The decisions we make from our childhood to adulthood is the closest thing to a real-life choose-your-own-adventure story. For professional athletes, their careers and personal lives can easily be determined by the choices they make. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with, Louisville alumni and former Boston Celtic, Greg Minor. If you are an avid sports fan the name may ring a bell from his playing career in the 90s, or there’s an outside chance you may have him confused with USC alumni and two-time NBA Slam Dunk Champion, Harold Miner, aka “Baby Jordan,” or maybe you never heard of Greg Minor and you are wondering, what makes his story compelling enough to read or possibly share? Greg’s story is not about the accolades, game-winning shots, or professional milestones he accomplished in sports. His story touches many themes, but the overarching constant revolves around life choices, embracing change, and overcoming adversity.
Overcoming the Odds
Growing up in the small town of Sandersville, Georgia, Greg often found himself being driven by two impactful words from his high school coach, Dartez Talbott, “You can!” Whenever Greg would hear these words, it fueled him to prove the local doubters from his hometown wrong. Greg shared, “My coach knew how to subtly push the right buttons with me to get my maximum effort every time.”
At home, he wasn’t raised by his father, there wasn’t the one-on-one relationship with his mother, and they didn’t have the sit-down conversations at the dinner table that some traditional families had or like he’d seen on tv. Growing up, Greg, his two brothers, and his sister had to look out for each other while their mother was doing everything humanly possible to provide for her children.
As Greg reflects on his childhood, he described himself as “A young man that grew up in a small town in Georgia, my high school was smaller than an average neighboring high school’s graduating class, I was definitely more shy and introverted as a kid but the one thing that broke me out of my shell was athletics. God blessed me with my athletic ability but that’s half the battle. I knew in order to succeed in life, I had to be responsible with my actions beyond basketball but, more importantly, take care of business in the classroom to be eligible to play the game I truly loved.”
Making the Right College Choice
Being a top prospect from the state of Georgia and a top 5 player in his position in the class of 1990 made Greg Minor a hot commodity. Greg recalls receiving his first offer letter at the end of his freshman year from Winthrop College. Although it wasn’t his eventual choice, he was very excited to simply get a letter in the mail offering a full scholarship to play college basketball. Between his freshman and junior year, Greg amassed a trash bag filled with over 400 letters from Division I, II, and III programs.
In no particular order, the following programs ended up being the final 5 for Greg to choose from: Florida State, Tennessee, Clemson, University of Georgia, and University of Louisville. After countless on-campus visits were conducted, the University of Louisville won over his heart. Whether it was the genuineness of the students on campus that showed up to greet him, the smaller classrooms he would be more accustomed to from his high school experience, the sheer comfort level with the coaching staff and players, or just the mere fact that he felt at home the minute he walked on campus. Greg shared, “Trusting your gut instincts is one of the more important keys to life, from my experience. Knowing what I know now, my late teens and early 20s were full of optimism and life choices that counter trusting your gut. Selecting the University of Louisville was purely trusting my gut instincts. It was the right choice looking back, although many locals from the state of Georgia wanted me to go to UGA.”
While a traditional “Where Are They Now?” story would capture college milestones and accomplishments, the focal point of his college career in my narrative would be Greg’s self-reflection of when he was younger.
Greg Minor, the freshman at Louisville, reflects, “Visualize yourself beyond college hoops and look beyond athletics. Get involved with internships in the summer, get more involved with on-campus activities. Self-motivation will be key with succeeding in the classroom, surround yourself with like-minded positive people, stay away from the outside distractions, have engaging conversations with some of the boosters, and interact with a more diverse group of students outside of your normal circle and comfort zone. There are countless relationships to make within the city of Louisville for future networking purposes. No matter what happens after college when you reach the pros, there is life after basketball and it will be an eye-opening experience. Yes, I understand you are shy and more introverted and miss home. Yes, I understand it’s easy to gravitate toward the people that will yes you to death and want to be in your life for probably the wrong reasons. When you are the big man on campus, it’s hard to say no to the popularity and social circle you’ll find yourself in. Just remember this; on the other side of fear is everything you ever wanted. There’s going to come to a point in your life where change is going to scare the living hell out of you, but rest assured, just like the doubters said ‘You can’t,’ you’ll find a way to prove them wrong and prevail.”
