Dear Mom and Dad,
In 2016, I had one of the greatest moments of my life. However, amid my joy, I felt sadness and disappointment because you weren’t there to witness it.
Without you both, that moment wouldn’t have happened for me.
Dad, as a kid, you used to make me go to work with you. I had to get my butt up at 4:00 in the morning during the summer and spend the whole day at your construction site. It was hard and you never let me cut corners.
At home, mom, you took care of our house and showed me how to be domesticated. I had chores that included vacuuming, taking out the garbage and keeping my room clean. You made sure I didn’t just get these chores done, but that I did them right. When I swept the floor, I had to sweep underneath the cabinets and in the corners.
Both of you wanted me to understand hard work, laying a foundation for my future.
However, my dreams for the future were different than you envisioned. I fell in love with the game of basketball.
Dad, you said to me, “You will need to get you a real job, something that’s going to allow you to make a living and do something with your life.”
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At first, you didn’t want me to play.
But mom, you saw how committed I was to the game. For a long time, you let me play and didn’t tell Dad.
As your son, I wanted support from both of you. I wanted your approval. I wanted you to be proud of me as a basketball player. And growing up, that’s what drove me.
When I practiced, I never let my teammates outwork me. If we did sprints, I wanted to be the fastest. If we had a shooting contest, I wanted to win. Consistently, I was looking to gain an advantage and, even though I was a late bloomer, you saw it pay off on the court.
Dad, when you realized basketball could get me a free education, your feelings changed and you became my biggest fan. You cheered me on in junior college. Both of you were thrilled when I received a scholarship to play at the University of Hawaii. When I ran out of the tunnel at the Oakland Coliseum wearing a Warriors jersey, you both witnessed it from the stands. You even got to see me start my business as a basketball trainer.
Thankfully, you saw a lot of my career. But you missed the best of it.
Mom, you passed away before I got hired as a coach in the NBA for the Lakers.
Dad, you were there and even though you didn’t like crowds, every time we played in Oakland, you got a ticket to the game.
You began to watch games at home, learn the players and even crack jokes, saying,” Hey man! How come Shaq can’t shoot free throws?”
But mom, dad, my career didn’t stop there. I earned the respect of the best players in the game, such as LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the late Kobe Bryant.
One time, when I was with the Lakers, we played in Charlotte. Kobe didn’t have a great game. We had to fly to New York to play a back-to-back. I was asleep on the plane when one of the security guards tapped me on the shoulder.
He said, “Kobe wants to go to the gym.”
At 2:30 in the morning, we got off the plane and went straight to the gym. We didn’t leave until about 5:15 am. Our next game was later that day, but there were no questions asked on my behalf.
Dad, just like you taught me when you took me to work early in the morning as a young boy, my players know I am willing to work anytime and anywhere.
I am also very detail-oriented. A player could be handling the basketball and their footwork might be wrong, or they might have the incorrect body position, I will point out the smallest details. Mom, similar to how you taught me to sweep the floor the right way, I always make sure my players do their workouts the way they’re supposed to be done.
After I left the Lakers, I moved to Cleveland and Dad, you had a stroke and passed away. Now, you were both gone. Shortly after, is when I had that moment that I so desperately wanted to share with you. That is when I won my first of two NBA championships. I won with the Cavs against the Warriors in Oakland, where you raised me.
All you ever wanted in life was for me to be able to provide for my family and be successful. And I so badly wanted to do that through basketball.
When I became a champion, I knew it was because of your love and your lessons. In that moment of glory, all I wanted to do was hug you both and say thank you.
I wanted to thank you not only for teaching me hard work but also for teaching me to be a compassionate, confident, humble, strong and good person.
The best way to show my gratitude would have been to show you that I achieved greatness.
So, as I celebrated with my team, I imagined you dad standing proudly, as you, mom, smiled with excitement.
And deep down, I held hope that somewhere you were watching because what hurts so much is that I know my success would have been your happiness.
Mom, Dad, because of both of you, I made it!
I love you and miss you.