As a kid, I spent a lot of time thinking about playing professional sports. I went to sleep thinking about it, I dreamt about it and I woke up thinking about it.
When I was outside playing ball, even by myself, I constantly imagined that I was hitting the game-winning shot. I even sat around daydreaming about it.
If you have dreams, you have to pursue them vigorously. That means getting over hurdles. I don't care who you are or where you come from, there will be hurdles.
Mine were location and size.
I came from Macon at a time when college recruiters didn't think of Georgia as a good breeding ground for basketball players. It was considered mostly a football state.
That was tough for guys like me. I soon realized I was not going to get scholarship offers from the big universities.
But I didn't let that discourage me. I came from a good high school program, so I was pretty confident that, if I got the opportunity, I could make a college team. And if I could make a team, even a team from a smaller college, I could showcase my abilities.
Once I got to Duquesne, I had another hurdle to overcome. I was six feet tall. That might be fine in society in general and in many sports like baseball or even football, but in basketball in those days, it was a challenge. Especially if I wanted to eventually play professional basketball.
Back in the mid 1970s, the NBA was a big man's league. From George Mikan to Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, dominant, towering players were the keys to a team's success.
How would I compete against bigger guys? How would I distinguish myself?
Again, rather than getting discouraged, I concentrated on my strengths which were speed, quickness, a good grasp of the fundamentals of the game and an accurate jump shot.
I learned to maneuver pretty well against the giants of the league, finding my space, my shot, my role.
Having hurdled my unique barriers and realized my dreams, I have a message for the Special Olympics athletes who are coming to Los Angeles for the World Games, athletes who are dealing with their own hurdles.
The journey to get here and compete is your first victory. And if you do compete and do the best that you can do, whenever you cross the finish line, you will be a champion. So put in your work, get here and compete.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015 in conjunction with the What's One Thing campaign. In this series six professional and Special Olympics athletes tell a story about a time in their lives when they were told they couldn't, but didn't listen and chased their dreams anyway. To learn more about the World Games coming to Los Angeles in 2015, visit here. To read all posts in the series, visit here.
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