What was it that first got you into basketball?
My parents were both athletes. My mom played basketball and my father played soccer. I started playing soccer but ended up injuring my leg. When I got home my mom said she was concerned I would get hurt again, and she encouraged me to choose another sport. At the time all of my friends were playing basketball, so I decided to play.
Is it true that as a child in Slovenia, you’d wake up at 3 a.m. to catch NBA games on TV? Did you ever imagine you’d be playing in the league today?
Like a lot of children, I dreamed of playing in the NBA. When I was drafted by the Suns [in 2008], I was really happy, but I also realized that it was just the beginning. You have to work hard and strive to always get better in order to stay in this league.
What’s a typical training day like for you in-season?
It always depends on our game/travel schedule. On a practice day, we come in at 9 a.m. and work in the weight room for an hour, then practice from 10 a.m. to noon. After any practice, I generally stay a bit longer to work on my individual skills, doing additional shooting and drills.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you as an athlete on the NBA
The biggest challenge for me, to this day, is to accomplish my goal of being in the league for a long time. A lot of professional players are averaging just three to four years in the NBA. My goal is to play for 10 or more seasons. There’s always a pressure to improve. Every year 60 new guys are coming for your job. You have to be prepared and you have to be willing to battle for your spot in this league.
How important is your diet in-season? What are the go-foods you can’t live without?
That is very important. Like I said, my goal is to play for 10 to 15 years in the league and to do that I have to eat healthy. Most of the time I eat a lot of fruit, vegetables, chicken, seafood, protein shakes, protein bars, and nuts. I have five meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner, with snacks in between.
Any special game day rituals?
From my first day in the league to right now, I’ve had the same [game day] ritual. I come in three hours early, get my shots up, do my corrective exercises, then I sit in the locker room 90 minutes before the game and try to get my head right.
Do you still have family in Slovenia turning on the TV at 3 a.m. to cheer you on?
Yes, especially my mom and dad. My mom is a really big fan. It can be tough for her though, because she [works] and has to wake up at 6:30 a.m., so sometimes she doesn’t get any sleep. But she wants to watch her son as much as possible to see how I am playing.
What do you love most about basketball, and what keeps you inspired even when things aren’t necessarily going your way?
I love that it is a team sport; it’s not an individual’s game. If you want to succeed, you have to make a bond with your teammates and try to help each other; like a family. Also I love that there are a lot of different areas you can excel at. You can be a good passer, you can be a good shooter, or you can be a good rebounder. There are so many different aspects to this game, which makes it fun.
At Greatist we call anyone who incorporates healthy choices into their lives a “greatist.” What makes you a greatist?
I never quit.
What makes you a greatist? Tell us in the comments below, and connect with others on our community pages!