I've always been a hard worker.
As simple as that.
Sometimes you don't need to go that far back, or that much deeper to tell a good story. The core is already there. Simple.
That’s my nature, my imprinting, my way of living.
Work is a condition of my being, the instrument of my freedom, and I understood that from an early age, when I preferred to cut the grass of all over the neighborhood’s backyards rather than ask my parents for money.
My place was the outside world, in the open air, and any excuse was good to get me out of the house. I was an active child, thinking about it now maybe even too much, because being interested in everything isn't always a good thing.
It depends, and it can decrease your energies.
Growing up, sometimes I thought that I would became a lawyer, but then I changed my mind, because the thought of the many years I would have to spend studying, before becoming one, made me want to run away as fast as I could.
I have always been a pragmatic child.
I remember the day, for example, when my sister and I discovered that Santa doesn't exist, and I also remember the calm and simplicity with which we handled that shocking information.
In America, at the time, Toys “R” Us was a big thing, and our parents had sneaked in to buy the gifts while we were half-asleep in the car, hoping to get away with it.
When we then found the same packages under the Christmas tree, I looked my sister in the eye and asked her: "You remember them, right?".
I wasn't angry and I wasn't sad.
I was simply me.
I really liked skateboarding and I liked playing the viola even more, as I had learned to do from my big sister.
It gave me a feeling of power, the power of creation.
Out of nowhere, suddenly, thanks to my hands, the sound.
I wanted to get to play for a big crowd, I wanted to be part of an important orchestra that travels the Country to present its art.
That was my dream, if we want to call it that way.
The one that would let everyone know my name and my talent.
So, during high school, I used to move my big athlete's body all over the city, with the lightness of someone who almost didn't know what to do with it, rushing away on my faithful dirt bike, between orchestra rehearsals, school lessons and work.
I had stopped cutting the neighbors' grass, and had found an occupation more appropriate to my age, and the responsibilities that come with it.
Together with a friend, I sent the application to work in a small neighborhood shop, one of those classic grocery stores that you can see in every American movie.
I spent my hours at the cashier: and I really liked being in contact with people.
On the other hand, I liked much less earning less than the others, who still worked as much as I did.
Sport had always been a part of my life, but almost by accident.
Certainly not by choice.
The good Lord, who always knows what he's doing, had given me an big, athletic body, perfect to be on any field, but I, until the last year of high school, had stayed away from organized sports.
A pick-up game at the playground: sure.
Two pitches on the streets: count on me.
But to play something for real, no thanks.
That wasn't for me, and it would only waste precious time for my true passions.
Then, finally, someone had the courage to tell me that "I was too good to ignore it". That I had a real shot, I just didn't know it yet.
I took it seriously, for once. They made me part of the team, a piece of the mosaic. And in a very short time the big colleges came knocking at my door, among which I chose Ohio State.
Reluctantly leaving the skate and the viola behind, I found myself investing all of me in basketball, with the same simplicity and the same love for the work that I had always put into everything, big or small.
With that feeling of deep faith that I feel every time I start a new path, strengthened by the certainty that for everything, at the end, there is a reason.
For each year, a reason.
For every doubt, an answer.
So I became a basketball player, and I arrived in Europe, still young, immature and curious about the things of life.
I landed in Greece, and after having touched the NBA firsthand, the impact with the ways and expectations of this side of the ocean, immediately put me to the test.
Like a postal pack I was picked up at the airport by the general manager of the team, a small club in Athens, and without any kindness I was dropped off at the hotel. Alone with my suitcase.
No time to adjust.
No respect for the trip I had just made, my first in Europe.
“Hotel. Practice.” That's all.
No one had told me I shouldn't go to sleep, even though I was exhausted from the flight, and so I slipped into my room, where I sat staring at the television late into the night, unable to sleep because of the jet lag.
I watched Spongebob, dubbed in Greek.
I didn't understand a word.
I didn't know what I was doing.
I didn't know who I could or should talk to about it.
Luckily, on the court it was easier to make people understand who I was and what I could bring to a team. My first taste of Euroleague came immediately, even if then it took me years to deserve a call of my own. We played Olympiakos and Pana, the great clubs of Greece, and everyone around me expected those matches as something different. Unique.
"It's just another team".
"I don't care. They are just players”
This is what I thought.
Then I saw them on the court, and I realized that there was a difference, but also that I had all the skills necessary to fill it.
And so it was.
Because to play in the Euroleague it's not enough to score.
It's not about scoring.
Playing in the Euroleague means always doing what it takes to win, completely forgetting about the scoresheet, the statistics and the personal goals.
It's a different, collective, and very complicated type of basketball, in which all players have tosing the same song, quarter after quarter.
Like an orchestra.
Like a big orchestra.
And even if the Viola has been in the closet for a while now, taking the court every week with Bayern has more or less the same effect.
Everyone with his own instrument, with his own personality and with is own ideas, putting everything at the service of the game and of the others.
As simple as that.