“There’s going to come to a point in your life where change is going to scare the living hell out of you, but rest assured just like the doubters said ‘You can’t,’ you’ll find a way to prove them wrong and prevail.”
Greg would go on to play for three years at the University of Louisville after sitting out his freshman year. He credits a lot of his next level success and skill development to a fellow teammate, the late Derek Smith whom he admired like a big brother. Derek mentored him both on and off the court and deserves a big piece of the credit for Greg’s readiness for the NBA. Greg shared, “Derek was a special talent on and off the court. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and the legacy he left with me personally.”
Picking Boston Over Chicago
The longevity of your NBA career is never promised nor guaranteed. For Greg, his NBA journey began in the summer of 1994, when he was drafted by Los Angeles Clippers on draft night and immediately traded to the Indiana Pacers. When training camp rolled around, he found himself without a team and was split between signing with the Chicago Bulls, who recently lost Michael Jordan to baseball, or the Boston Celtics, who ended up offering Greg a long-term deal. Greg went for the sure thing and signed with the Boston Celtics. For Greg, “As a rookie entering the league, I had to do the smart thing and think stability over a less guaranteed long-term spot with Chicago.”
Although one could wonder “what could have been,” because Michael returned on March 18, 1995, from baseball and brought the Chicago Bulls back to their glory in the 95–96 season with a historic 72–10 record. Who knows what kind of storied NBA career he would have had if he chose the Bulls over Boston. Greg did say, “If I had an opportunity to play, practice, and learn from MJ, that would have greatly elevated my confidence and overall game. However, the Bulls were loaded with talented guards and wings so I easily could have been waived when MJ returned. I can’t wonder what if but it’s pretty sweet to think about it.”
Welcome to the NBA Moment
He recalls his first day of putting on his Celtic uniform as all business. As a rookie, he had great veterans on the team such as Sherman Douglas, Xavier McDaniel, Pervis Ellison, Dominique Wilkins, and Dino Radja. In Louisville, practice was always 3 PM. In Boston, practice was 9 AM and he remembers casually waltzing in there at 8:45 AM and received stares from the coaching staff and veterans already in the gym. Let’s just say that changed quickly when vets on the team pulled him aside and told him it would be in his best interest to show up at least 45 mins to an hour before practice. One of the coaches had a more R-rated direct message to let Greg know how he felt about him arriving only 15 mins before practice starts. Greg shared, “Reflecting back, what was I thinking!? Present day, I make it a point to arrive at least an hour or more before scheduled appointments. There are certain things that stay with you in life and the decision to show up just before practice and see vets and the staff already sweating from warming up, I knew then and there, my life choices had to change and this is no longer college. The NBA is a business and the athletes privileged with the opportunity to play professionally are taught to treat it that way.”
He noted that he learned a lot from his veteran teammate Xavier McDaniel who took him in as his rook and treated him like a big brother. Greg reminisced that “Xavier would provide words of encouragement, be that voice in my ear, and take me out to eat when we were on the road. The vets on the team played a big role in teaching me how to conduct myself, how to stay in tip-top shape, and how to come to practice and compete.”
Career Cut Short
While his NBA career was memorable and he was able to play against some of the best the 90s had to offer, including countless future Basketball Hall of Famers, there are no guarantees in sports. Greg would soon learn that, the hard way, and in the most unconventional way.
