I don’t ever look to the world of sports for my heroes. With the exception of Pat Tillman, I don’t think I’d look to a single other professional athlete to fill the bill of hero.
Tim James: NBA Player
Tim James was a star basketball player at the University of Miami, becoming the first overall draft pick by the Miami Heat in 2007. Though his career in professional basketball is a blip to almost anybody who follows the sport, he still made a great living over his 8 year career:
He made almost $2.5 million playing for the Heat, Hornets and 76ers. The Heat’s per diem of $113 means an NBA player gets more in meal money a season than the $2,000 a soldier of James’ specialist rank will earn in a month. More than triple, actually.
Once his professional playing days were over, Tim had a lot of promising career options. But only one thing that he really wanted to do…
Tim James: Soldier
So, at the age of 31, Tim James did something totally unexpected:
And James earned plenty playing professionally in Japan, Turkey and Israel, too. But as he traveled all over the globe playing his beloved game, seeing a world he never thought he’d see growing up poor in Miami, he didn’t learn to merely value or appreciate America’s freedoms. He decided he wanted to fight to protect them, too.
I never saw this coming,” his mother says.
Why’d he do it? In his own words, “I think of myself as a patriot,” James said. “I wanted to give back to a country that gave so much to me.”
Asked if he ever doubted his decision, Tim responded:
Absolutely not,” he says. “To be able to support and defend freedom gives me great joy. A lot of people have died for something many Americans take for granted. I wake up every day knowing I’m doing something important with my life. This is so fulfilling. Keeping our country safe gives me great purpose.”
That right there already says all I need to know about what kind of man Tim James is…but there’s more:
A former NBA player in the Army who nobody knew was a former NBA player?
James hasn’t shared his past with fellow soldiers. Quiet, remember? Humble, too. He wanted to be just another teammate. So none of James’ fellow soldiers knew he used to play pro basketball, though they all said he should have after he scorched those younger soldiers in a pickup game one day during training. He didn’t tell them after that, either.
“I wanted this experience to be raw,” James says now. “Start a new life. I wanted to understand new minds and new ways of thinking. I’ve been in basketball since I was 8. I didn’t want to have a basketball conversation every day.”
James had to get military clearance to talk for this story. That’s how his commanding officer finally found out SPC Tim James used to be an NBA millionaire. Byron is not easily impressed, but he finds the fact that James didn’t tell anyone he was an NBA player even more amazing than the fact that he was an NBA player.
“I’m kind of in awe,” the captain says.
Yeah, me too Captain.
All the respect and gratitude in the world go to Tim James. Thank you for your service, Specialist. We need a lot more men like this in our country — a truer role model and inspiration than LeBron James, Kobi Bryant, and Allen Iverson…combined.
At 6′ 8″, James is definitely an “above average” Soldier. But not the tallest I’ve ever heard of. In fact, there was a Soldier in my basic training platoon at Ft. Knox was 6′ 11″ tall. I don’t remember his last name anymore, but his first name was Phillip (from Centralia, WA). Though I’m certain he never played in the NBA.
His uniforms had to be custom ordered, his feet stuck out of the end of his GP-Tiny when we were out in the field…and when told that we had to dig our fox holes to “chest high of the taller of you and your battle buddy”, his buddy (who was about 6′ 2″ himself) had to be thinking, “you’ve got to be kidding me…”