Bullock overcomes odds to reach NBA
Reggie Bullock (center) reacts to hearing his name called during the NBA draft on Thursday. Bullock was taken 25th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Janet S. Carter / The Free Press
Published: Friday, June 28, 2013 at 18:41 PM.
The memories of what it was like growing up in east Kinston will forever linger in Reggie Bullock’s mind.
The drugs. The gangs. The hardships that come with being raised in “the projects.” But Bullock refused to let the negativity that surrounded his upbringing define who he is and be the deciding factor in what he was going to do with his life.
On Thursday, with roughly 75 friends and family members gathered in a side room at the Woodmen Community Center, Bullock watched on a large, pull-down screen as NBA Commissioner David Stern announced that the Los Angeles Clippers had selected him with the 25th overall pick in this year’s NBA draft.
In almost an instant the 6-foot-7, 205-pound swingman’s life changed. What became commonplace to him as a child is something Bullock will never have to worry about going back to.
But his upbringing is at the center of the strength, courage and drive that he has today.
“I finally made it, I finally made it,” Bullock said, smiling from ear to ear. “Just hearing my name called, it’s a blessing for me.
“It’s a blessing to be in this position, making it to the NBA. But the work don’t stop here. I still got a long way to go to prove myself that I belong there. I’m ready for the challenge.”
Bullock was raised by his grandmother, Patricia Williams, who passed away while he was a freshman at UNC.
Williams, a minister, saw to it that Bullock did the right thing and made the right choices. The homework and chores had to be completed before he could go to the gym. His top priority was attending church.
Even with such negative outside influences, Bullock had a solid foundation in his home.
“You had to convince Grandma to let him play,” said retired Rochelle Middle School basketball coach Alexander “Skeet” Davis, a mentor of Bullock’s. “I’ll never forget. I was going to put him on a little tournament team and she said, ‘He’s got to go to church.’ I said, ‘You let him practice, I’ll bring him to church.’ I’ve always felt like he was special.”
Special enough to separate himself from the haves and have nots.
“He’s had it hard. I can identify with him because I’m also, out at Tarboro, from the projects — Eastside homes,” Davis said. “Don’t nobody expect nothing good to come out of the hood, but they do.
“It don’t matter where you’re come from, it’s what you do to get yourself right.”
Bullock went to work on his game at a young age. In middle school he heard the comparisons to Kinston native Jerry Stackhouse, who just completed his 18th season in the NBA.
Bullock told the Raleigh News and Observer in March about a time when he banked in a 3-pointer as a youngster playing against Stackhouse in a pick-up game. That’s when he knew he had a shot at doing something great.
Bullock has worked hard to hone his craft since, and has become a beacon of hope for a city which needs one.
“What is so beautiful about this story is the adversity that Reggie has overcome. To be where he is, it shows all these young men and all these young ladies that are in the streets and in the schools that they can achieve it, too,” Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy said. “But it takes hard work, perseverance, it takes mentors … it takes the kids to take one step and all these other folks, the mentors, to take a couple of them with them.”
What Bullock knows to be home and what will become his home are two different places.
Los Angeles is a mecca for the entertainment industry, from movies to music to professional sports.
Bullock was drafted by one of the more popular franchises in the NBA. He’ll play his home games in the Staples Center, with big time Hollywood celebrities sitting courtside.
NBA all-star and Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who sponsors an AAU team Bullock used to play for, tweeted his excitement of playing with Bullock in the future.
“Congrats to (Reggie Bullock) on being drafted,” the tweet read. “He was on my 1st 15 and Under CP3 All-Stars team. (hashtag)teamCp3”
The Clippers, who chose Bullock with their only draft pick this year, also recently dealt for former Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
Rivers’ son, Austin, played for Duke for one season and coach Rivers attended his games regularly.
Coach Rivers had his eye on Bullock before making the move to the West Coast, he said.
“I like him,” Rivers told the Associated Press. “That’s one of the guys that we wanted. We felt like we needed more shooting and he does that.
“Having been a guy that went to a lot of Duke games and Duke-North Carolina games, I got to see him up close. He has size, can play the small forward position, he can shoot it on the catch and he can defend. Those are all of the things that we targeted, and that’s what we got.”
Bullock’s mother, Danielle Brown, was so excited for her son Thursday that she had trouble putting her emotions into words.
“It’s exciting. When he was little and playing ball I never thought of (him going to the NBA),” she said.
“I feel OK about (him being so far away). One day I’m going to be there.”
Bullock will sign his first professional contract soon, move to L.A., and begin his new life as a professional athlete.
In the near future he will receive a hefty signing bonus to go along with his guaranteed two-year contract, which has club options for a third and fourth season. He’ll also make, according to the league’s rookie salary scale, around $1 million in salary next season. But money isn’t something that has driven Bullock.
As he’s said, time and time again, “I put on for my city.”
He showed home much home means to him when he decided to find out his professional destination here surrounded by those who love him and led him in the right direction instead of New York.
Bullock’s tattoos are a constant reminder of what Kinston means to him.
“I think it says a lot about Reggie. I think it says a lot about his character. It says a lot about his family. The biggest thing is, I think, he wanted to have it here because he just loves Kinston. It’s not in Chapel Hill, it’s in Kinston,” former Kinston High basketball coach Wells Gulledge said.
“This night is about the journey of Reggie Bullock.”
And quite the journey it has been, but it’s not over.
Bullock still has to continue to work. No doubt he wants to earn a starting spot along side Paul and superstar forward Blake Griffin. No doubt he wants to earn a second contract 10 times as big as the first.
But no matter what happens next, it’s the last 22 years that Bullock can hang his hat from.
“It’s not going to change me as a person. I’m still going to be humble about where I come from,” Bullock said. “It’s just great to go out there and play with a good team.”