“Go for a run,” he answered, before adding the kicker. “At 6 a.m.”
Harris didn’t drink any alcohol that night. He never does, he says, and his friends back this up. “He probably drank Shirley Temples,” says Chris Cox, a long-time friend. And yet, for obvious reasons, mainly that only crazy people get up early on their 21st birthday to exercise, those at the table thought he was kidding.
A few hours later, at 5:45, Cox, who decided not to set his alarm, was woken up by a call. He answered with a groan.
“You coming or not?” the eager voice on the other end of the line asked. It was Harris. The sun was beginning to rise and yet, there he was, standing on the track of his alma mater, Half Hollow West, waiting for his friend. His request the previous night had, apparently, been a serious one. The Magic had given him some homework for the summer—one of those grueling, arduous circuits where you have to do a bunch of sprints in a certain amount of time and if you come in too slow you do it again—and he didn’t want to miss a day.
Most men spend the morning after their 21st birthday sleeping off a hangover. Tobias Harris spent his on a track.
Harris says he doesn’t show much emotion in public, but right now he’s crying in front of a packed gym. They’re not sad tears, but not really joyful ones, either. It’s just, well, he’s worked so hard to get to where he is today, an NBA player who just completed a season in which he averaged 17 points and 6 rebounds per game, a soon-to-be 23-year-old about to become a restricted free agent and, likely, sign a multi-million dollar deal.
Of course, everyone who makes it to the NBA got there by working hard. With Harris, though, the story’s a bit different.
It starts with his dad, Torrel, who put a ball in his son’s hands six months after he was born. Tobias and his siblings—there are six kids in the family; they all play ball and their names all start with “T”—played on one of those Fisher-Price hoops, until it broke because they dunked on it so much. At 5, Tobias was at the YMCA, where Pops would make him dribble back and forth and shoot lay-ups with both hands.
“The workouts got torturous at times,” Tobias admits. “I probably quit basketball like 50 times when I was younger."
But as he got older, his feelings slowly began to change. “I started getting really good,” he says. “And then it became fun.” He started craving those drills and the feelings they would bring: sweat dripping down his face, his shirt soaked through, his body exhausted and unable to move. In high school he woke up every morning at 5:30 to run two miles. He’d get two more workouts in after school.
Torrel, a former agent, also called upon his friends to inculcate his son. There were summer days working out in the San Antonio home of George Gervin; footwork and fundamentals were the focus there. Dale Ellis went over how to properly hold the ball when taking a shot. Bernard King taught Tobias how to score.
Date Posted: Thursday, May 21st, 2015 , Total Page Views: 1017
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