Good Men Project Sr. Sports Editor, Mike Kasdan, speaks with rising NBA star, Tobias Harris of the Orlando Magic, who shares insights into life as a young player in the NBA. We had the opportunity to speak with the 22 year-old Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris over the NBA All-Star Weekend. Although Harris hails from Long Island, he wasn’t in New York for the festivities, instead choosing to relax and gear up for the second half of the season in his now-home of Orlando. Next year he may not have that luxury. Now in his 4th year in the NBA, after a one-and-done year as a “point-forward” at University of Tennessee, Harris is finally getting his opportunity in Orlando, and he is breaking out in a major way. Harris is currently averaging 17 points and 6.5 rebounds a game.
Only 22 years old, Harris has had a bit of a whirlwind few years in the NBA. He was drafted at the age of 18 years by Charlotte and then traded on draft night to Milwaukee. After learning NBA basketball for a year in Milwaukee, he then got a taste of the business of the NBA when he was traded during his second year. Armed with tremendous physical gifts and a strong work ethic, Tobias Harris is now blossoming in Orlando:
“This league is all about opportunity and confidence, and I really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity when I got here. The organization has been great and instilled a lot of confidence in here since I’ve arrived here, and I’m very grateful for that . . . I never want to take any of this time for granted, and I just want to continue to learn and get better as a player.”
Harris realizes that young players coming in to the NBA face a tremendous challenge, both mentally and physically. He does believe that the NBA does a good job integrating and preparing young players for what will come:
“Part of its on the player. But everything is there for you in the NBA . . . You just need to take advantage of it.”
For Harris, getting playing time and the opportunity was key. So was being prepared for that opportunity:
“Even when I wasn’t playing, I put in the work. I live by the motto that hard work is always going to come through for you. If you stay working hard, good things are going to happen. Good comes to those who do good. That’s what I live by and what I’ve told others.”
Harris’ dream of playing in the NBA started in elementary school. His biggest inspiration remains his childhood best friend and basketball running mate, Morgan Childs, who he grew up with. Morgan passed away in high school after a battle with leukemia:
“It was a reality check for me. That if I wanted this, I needed to pursue it. He inspired me to take my goals on head on and to make them happen. And that’s why I wear #12. That was Morgan’s number.”
In terms of role models, he looks up to his father, who has worked hard not just for Harris but for all of the children in the family. He strongly believes that it is important to be a role model in the world:
“You’re on TV a lot. You’re in the spotlight. On a big pedestal. You need to do right on and off the court. I love kids and I know when kids are watching what I do, I know I’m not going to let them down.”
Harris walks the walk too. He is involved in numerous philanthropic and community efforts, many involving children.
On the court, Harris is having a blast on a young talented Orlando Magic team that includes Victor Oladipo, Nik Vucevic, and Elfrid Payton. He also has the good fortune to be playing alongside his cousin, Channing Frye, who has taken him under his wing. They have a lot of growing to do, but Harris is excited about their future. It seems that the NBA is in an extended Golden Age. It does not suffer from the concussion or domestic violence problems that have ravaged the NFL, or the steroids and performance enhancing drug problems of MLB. And there is a crop of fresh new stars, long talented athletic guys who can shoot and handle the ball and dominate, guys like Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Tobias Harris is one of those stars. He is a grounded young man who works hard and has a strong foundation. And he’s beginning to soar.