San Antonio Spurs' Matt Bonner was in Manila recently to lead the NBA Fit and NBA Cares activities. Being the global ambassador that he is, Bonner didn’t always have his professional career set in stone.
Bonner gave some details on how exactly he made it in the NBA after a year of playing in Italy to start his professional career.
"I've always been a three-point shooter in high school and in college. But it doesn't guarantee you'll be a great three-point shooter in the NBA."
"I remember being in the GM's [Rob Babcock's] office on Halloween, it was the day before our first regular season game. After practice, he had a contract on his desk and he explained to me that it was a rookie, one-year league minimum un-guaranteed contract. Basically the worst possible contract you could give someone. Then he explained to me, you played the previous season in Italy and had an amazing year, you've got all these ball clubs in Europe offering you more years and way more money. You can go there and be the star or you can sign this contract and be the fifteenth man, basically.”
"I remember thinking, and coach Mitchell was in there and he was like, 'Yo Matt, when you were a kid, did you dream of playing in the NBA or playing in Europe? I said NBA, and I signed the contract, and it ended up being the right move."
"[Mitchell]'s a huge reason why I made it. He believed in me, he gave me my chance, my start. I was lucky enough in my first year in Toronto, I got to play with Donyell Marshall, one of the great stretch big men. He taught me a lot about how to find that niche as a stretch four, how to carve it out and make a career for yourself. Even when I got traded I got to play with Robert Horry, another great player in that category, and he taught me a lot as well."
Bonner is also grateful to have fallen into the Spurs organization, and showed his gratitude for the legendary coach.
"I consider myself lucky to have played for him (Gregg Popovich) through all these years, to learn from him, and watch him masterfully get the most out of his players and our team, year in and year out.”
"I don't know if I can narrow it down to one thing that I like most about Coach Pop. It's more of a collective of who he is and how he conducts himself. In the NBA, if you're not a star player or a surefire starter, it's about roles and niches and complementing those stars. Being able to stretch the court for Manu [Ginobili] and Tony [Parker] to drive or for Tim [Duncan] to post up is an important thing."
Bonner has always known his role in the NBA and it’s helped him stay around for as long as he has. Mastering a specific role or skill can help carve out a spot for many players in the NBA. Specialists are a big part of the NBA game. Bonner’s outside shooting is his strong suit, but lately people have begun to see another aspect of his arsenal; his flair for the camera.
Are Spurs fans looking forward to another season with the "Red Mamba"?