His professional NBA career was cut short due to a fractured hip injury he suffered on April 29, 1999, against the Miami Heat. While he was in the hospital recovering from the injury, he learned that his career with the Celtics was over. He explained, “the Celtics didn’t inform me, I learned I was released from the team through the newspaper.” As a professional athlete, all it takes is one moment to change the course of history or even your career. For Greg, having to face this reality was something he personally wasn’t ready to accept but due to the lingering injury, the odds of a comeback were highly unlikely. The chapter in Boston closes and Greg and his family decided to move to Orlando, Florida, a city that would be warm all year round and family friendly. While Greg tried to rehabilitate his injury, he was faced with the reality of accepting retirement and doing what was best for his family at the time. Greg noted, “although the actions of moving on seem to be the narrative, at this point in time of my life, I was truly dealing with a mixed bag of emotions around my injury, no longer being a Celtic and other x-factors going on in my life. This would lead to a personal journey that would be a joint effort between friends and family encouraging me to seek help for the depression I was falling into.”
Coping with Depression
From the age of 27–28, Greg went through a bout of depression, in which he received counseling to help him comes to terms with things in his life that were beyond his control. The signs and symptoms of depression were all there, between personal matters, coping with his injuries, and the cumulation of negativity he endured from the coaching staff in Boston. Although he realized he was a shell of his normal self, it took his family and close friends to push him to seek counseling.
Greg recalls, “the communication with the therapist was free flowing with zero judgment. Each session was like chipping away at trust, with me opening up to him. It took several weeks and months before I was able to express how I was truly feeling. Once the trust was built I looked forward to going to discuss what was on my mind. As much as people associate counseling with struggles and problems, it’s also used universally by athletes, celebrities, and people of all walks of life that seek a sounding board for dealing with success and personal direction. If my personal story around this can help someone or speak to someone on the fence around seeking help, I hope they at least consider the options they have and realize they are not alone with this personal battle. Acceptance and taking the necessary measures to overcome my depression was one of the more prominent life choices I’ve made in my life.”
“Acceptance and taking the necessary measures to overcome my depression was one of the more prominent life choices I’ve made in my life!”
While officially retired, Greg diverted his attention toward life after basketball. He would return to school, join the National Basketball Retired Players Association, venture into real-estate business opportunities, and would eventually transition into coaching the D-League and internationally in China. He’s devoted a lot of his free time toward The Boys and Girls Club in La Quinta, California, Basketball without Borders, Martha’s Village and Kitchen, and Birdsong Sports.
Present day, Greg is living in a different chapter where he’s rediscovering himself. He views the private coaching he’s been doing in California with student-athletes as a stepping stone toward his next professional chapter. The post-career common theme has been around giving back and living out one of his favorite quotes, “Great things never come from comfort zones.” Once upon a time, Greg was a shy and introverted kid from Georgia that would be the last person you could envision extending himself toward others. That’s the beauty of life, with age and time, we have the ability to evolve and become a better version of our younger selves. Greg took chances, stepped outside of his comfort zone and embraced success and failure equally in life. In his words, “everything in life is like a script that is subject to change. There’s only so much we have creative control over and the rest is about maximizing the opportunities life brings.”
Next Generation Legacy
No one ever said being a parent would be a piece of cake. From Greg’s perspective, “I’m learning something new each day and just when I think I have all the answers, life finds a way of humbling me. To my children, Kira, Khalid, Greg Jr., and Chloe, I want to see them succeed in life and for them to know I’m here for them as their father. I’ll never be perfect and may not have all the answers to their questions in life but all I can do is remain ready, willing, and able to be there for them in this journey we call parenthood.”
Greg’s final reflection, “you walk away from professional sports where you are performing in front of 15–20 thousand people and then just like that, you lose that notoriety, camaraderie with your teammates, and adrenaline rush of playing the game you love.” He’s gone through cycles in his life where it’s take, take, take and less of someone on the other end returning the favor or caring about his personal struggles. While it’s not easy for a professional athlete to ask for sympathy, Greg reflects, “at the end of the day we are all human and far from perfect and deserve to be treated as such. While I might be still figuring out my true calling in life. I’m self-aware that each day I wake up, my life choices dictate my eventual destination. As they say ‘Progress not perfection,’ that’s all I can strive for in life. My legacy is still being written, but my contribution to the world is my everyday life choices.”
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