Most of us are not like Miami’s LeBron James. We don’t move in a straight line to the top of our profession. We aren’t chosen.
Most of us are more like Charlotte guard-forward Chris Douglas-Roberts. At least, we’d like to be.
Douglas-Roberts, who is from Detroit and played at Memphis, was selected 40th in the 2008 NBA draft by New Jersey.
Since 2008 he’s played for the Nets, the Milwaukee Bucks, Italy’s Virtus Bologna, the NBA’s Developmental League’s Texas Legends, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks, the Mavericks again and the Legends again.
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After injuries to small forwards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor, the Bobcats signed Douglas-Roberts on Dec. 11.
Through three quarters of Charlotte’s regular-season finale against Chicago, Douglas-Roberts had D-League numbers: two fouls, one steal, one turnover, no rebounds and no points.
In the fourth quarter, his teammates scored nine points. He scored 12. He blocked a shot and grabbed a rebound.
“Without him, we don’t win,” coach Steve Clifford says.
How does Douglas-Roberts, 27, go from rejection to the rotation?
“A lot of it just goes to the basic nature of who he is,” Clifford says after practice. “He’s highly competitive, he’s very bright and he’s tough. And he’s really seen it all, right? He’s hungry.
“And the other part about him, he puts the work in to prepare to play well. He’s always in here. Look, he’s being rewarded for all his hard work.”
Douglas-Roberts averages 6.9 points. Interesting statistic: In Charlotte’s last 25 games he’s scored in double figures 14 times. Charlotte’s record in those 14 games is 12-2.
Douglas-Roberts, who has many tattoos and interesting hair, says he always knew he’d get an opportunity to stick in the NBA.
“I never worried because I worked so hard,” Douglas-Roberts says softly. “When I was at home, when nobody was interviewing me, I was diligently working.”
He’s talking about Frisco, Texas, north of Dallas, where the Legends play.
“When I was out of the league I was lifting, running, riding a bike, shooting. I created my own ice bucket with a garbage can,” Douglas-Roberts says. “I felt when you’re in debt to the game, success is expected. Your time is going to come. And I always knew when it came I’d be ready.”
In Frisco, Douglas-Roberts would go to Lifetime Fitness, work out at midnight and try to parlay whatever his name was worth into gym access. Some nights he’d pretend the clock was ticking down, the game on the line.
“Four, three, two, one,” says Douglas-Roberts. “Every kid does it. It just so happens I hit a game-winner on the highest level.”
He hit the shot, in the lane and at the buzzer Monday, to beat Atlanta
Despite his background, he doesn’t play scared.
Because of his background, he doesn’t play scared.
“I never wanted to be a liability,” Douglas-Roberts says. “I never want a coach to look at me and say, ‘He can’t do this.’ So I want to shoot high percentage from 3s, high percentage from the field. I want to defend the best player. I just want to be somebody that has to be out there. If I’m not out there it’s because somebody is having a better night, not because of something I’m not doing.”
Briefly a Laker, he was matched against Kobe Bryant in his first practice. Defense led to contact, contact led to elbows and elbows, says Douglas-Roberts, almost led a fight. He knew if he fouled Kobe too hard his career in Los Angeles, and probably the NBA, was over.
“I don’t care,” he says. “I will not back down.”
What if, in the first game of the playoffs against Miami Sunday, he goes against LeBron?
“No, I can’t back down ever,” says Douglas-Roberts. “Because I enjoy this, man. I’m not one of those guys who is looking at it as, ‘I have to guard LeBron.’ Let’s bring it on. He’s obviously the best in the world. I have respect for him. But I want to see where I’m at. I want to compete.”
Some of us see ourselves in you.
“I feel like I represent progress for a lot of people because more people can relate to me than LeBron and Kobe and the super star guys,” says Douglas-Roberts. “Not that they didn’t earn it; they earned everything. But getting the job, losing the job, having to fight your way back up, remaining positive, going through hardships”
It’s real life.
“Real life stuff,” says Douglas-Roberts. “That’s another reason I go so hard. People come up to me in the street and say: ‘Your story is so inspiring.’ ”
You move them. When you hear that, do they move you?
“I cherish them, man,” says Douglas-Roberts. “I cherish them.”