By Jamari Jordan
You never forget your first. It’s something to remember. The first time you hear that sweet sound. There’s nothing like hearing the bounce of the ball on the hardwood, the swish from the net, or even the sneaker squeaks on the court. You never forget the first time you experience basketball.
Tevin Reeves’ first time sticks with him to this very day. It was the 1996 NBA Finals, Jordan’s first since announcing his return to the NBA. MJ was well, MJ. The Bulls didn’t skip a beat and won the series in 6.
For most, that is the story. Basketball’s favorite son finally returned home, but for Reeves, it was much more. Sitting in his living room in Atlanta, Georgia, Reeves had his basketball in hand mimicking the man that stood so tall. Not his Airness, but Reeves’ father. While everyone else wanted to be like Mike, Reeves wanted to be like Thomas.
“Me and him were so competitive,” said Reeves.
“My dad always pushed me to be the best at everything. But, he never put pressure on me to do any of this. That’s one thing I love about him and he still does that to this day.”
In today’s society where fathers are attempting to live their dreams through their sons, Reeves’ father is what parents should be, supportive. He was always there for his son. When Reeves had doubts about his game, Reeves’ father listened and always gave him the perfect advice. The more Reeves listened to his father, not only did his jumper, but the game of basketball came easier for him.
With that new found confidence, Reeves upped his game. Reeves attended Joseph Wheeler High School and went to back-to-back state championship games winning a title his sophomore year. Even though no video exists, if you catch a spectator on the right day, some say Reeves might have crossed over Kyrie Irving and Austin Rivers in high school.
Ball was most certainly life for Reeves. He was a state champion and the college recruitment process was in full swing for him, but then, misfortune came calling. During his senior year, Reeves fractured a bone in his foot.
Even though he trained hard to get back to form, Reeves didn’t fully recover. As most shooters know, the worst injuries to suffer are those affecting the lower extremities. His game wasn’t quite the same, and unfortunately, scouts took notice as well. The D-1 offers stopped piling up in the household, and Reeves’ basketball future was in doubt.
While Reeves received other offers from D-2 schools, the excitement and jubilation he once had for the game dissipated. An 18 year old Reeves looked down on those options and got down on himself. His eyes were set on playing under the lights in the Dean Smith Center, Allen Fieldhouse, or Rupp Arena. The time arrived for Reeves to explore other options, options other than basketball.
Reeves spent the last 15-16 years of his life with a ball in his hand. The game of basketball was his first true love. It was the game that he and his father bonded over. The hardwood floors were where he made his name, his identity to the rest of the world.
Reeves’ mother told him to start looking into universities for his academics. Apprehensively, Reeves applied to colleges, but only two, Brown, and his eventual home the University of Georgia. His senior year of high school would be the last time Reeves would pick up a basketball, officially.
“My mom, dad, and sister dropped me off,” said Reeves. “You know, I was trying to act like the big adult… but as soon as they dropped me off, it then became surreal.”
Reeves never visited UGA’s campus before enrolling. In his first few days on campus, Reeves didn’t adjust well to this new reality. He would go to a party later that night, and not even “Racks”, “No Hands”, or “I’m on One” could lift his mood. Reeves would go back to his dorm less than an hour at arriving at the party and stare at his dorm’s ceiling for the rest of the night.
However, he would eventually bounce back. Reeves would finally open himself up and make friends. At 18, he was dealing with the same struggle that adults at 35-40 years of age can’t process, life after sports. They have children or a brand that they have built over time to fall back on, but not Reeves.
College is difficult enough of an adjustment, but coupling that with transition after basketball is a tall order for anyone, let alone an 18 year old. To Reeves’ credit, he responded. And even though his basketball career didn’t end the way he wished, he couldn’t put the basketball down forever. Thanks to the Rec Center at UGA and the black tops by the dorms, Reeves still crossed a more than a few people over.
“One thing Georgia did was broaden my horizons,” said Reeves.
“They are a lot of great people doing great people doing great things. That’s one of the reasons I loved attending the University of Georgia.”
Today, Reeves is an alumnus of the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism. If he couldn’t play the game officially anymore, he decided to cover it professionally. Sports meant too much to Reeves for him to walk away from it completely. Reeves writes articles and commentates on the sports world for AllSports Select and has no problem debating circles around anyone who steps in his new arena.
His freshman year of college, what should’ve been the most difficult year of his life, turned into his most impactful. Showing that much strength as an 18 year old in such a time of adversity, it speaks to the values that his father taught him. While the basketball may not be in his hand as much anymore, he still is just trying to be like Thomas.