NBA Stars Sound Off: Betting on Themselves, Possible Rule Changes, More

NBA Stars Sound Off: Betting on Themselves, Possible Rule Changes, More article feature image
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Pictured: Jayson Tatum

Charlotte, NC — The league’s biggest, brightest and up-and-coming stars arrived at Bojangles’ Coliseum early Friday morning to kick off All-Star Weekend. During media availability, I took it upon myself to ask anyone who was willing to answer two questions:

  1. What was the time in your career you would say you bet on yourself?
  2. If there was an NBA rule you could change, edit or add — what would it be?

Here were the results…

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

1: “Coming out of high school, I wasn’t really highly-recruited. I had a lot of mid-major to low-major schools recruiting me, and then a lot of the bigger programs missed on the guys they wanted, so they tried to recruit me late.

The kid in me was like, man, if I go here, people are going to be like, ‘Dame is going to this school; Dame is going to that school.’ I then had to make that decision of [being OK with] listening to people asking ‘why is he going to Weber State?’

I had to make that decision myself, but that was me betting on myself — trusting that whatever I wanted to get done, I’d still be able to do it from Weber State.”


Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors

1: “Just being able to separate myself from my friends at times, going to the gym, reading an extra book, studying for a test or SATs … just listening to myself, getting away from my friends telling me ‘let’s go to this party.’ Just being able to say no and focus on who I wanted to become.”


LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs

1: “Yeah, a big moment. I bet on myself [by] going to college. I could’ve gone to the NBA out of high school, but I bet on myself I could be a higher pick. I got hurt in my first year, so that bet looked scary at first, but then I came back my second year and played well and I went No. 2. It was a big bet on myself because I could’ve been drafted early out of high school, but I said no and went to school.”


Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

1: “I’m not going to say I was ever an underdog. I was one of the top-two players coming out of high school, I was a top-three draft pick, so I just have to live up to a lot of expectations.”


Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

1: “When I declared for the draft. When I declared, a lot of people were surprised I did it. They didn’t really see me [as a top prospect] — the projections and everything, I wasn’t really high. But I knew how good I was and what I could do, so [I bet on myself] at that time. But I didn’t look at it as a bet because I knew I was better than people thought.”


De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings

1: “I wouldn’t say I ever bet on myself, but I probably bet somebody for money playing 1-on-1. I’m in the NBA now, so they can’t do anything about college.”

2: “Penalty box? That can stay in hockey. The assist one (getting an assist if someone makes two free throws) actually is [good]. A lot of people can create shots but say their teammates are getting fouled and just not making it and then going to the line and making two free throws. I think that should definitely count as an assist. You’ll see how guys are really creating shots because a lot of people base it off assists, but that’s not always the whole story.”


John Collins, Atlanta Hawks

1: “When I took that Division 1 offer to Wake Forest. Honestly, that was closer to the highest offer on my board. It’s always risky when you go to the best school that offers you because you never know if you’re going to play or not.

I end up falling into a nice situation there, going with Coach Manning, getting a chance and opportunity to play in the ACC, which propelled me to get to the NBA today. So that was the biggest moment in which I decided where I wanted to go to school, and I figured out I had a chance of going pro… and that changed everything a little bit for me.”

2: “Extra referee. One more. If we had an extra set of eyes out there, that would ease a lot of the tension.”


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Los Angeles Clippers

1: “I can’t think of one specific moment because there’s been moments like that throughout my whole life. When you have a difficult decision, it’s either the easy way or the hard way, and I guess I’ve picked the right way so far.”

2: “If someone gets fouled and they make both free throws, [the passer] should definitely get an assist.”


Cedi Osman, Cleveland Cavaliers

1: “When I moved to Turkey. All of my family moved to Turkey with me and my brother so we could play basketball professionally. It was a high risk because my parents left their jobs and after that they didn’t work. They were there for us.

That’s why [I knew] I had to work hard. I had to work every day so I could reach my goals, and this was my goal to be here in the NBA… to be an All-Star one day. It’s a huge honor. The most important thing is I made it, because my family was always beside me — this is for them.”


Hamidou Diallo, Oklahoma City Thunder

1: “I would say I bet on myself every day. I’m not supposed to be in the seat I’m in right now. I feel like every decision I’ve made was me betting on myself to be the greatest basketball player I can be.”


Josh Okogie, Minnesota Timberwolves

1: “My decision to come out of college and go into the NBA draft [when I did]. I wasn’t really talked about on the draft boards. I wasn’t on anyone’s radar. I bet on myself… if I could do this and God’s with me — nobody can stop me.”

2: “If you pass the ball to somebody, they get fouled and make two free throws, it should count as an assist.”


Rodions Kurucs, Brooklyn Nets

1: “Coming to the NBA. That was my risk because I didn’t know what would happen in the draft. After a season of not playing, [it was risky], [but I still] entered the draft.”

2: “Technical fouls. I got two of them just smacking the ball. One time it just slipped out of my hands and I got a technical foul. I’d love to see [what it takes to receive] technical fouls lower the severity.”