Daniel Gibson phoned home. The long-time guard of the Cleveland Cavaliers picked up his iPhone and dialed a Houston area code where his mother, Cheryl, would be the voice on the other end of the cellular transmission. The two speak often, but the reason for this specific phone call was for Gibson, 26, to tell his mom that he, in his words, had “finally become a man.”
This new man, the one who is affectionately known as “Boobie,” had already survived many rites of passage that come with his territory: McDonalds All-America status, the highly political recruiting process of NCAA Division I athletics, the transition to the NBA after just two years with the Texas Longhorns, the marriage to a contemporary singer/songwriter and the birth of their now-two-year-old son. But it was not any of these items — nor the impending debut of his docu-reality television show — that led to the correspondence. It was Cheryl Gibson’s son’s new-found appreciation for the written word.
For a good portion of the past summer, the 6-foot-2-inch Gibson traded in his basketball gear and boxing gloves for a handful of inspirational novels and autobiographies. Nursing a torn tendon in his left foot and ankle, an injury sustained on March 19 of the shortened 2011-12 season, Boobie was forced to take time off, an offseason antithetical to his previous five. All of Gibson’s summers involve trips back to his home town of Houston, Texas. Most of them involve stops at various training facilities across the country. Last year’s extended off-season involved a training regiment focusing primarily on cardiovascular strength and quickness, all improved through boxing. The foot injury, however, forced the always smiling shooting guard to change gears and focus on the mental aspects of not only his game but also his life.
“Mentally”, Gibson says,”[the injury] broke me down to a level of understanding and cherishing the game of basketball. I just did a lot of reading and a lot of cherishing.”
This hiatus from physical activity may have been the longest of Gibson’s professional career, but it was by no means the only one. In the last two seasons alone, Gibson has missed time with, chronologically, a left thigh contusion, a right ankle sprain, sore left quadriceps, personal matters, more personal matters, an infection in his neck, a sprained left ankle, and then, in the midst of his worst shooting season as a professional, the coup de grâce which required surgery and considerable rest.
Gibson remains as one of the two members of the Cavaliers to have played under Mike Brown in the 2007 NBA Finals. It was his three-point shot, in fact, that was a big factor in the team’s hard-fought journey to the NBA’s biggest stage. But this was a different regime, a different system and a different set of teammates. For a team to have held on to Gibson when every other player around him was either being traded, released or simply not re-signed, speaks volumes to his demeanor on and off of the court. He himself knows how rare it is for a second-round draft pick to not only make it six years in the NBA, but do do so with the same team1.
It was Gibson who will be the first to talk about his roller coaster of a career, peaking early with his hot hand in the NBA Playoffs to bottoming out with a barrage of “DNP’s” under Brown prior to his firing. It’s under Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott that Gibson found himself on the way back up, being praised for his hard work on both ends of the floor as well as his willingness to take on a leadership role despite the player’s continued toung-in-cheek attempts to play the youth card. It is also Gibson who, despite having a solid role carved out just one season ago, is now locked in a position battle with the team’s most-recent lottery pick as well as their prized free agent addition.
Gibson, however, is also no stranger to the inspirational word himself. The player’s Twitter feed, which is now listed under “Daniel Gibson Sr.” as the six-year veteran is the father to Daniel Hiram Gibson Jr (who is “every bit of two-and-a-half”), is a veritable beacon for 140-character quotes, all aimed at lifting the fallen.
“Life will test you in so many areas …. Never would have made it without you [Lord] hold on to.”
“Get what you need.. Then Go for more. You Deserve It.”
“Prayer is the most intimate form of communication.”
“How Hard will you work.. How much Faith do you have?”
And these were all typed within a nine-hour window stretching from Sunday evening until early Monday morning. So, for Gibson to turn to someone else’s work, knowing that, as one of the most physically fit members of the Cavaliers, there aren’t many more hills to run or weights to lift, he decided that the biggest workout would be of his mind.
One of Gibson’s favorite books comes in the autobiography of Malcom X. The shooting guard had read it in his younger days, but admits that it was only this time through that he was finally able to soak in the nuances and understand the magnitude of not only the activist’s life, but what his life meant beyond his assassination in 1965.
“[I admire] people who have gone through things and how they bounced back,” says Gibson. “Anything that could help me mentally grow the best way possible from the situation.”
Just like in seasons past, Gibson is chomping at the bit to return to the playing floor, itching to join “his guys.” His on-the-record goal for this season is simply to stay healthy. A hard-nosed defender who is often slighter than those he guards, it has been admittedly difficult to fend off the injury bug with those listed above just a snapshot of the player’s career. But with a two-year old keeping him running just as much as his demanding head coach and a BET reality show which will take to the airwaves this week, it’s refreshing to hear a professional athlete say that only now — after treating an off-season like a summer locked in a library — has he officially become a man.
And what did his mother say when she became privy to the news?
“She was happy for me,” Gibson says, complete with that trademark smile.
Photo via Candice Vlcek
- This isn’t to say that Gibson has not seen his name in a fair share of trade rumors [↩]