The man has been there and done that.
And now he is sharing his story with NBA rookies around the league as part of the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program (RTP).
Tony Gaskins earned a full football scholarship until he was kicked off of his team after his third year and suddenly turned to a life of dealing drugs. Crime didn’t pay. Instead it caught up with Gaskins.
He was 23-year old, his wife left him, his car was stolen and Gaskins found himself nearly broke after losing $30,000.00. Then heartache really set in: his newborn son was in the ICU. And that is when Gaskins decided to make a change in his life.
Now he is sharing his life-altering story as a motivational speaker with the more than 60 NBA rookies who attended the recent RTP.
His message: learn how to play the game of life instead of playing the field.
The RTP was created in 1986 and was built on the idea of preparing incoming youngsters for the realities of becoming a professional in the NBA. The focus ranges from subjects like dealing with the stress of an 82-game season, money management and friends and family asking for support, responsibilities as pro and life after basketball, the anti-drug program, anger management, gambling and legal advice and of course sexual relationship warnings.
That is where Gaskins’ story comes in to play and opened the eyes and ears to a number of rookies in attendance.
Henry Abbott of TrueHoop broke down Gaskins’ influence:
"Gaskins says nearly half the group had questions, approached him after the talk, got his phone number, followed him on Twitter and more.
But don't take his word for it. Listen to the players themselves, who told their own version of events on Twitter after Gaskins spoke.
Young Sun Kendall Marshall said "I'm turnin my playa card in."
Blazer top pick Damian Lillard declared: "This man @TonyGaskins is too real. Y'all need to get up on him. He just changed my life. #realrap"
Harrison Barnes, Darius Johnson-Odom, Draymond Green, Jared Sullinger, Andre Drummond and Quincy Acy all tweeted similarly."
In the end, Gaskins’ — along with Chris Herren’s amazing survival story from the NBA to street curb junkie that was documented in ESPN's 30 for 30 series — holds major weight for these young men coming into the league.
Some will get it. Some will find out the hard way.
But they certainly are getting an education that the NBA is about more than just what happens between the lines.