Former LA Lakers player David Rivers knows a thing or two about playing the sport at its highest level. Having tasted success in America and Europe, coaching and mentoring were automatic choices for the man post-retirement. That journey has brought the NBA star to India.
His academy, Global Sports and Education along with Tony Parker Adequate Academy (TPAA) have come together in New Delhi as part of a scouting and training exercise. Sportstar caught up with the NBA star about his visit and the other things keeping him busy.
Life after retirement has been about coaching for you. Why India though? What made you choose to come here?
Giving back to the global international community, being out there with these kids, is all my life is about now. My 17 years of experience, playing professional and living internationally. It's all about sharing with these kids now. We have motivated people here, who are willing to work and devote their time to community and working with kids and they love basketball. We have the same values of global accreditation sports. These kids want information, they want guidance, so wherever I find those elements is a place for me to be.
Have you identified the areas the kids here need to improve in? What are they lacking, if anything?
At the end of the day, what is probably lacking is making sure that local coaches who are interacting with kids and parents every day know that their kids are in good hands when they are moved to the next step. It is not just about the grassroots. That's why with global accreditation, we are taking kids to US, Canada, Europe and South Africa. Kids need to know that we’re not just interested in them as youth talents but also as adults who would grow up and go to college. Our motive here has been to scout talents with the guarantee of giving them a job when they graduate. If you know any other organisation which lives up to that you got to tell me as we are the only one.
What do you make of the kids you have met so far?
We see physical ability and that’s great. These kids are motivated but they need guidance and discipline. There are some to whom I would say can immediately get on the list of some of the professional teams. That's important and that needs to be cultivated. Such kids can be role models for those younger than them and the program also requires them to come back to India and give back, keep it going.
What are the main areas you focus on when you coach these children?
Everything that we are teaching relates to real life. One in particular is the back door move. When you’re pursuing a dream, you can have the best plan but you will have to adjust and take another direction if the situation demands it. To go back door is no different from changing directions to receive that ball as that's what you want at that time.
Was NBA always the dream or did young David Rivers have a different plan?
My father bought me a basketball and I fell in love with it. It became my pet. I took great care of the pet. It's a relationship. It certainly is. There’s a story there. Julius Erving ( Dr. J) was my idol, he was my favourite player. At the age of 5 and 6, I watched him on TV. I then got drafted by Lakers and got a scholarship, played in the NBA and in Europe. I then moved to Florida, bought a house for my family and my neighbour next door turned out to be Dr. J.
Do you miss playing?
I probably quit two years too soon. My career lasted 17 years but I don't regret it because I won championships with every team I played for except the LA Clippers.
What’s harder? Being a coach or a player?
Coaching is challenging if you are not a good communicator. If you’re good in that area, you can go up close to a player who has made an error and scream at that the top of your voice, but they know you love and care about them and so the right message goes through.
The same applies to a player, because you’re dealing with so many personalities. I have to trace their traits, know where they look to catch the ball and where they don’t.
You also need to be a good listener to excel as either a coach or a player. No matter what the situation, stop and listen and give 2, 3 and 5 minutes of your time. All the great ones will do it.
A piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring basketball player?
These kids have to be focused and hungry. When it comes to competition you got to be hungry, you got to show your opponent that you want it more and you got to go out there and execute that out of two.
Rivers was in Delhi at the invitation of Sandeep Singh, who runs the Global Edification and Sports Foundation.
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