C.J. McCollum had a different mindset than many kids growing up.
“I was obsessed with basketball,” McCollum told DIME. “Some kids played it because it was fun or they got to be around their friends, I played it because I loved it.”
The guard’s passion led him to playing against players almost twice his size and age.
“He was the freshman hanging out with all seniors,” Errick McCollum, C.J.’s brother said. “It was a big advantage for him. When you are playing with guys that are three, four, five years older than you, you have to step your game up or you’ll be a weakness and no one wants to play with you. It forced him to be more mature because you can’t act the same way with your own age as you can with people older than you. Maybe it robbed him of his childhood a bit (laughs), but I think we can all say it worked out for the best.”
In other words, he had a head start.
That head start eventually led to McCollum exploding onto the NBA scene, taking home the Most Improved Player Award, and helping the Portland Trail Blazers make a remarkable playoff run last year. He averaged 20.8 points per game in 2016, his third in the league, as well as adding 4.3 assists.
Now, just one season later, the success hasn’t stopped him from getting better, both on-and-off the court. While it’s not generally a surprise to see a player like McCollum succeed, there were many doubters. But if you knew McCollum, you’d knew they’d be silenced.
“He was just wired differently,” C.J.’s friend Randy Osei told DIME. “While others were playing video games and enjoying the moment of being at the Draft, C.J. was studying film, reading books, and studying the process of being an NBA player. But you could tell he didn’t want to be just any NBA player, he wanted to be an NBA great.”