He was drafted 11th overall by the Detroit Pistons in 1998, and went on to play 10 years in the NBA for Portland TrailBlazers, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets and New Orlean Hornets. Wells played a total of 591 NBA games (starting in 275), averaging 12.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg in 25.6 mpg.
On June 18, Wells visited SportOne Fieldhouse in Fort Wayne (Indiana), where he addressed a group of young children, hoping to inspire basketball dreams, local media reported.
“Sometimes they see somebody on TV, and it dehumanizes them. They think (the players are) super heroes, so I like to let them know that I’m from the same streets they’re from. They can make it through dedication and hard work on this court,” Wells said.
A successful career in basketball brought Wells many “basketball friends.” He tries to connect with all of them through area basketball camps and community centers to impact as many children as possible.
“In my era, we didn’t have camps like these, where there’s a really big gym, where we can really show these guys, individually, how to grow their skills and all that. Today in camps like these, the kids can learn to be the people they will be in life,” he said.
Wells said he teaches more than just basketball skills, he also teaches life skills.
“When you’re 16, you don’t really understand the importance of what you’re learning, what you’re going through. You understand when you’re done with it, and obviously that I’m done playing professionally, I’ve learned so much that I can tell these kids the real importance about basketball. Not everyone gets to be Larry Bird, you have to find your own joy, your own greatness,” he noted.
At the top of Wells’ list are his four sons ranging in age from 3 to 16 years old. His oldest son is a junior at Homestead High School, where he plays both baseball and basketball.
Because of the demanding schedule he carried while playing professional basketball, Wells was unable to watch his sons grow up.
“I missed so much,” he said. “So I try and make up for it by going to everything. Anything they do I’m there front row, just to make sure I can be a good dad.”
Though often separated from his family, Wells said NBA players have more free time than some people might think. As a matter of fact, his day-to-day life hasn’t changed all that much since he retired.
He still talks to the same friends, and carries a similar routine. Of course, there are no games, no flights, and maybe most noticeably, no big paychecks. Money management is an area that has been on Wells’ mind lately.
Since completing a degree in general studies last month, he realized an interest in number crunching. He’s been diving into textbooks like the 18-year-old Wells never did.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “It makes me want to go back and get my masters in finance or business. If I would have known this stuff at 18 or 19 years old, when I was supposed to, I could have saved so much money.”
“If someone once told me that my athleticism will not outlast my education, I probably would never believe that, but education is the most important thing, and we let these kids know it. The more knowledgeable you are in life, the more you can do anything,” Wells said.
His main drive for completing the degree is to pursue a coaching career. He isn’t decided on what level he wants to coach at right now, but knows he’d like to coach every level before he’s done.
For now, it’s about reaching out to connections and trying to find a coaching situation that works for him.
“I am thinking about becoming a coach, it seems like a natural progression. It’s not as easy to get into coaching as people think,” Wells said. “I can go volunteer for anybody, but finding a stable job is not really easy. I’m going to trust the process, and hope that things work out.”
Between his own children and a possible career in coaching, Wells isn’t getting away from basketball anytime soon.
“I’m going to be in the gym for the rest of my life,” he said. “I’ve got so much to tell these kids, I wish there was a guy who told me about everything I was about to see. That would’ve helped me during my journey.”
As for his NBA career, Wells is only thankful he ever got the chance to play there in the first place.
“It was a blessing to be in the NBA, 10 years went by so fast. I remember my first day there and my last day, and just want to let the kids know – take advantage of every single day, don’t take it for granted, because days can be gone very quickly. I never thought I’d be an NBA player when I was growing up, so I was just happy to be there. I wish I could’ve won a championship, but nonetheless,” Wells noted.
He also went on to add that San Antonio Spurs is a great example of what an NBA team should be like.
“Spurs is a great example of team basketball, this is what the kids should know, it’s not about individual talent. If you play together as a team, you can win team championships,” Wells said. “You’ve got to put your work in, if you want to get something out of it.”Follow @exnbadotcom
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