Near-seven-foot tall NBA stars Horace Grant and Peja Stojakovic today dismissed the notion that short players cannot excel in basketball, and emphasised that what mattered more was passion and willingness to learn.
"It doesn’t matter about your economic background or how tall or short you are. If you are willing to learn and put the hard work in, you can become anything you want to become, the best cricket player or the best basketball player or a footballer," said 6-foot, ten-inch tall Grant here.
"I have played with guys who are 5'3" or 5'5", so it doesn't matter about size. It is about having an ideal place to go and work out and it matters about your teachers," added Grant who won three successive NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls in the early 1990s and another with LA Lakers later.
"I don't believe in the height factor. It is important to begin with, but the love and will to be the best is important," said Serb Peja, also a 6,10" giant.
Grant, Peja and another former NBA star Ron Harper are here to conduct the three-day city leg of the 3-on-3 NBA Jam in suburban Bandra from tomorrow ahead of the All India final on Sunday.
Grant, who came through collegiate basketball into the professional ranks, said though China was ahead of India in basketball, the country needed someone like the 7'6" tall Shanghaian Yao Ming, who played in the NBA for Houston Rockets for nine years from 2002, to kickstart a boom.
Grant also said he has heard people talk about a 7'2"-inch tall Indian, Ludhina-born Satnam Singh who trains at the NBA Academy in Florida, as India's future prospect to appear in the American League.
Satnam has got offers from a few US colleges to play for them, informed an official working for NBA in India.
"The sky is the limit. There are similarities to China when they first got their roots in basketball and they have grown over the years. Things have taken root here and over the years, India too will grow," he explained when asked about the future of basketball in the country.
Grant said that inter-collegiate basketball was very competitive in the US.
"It was very competitive and I had great four years of college basketball and I needed those years. When Kobe Bryant and Lebron James came in, they were exception to the rule," he said.
"As a teenager, I knew that is what I wanted to do – to become a NBA basketball player and also was studies. My parents wouldn't allow me to play ball if I didn't study. And that is what I tell the kids today," Grant added.
Peja said he was in favour of the American system of learning and playing the game in schools and colleges before graduating to the pro ranks unlike the European one which is based on clubs.
"We don't have college league. We have club basketball, unlie in US. It's very important to have sports together with education. If you look at club basketball, how many players are going to be successful.. among 100 guys, may be one guy may make it.
"During all this time, all these guys are going to quit their education and the 99 players would lose their time to education and it would be hard to get back on their feet. I had to give up studies in order to be successful in sport. If I hadn't succeeded, I would have been in trouble." Asked about Shaquille O'Neil buying a minority stake in NBA franchise Sacramento Kings, in which India-born tech tycoon Vivek Ranadive has majority stakes, Peja said he heard about it yesterday, but did not see many other players following in the legend's footsteps.
"It is exciting. He is going to help the Kings franchise whose roots are from India. Main thing for that team is they are able to stay in Sacramento to keep the team in the city. Now it is for them to build a new arena and a new team.
"I can't picture him as an owner. To me he will always be a funny guy. I heard he is a smart business guy. But I don't see many other players to follow (his example). It costs huge money," he said.