Over at SB Nation’s Longform, check out Flinder Boyd’s piece on Chris Copeland:
An hour and a half before the Knicks-Pistons game in London’s O2 arena this past January, Chris Copeland was already shooting around, sweat dripping off his practice jersey, and the squeak of his sneakers echoing off the nearly empty seats. I was in town for the week to analyze the game for the BBC and looked forward to catching up with my old teammate.
Aside from the rare, brief phone conversation, the last time I spoke to Chris Copeland was more than five years ago. He was stuffing whatever clothes he had into a duffle bag in a rundown hotel outside of Santiago de Compostela. We were briefly teammates in Spain before management decided he wasn’t good enough to play for even the lowest of second division teams and suddenly terminated his contract. I still remember his sense of failure and how the fear of the unknown reduced him to an anxious child.
Even at 6’8 it was sometimes easy to forget Copeland played professional basketball. He’s friendly and unassuming, and his round, vibrant face and long lanky arms covered in a layer of baby fat often made him seem younger than he was. When I knew him, there was nothing in his game, at least visibly, to suggest he could ever, even in the most outlandish of clichéd fairy-tale stories, end up playing for the New York Knicks. Yet here he was, a 29-year-old NBA rookie coming off a 22-point master-class performance four nights earlier against New Orleans and in the starting line-up against the Pistons in London. “I can’t explain it,” he said. “It’s just what I always dreamed about it.” Sure, I thought. Every boy who has ever picked up a ball dreams of playing in the NBA, but to make it at his age, with a limited basketball pedigree, after spending the last few years in the roundball backwaters of northern Europe, is not only unheard of, but virtually impossible.