Chris Douglas-Roberts had a successful career at Memphis, going to a national championship game in 2008, and became a household name for college basketball fans. Drafted by the Nets that year, Douglas-Roberts played three seasons in the league for two teams and found himself in Italy during the NBA lockout. Without a contract, his journey back took him through training camp with the Los Angeles Lakers—where he learned he had Kobe Bryant in his corner—to being signed and released by the Dallas Mavericks, playing for the D-League’s Texas Legends, a summer league stint with the Lakers, a training camp with the New York Knicks, another stint with the Legends and, finally, a contract with the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) in December.
Through it all, he has remained open and encouraging to anyone who reaches out to him—athlete and non-athlete—in need of motivation. This past weekend, the NBA invited Douglas-Roberts to join NBA veteran Nazr Mohammed and NBA alum Keyon Dooling to Chicago to speak with NBA hopefuls at the NBA Draft combine. It was a proud moment for Douglas-Roberts and gave him a moment to reflect on his journey. We caught up with him via email to hear more about his story in his own words.
For someone reading this who might not be familiar with your story, how would you describe your journey from a kid dreaming about making the league to where you stand today?
Damn, this is a tough question because I feel I have so many important sub stories in my journey for the readers to fully understand. I definitely feel I have more of a unique story than a lot of my peers even though we may look like we’ve taken similar roads, from the outside looking in. To make it short and simple, I’d describe it as the rise, the fall, the fall, the fall, the rise again.
I’ve had big success in high school, college and pros and I’ve also had big falls, but my outlook and how I handled the adversity is what makes my story a little different. Sometimes I get offended by being compared to players because I feel I’ve gone through things they haven’t. Not discrediting any one, but you have to be a cold-blooded killer to have gone through what I have and come out with a smile and no scratches. Just new wavy hair.
How did it feel when you got the call that the league wanted you to share your story with their next generation?
I felt honored. I really did because I feel like I have a responsibility to the youngsters anyway. Especially these youngsters who are coming in our league. They didn’t want me to necessarily share my story, but they just wanted me to come in and talk about life in the NBA, women, preparation, transitioning from college to the NBA, etc. I just wanted to at least give them the opportunity to avoid the mistakes that I made when I was coming up. I gave them my all, too. I wore ripped jeans and Chuck Taylors with a button-up and a gold chain so they could look at me and see them. I’m not a 16-year vet like Nazr or a retired vet like Keyon Dooling wearing suits. I’m hip like them so I think it meant a little bit more to them. They received me well, too. I just basically gave them the game that I’ve learned from my journey up until that point in a real way…real delivery.
On the other hand, I felt accomplished because that’s something I envisioned myself doing. Speaking publicly, uplifting people to go pursue their dreams. Telling them that hard work does trump all if you don’t disrespect the process. That was actually a goal of mine. I’m just happy the NBA reached out to me, ya know? A Detroit kid with the crazy hair and tattoos. That gesture alone says they respect my mind and that’s always flattering. I felt like Kanye when he said “they got the dropout keeping kids in the schools,” when a local high school asked him to come speak to the students. It’s like it is a new wave of intellects. We can wear ripped jeans and gold chains and still be taken seriously.
What are some of the things you wish you knew when you came into the league and what is the best advice you’ve been given?
If I could do all this shit over the same exact way, I would. My journey has made me the person I am today and I’m happy with who I’ve become. Every obstacle, I’ve learned valuable life lessons that I incorporate in my life every day. Even in my darkest times there was a lesson. I’ve mastered my mind where I have no bad days. I don’t have negative thoughts. If there is a moment where things aren’t going as planned, I find the positive in there and focus on that. If things went more smooth for me, I probably wouldn’t have that mentality.
My journey has also given me the mentality that the weak must die. Its not fair, but that’s what it takes to be be successful in professional sports. This is a war. You have to strategize and conquer to reach your goals. The reason I’m back where I am is because I learned strategy and I learned the weak must die in this. All learned from my journey and mistakes. You have to always find a way. My strategy was to dominate D-League (kill the weaker competition) (no disrespect) and eliminate all the possible liabilities. The main one I wanted to eliminate was that I could only score when dominating the ball. So Raft (my trainer) and I set a goal. Which was to shoot 40% from three and be top-20 in the league in three-point shooting. And I did it! That’s just one of many. All strategy.
