughout my career to put myself in a position to win, and that was when I got traded to Cleveland," he said. "I could see myself for a year or two chasing this."