In an article published today by the Players Tribune, the Miami Heat's Dion Waiters takes the reader on a journey through time that also is a journey through his personal mechanisms. He begins by telling a tale of how he first met Miami Heat President and NBA godfather Pat Riley in his office for the first time, and how that conversation went.
The title, "The NBA Is Lucky I'm Home Doing Damn Articles," leads one to believe that we're in store from some silliness. But upon further inspection, Waiters' first-person narrative is a heartfelt and sincere dive into who he is and why.
"I told Pat about some the shit I've seen, and some of the people I've lost. By the time I was 12 years old, both my mom and dad got shot." said Waiters.
In the past, the Miami Heat shooting guard has had his fair share of bad moments. He complained about not getting the ball when he and Kyrie Irving shared a backcourt in Cleveland, he still complained when pass-happy superstar LeBron James returned to the Cavaliers.
Though it looked good on paper in the preseason, he was still not happy with the touches he was getting when he arrived in Oklahoma City, averaging a career low in points, minutes and field goal attempts during the 2015-16 season.
Despite all of that, and the media admonishments that came with it, Waiters has never been a knucklehead off the court. But his family members and loved ones were not immune to the streets because of his on-court acumen.
Last year, his younger brother, 21-year-old Demetrius Pinckney, was killed last year in Philly in a night of violence that saw five other people lose their lives. As NBA fans, it's easy for us to get caught up in the 'good versus evil' troupe that gets perpetrated by the media. Certain individuals seem immune to criticism no matter what they do, while others like Waiters are sometimes castigated for showing passion, being carefree or aloof, and wanting be a part of a winning team.
For Waiters, basketball has been his saving grace. His Players Tribune piece helps me see what drives him and what makes him the way he is. Much respect for the honesty and candor. Now, when I hear a story about him being a malcontent or a ball hog, or as he puts it, his "irrational confidence", I must put it into perspective.
Basketball has been his saving angel. It's the only thing in his life that he can count on consistently, thus his passion for it appears to be boiling over at times. He's been misunderstood throughout his life, no doubt part of that was the result of him being a confident and bold young black male from South Philly.
Even I have been caught up in pointing the finger at times when he was in Cleveland and OKC. While with the Miami Heat, Waiters has been a model citizen and teammate, averaging 15.8 points per game with career highs in assists and rebounds.
Pain and adversity is what shapes us and Waiters has had plenty of pain. Writing is often used as a form of therapy as well. It helps us get those nasty, negative thoughts out into the air to be cured by rays of hope and joy.