I’ve gotten so much advice in this journey. Two that stand out are from my homie [music producer] Chase N. Cashe and my other homie Bean [Kobe Bryant]. One night Chase and I were talking when I was with the Knicks. Things were looking shaky I could see what was coming and I just couldn’t figure out what to do to break through. I knew I had game and so much to offer, but I couldn’t get over this damn hump. So him and I are talking in Harlem and somewhere in the conversation he just told me “figure it out.” Nothing more, nothing less. Just “figure it out.” It seems like something simple but its life. You have to figure this shit out. Nobody cares about your problems. Figure it out or be another statistic or pity story. Well, thats how I took it. After that, I put it all on me. Fired the agent I had at the time and put my future in my hands. I said if I don’t make it it’s on me and nobody else. And I figured it out.
Bean basically told me something similar. He told me to go be special. He told me that the only person that is stopping me is me. He told me that I don’t give myself enough credit and once I do I’ll break through. Whoever you have to kill to get to where you’re going just kill them. It’s not personal. Bean respects my game so he really wants to see me do well. He’s a basketball fan before anything.
You often reach out to fans via your Instagram and Twitter accounts. How does it feel to know so many people around the world—athletes and non-athletes—take inspiration from your path and approach to things?
Like I said, I have responsibility. People may think this is a game because I wasn’t on TV this year or because I played for a small-market team or I don’t have a hundred thousand twitter followers, but I’m impacting people’s lives everyday. It’s kids sending me pictures with my hair style. People write me telling me how my I’m Not a Star series helps them get through their days. I get letters from all over the world. When I’m Not a Star drops it’s college kids connecting the laptop to their TVs to watch it on a big screen. For some, I’m Not a Star is an event. The people can relate to me. They feel me. My reach may not be nearly as long as LeBron’s or KD’s but its long enough for me right now. My influence and wave will continue to grow because I will continue to grow. I won’t let the people down. I know I mean a lot to some people and they don’t even know they mean just as me to me as I do to them.
You’ve often talked/tweeted about different books you’re reading. Which books have you taken the most from or would you recommend to someone in need of motivation?
The book I recommend for everybody to read is The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. Lawrence Frank suggested that book to me when I was a rookie. Never read it, the hell with that book Coach I’m trying to go to Miami and party. Hahahahah. Two years later I’m talking to Coach Frank via text when I was trying to find my way and he asked me if I ever read it and if not, now is the perfect time to start. I read it in like a week and I thanked him over and over again for the suggestion. It’s basically about fueling your life, work and team with positive energy. Great read. Changed my life.
How did it feel to end up in Charlotte this year and play alongside Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? He has spoken about your influence in his life since before he was drafted.
It was very unexpected. At the time of the call, Minnesota was where I thought I was going to end up and out of no where Charlotte called. I just went in there with a positive outlook knowing that my hard-work would pay off eventually. At the time Mike was hurt so just wanted to keep his spirits high. Like I always say Mike and don’t have a hoop related relationship. I know his Mother. I know his grand mother. I try to help him more so with real life situations. Basketball is second fiddle with us. I love the kid like a little brother. I think we helped each other a lot this year. Heres a kid who’s not even old enough to buy booze yet, still with the innocence of a 20 year old. I needed that because my journey made me more serious. I’m still not as charismatic as I use to be. The game just had that effect on me. Mike lightened me up a little bit and he didn’t even know it.
How would you sum up the CDR movement to someone who might not have encountered it yet?
Rockstar life, Holly. I was saying this when I didn’t have a clue what the hell my future held. You have to know you’re a Rockstar when only 8 people are coming to your shows and you’re dressing room is storage room where they keep the mop bucket. It’s all about how you carry yourself and your attitude during adversity. Like I said, I feel I have a responsibility. I represent the progress for a lot of people out here. A lot of high school kids in Charlotte call me Dad when they see me. But seriously, I’m like the underground artist with the cult following selling out shows in smaller venues. I’m independent right now, but I’m doing good enough where I’m not really trying to sign a deal with a major label. You feel what I’m saying? Like all of the fans I have are off the muscle. No fake fans. I didn’t have that big market co-sign like guys who’ve played for the Knicks, Lakers, Bulls. Once you play for one of those teams you gain a fan base immediately. Some guys have fans just because they played for those teams. That’s just how it is. Everything that I have I’ve earned and my fans live through me. I am them. They recognize me in their current lives. I live the rockstar way. Dress how you want, be original, live the life that you always dreamed of knowing it’ll only be done through hard-work. My movement consist of a bunch of original free spirited people working their asses off everyday to live the life they’ve always dreamt of…and even through the hardships they were fly as hell and positive…never hating…always happy for others success. That’s why I love Coach Cliff [Hornets coach Steve Clifford] so much. He let me be me. He knew I was going to give him 110% every day. He knew I was going to be in the gym early and leave late. He knew I was going to be a professional and be a great teammate. He knew I was never going to back down and he knew I was going to know his system because I studied it…So when I wear my bandanas on the plane he doesn’t trip on me. When I’m wearing my gold teeth its cool. I appreciate him for that.
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