24/7-365. Basketball Lives Here.

Ball Aint Life


By, Cornell Thomas


I have never been a fan of basketball t-shirts. Like the one with the picture of the school bus and the genius phrase “Taking you to school” on it. Not only did I think those type of shirts were kind of cheesy I also thought they were way to fictional to wear outside of my house. If a guy I was playing against said one of those catchy trash talking lines to me while we were playing that means I’m obviously not playing in the right place to improve my game.

Nowadays the hit phrase is “Ball Is Life” which in my opinion is another fictional phrase. Unfortunately it’s not just on T-shirts anymore, but on shorts, socks, headbands, and even used as a hashtag all over social media. You might be asking what’s wrong with someone wearing a shirt that essentially says they live, breathe, and sleep basketball? My response to that would be, because they’re lying.

The first time I picked up a basketball I was in the summer of my sophomore year in high school. I was at my grandmother’s house in Virginia and happened to stumble upon some old newspapers that had my older cousin Carlos plastered all over them. He was a three sport standout but I was fixated on his basketball articles. I read the articles the whole week I was there over and over again trying to figure out how a teenager could get into a newspaper that many times. At that point in my life I only played baseball in sixth grade and freshman football in high school. After reading Carlos’s newspapers clippings I decided that basketball was going to actually be my life, there was only one problem, I was horrible at it.

I was at the end of a six inch growth spurt that summer which took me from five foot six to six foot one in a matter of months. I had the coordination of a baby deer and absolutely no idea how to play the game. When I got back to New Jersey I would walk to the nearest court (that was 2 miles away) and throw this round object called a basketball at the orange cylinder praying for the ball to go in. I would do this for about five hours or so then walk back home. One day a guy named Ray came out of nowhere and showed me how to shoot a layup. He was my first mentor and although I only saw him about ten more times in my whole basketball career he ignited the flame inside of me to improve every day.

My junior year I got cut from varsity but made jv. I had no idea that juniors usually play varsity I was just happy to get a jersey. I sat jv as a junior and sat varsity my next year as a senior. My family didn’t have the money to send me to college so I had to take a year off to work. This whole time my work ethic and passion for the game never wavered. Both my junior and senior year I waved to the limos going to the prom as I played basketball trying to improve. All my friends that wanted to go out and drink, party etc knew not to ask me because I was too busy trying to get better. Basketball was my life. I couldn’t go to college without a full scholarship and that couldn’t happen unless I got better.

There’s a book called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. He has a theory that in order to be proficient in anything you have to put in at least 10,000 hours. Exactly five years after I first picked up a basketball I put in a little more than 10,080 hours of working out. I trained six hours a day most days a little more. I went to a junior college and by my sophomore year all the training kicked in and I was able to get a full scholarship to play in North Dakota and after college a professional contract to play in Portugal. How is this possible in 8 years? How do you go from playing JV as a junior to getting a professional contract? I will tell you.

Basketball was my life. I sacrificed everything for the sport I loved. I never felt that I was owed playing time, or a jersey I was going to go out and earn it. If basketball is your life than nothing else will be more important. Partying like crazy, drugs, alcohol, none of that will take the place of hoops. You won’t have time for that nonsense because it doesn’t make you better. Without good grades you can’t play basketball so you better make time for school but none of the negative pressures of high school/college should affect you.

I now train hundreds of basketball players that are very dedicated and focused. Maybe two of them really live the credo Ball Is Life. It’s important to have balance in your life. To go out to the movies, hang with friends, and be a kid, but understand the next time you want to just wear a shirt with a catchy phrase another player somewhere in the world might be living it.


Cornell Thomas
Founder of PowerOfPositivty
Assistant Basketball Coach at Blair Academy


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