Royal Ivey, the Thunder's back-up guard, has had a circuitous route on his way to earning playing time for the Thunder this season. He left the University of Texas before he graduated, has suited up for numerous teams before his stop in OKC, and only as of late has he been able to play meaningful minutes for the talented Thunder team. What his career has shown him thus far is to have a healthy and realistic perspective on life and the NY Times' William Rhoden digs into Ivey's journey.
The story is an excellent one so be sure to read it. Here are a few select quotes I've extracted to show how Ivey's perspective on the pro career has evolved:
On the NCAA Tournament:
"When I was participating in March Madness, all I worried about was, ‘We got a chance to win the national championship every year...That was my mind-set, that's the mind-set they instill in us: we're competing for a national championship every year."
"The flip side of it, the business side, is that when we make it to the N.C.A.A.'s., the schools get money or the conferences make money...Every time we're on a big network, they're getting a check. I didn't understand until down the line that the N.C.A.A. is a business. Everything is a business; everything is surrounded by the dollar."
On his decision to leave school before he earned his degree:
"Telling my mom was real tough...She really didn't take it too kindly when I told her she wouldn't be coming to graduation in the spring. She was like, what do you mean? She was disappointed. She thought I was down there to complete my degree in four years, and it didn't go as planned.
"The flip side is that I became a professional athlete."
On Ivey's decision to finish up his degree during the lockout:
Jennifer Ivey said she screamed as she watched her son walk across the stage at his graduation in December. "I was thinking of all the hard work that went into getting him there," she said.
"I told Royal that historically we struggle to be where we are, so you just can't take that for granted...Too many people came before you to allow you to walk across that stage."
It is easy to see from this story and the quotes that there is a reason why Ivey's teammates think of him so highly. There is a reason why he carries such sway in the locker room. There is a reason why, despite Ivey's barely playing at all until four weeks ago, his teammates have no problem at all looking to him for big moments when the game is on the line.