ROXBURY, Mass. – A fireman. A police officer. A pro athlete. A doctor.
Pick any kid from just about any neighborhood and there’s a good chance that one of these professions will be named if you ask them what they want to be when they grow up.
Just as Avery Bradley has distinguished himself on the court, he has done the same when it comes to turning his childhood dreams into reality – and we’re not talking about being an NBA player, either.
Bradley’s participation in the Sun Life Financial’s rewards-based “Fit to Win” program at the Roxbury YMCA on Monday was the kind of event that Bradley seems to love almost as much as – maybe more – than picking a point guard’s pocket.
The event featured 3rd-6th graders who completed the four-week program participating in a healthy eating activity (they built fruit-inspired sculptures) along with a panel discussion on healthy living and eating better foods.
Lots of ear-to-ear smiles, boys and girls alike, dominated the room.
But it was hard to tell who was enjoying it more, Bradley or the kids.
“It’s been my dream since I was a kid, to be a role model and be someone that someone would look up to,” Bradley said. “I take pride in that. I always want to be a great person off and on the court so the kids can look up to me. That’s what I’m going to try and continue to do for the rest of my career.”
And just as enthusiastically as Bradley embraces being a role model to grade schoolers, he was more than eager to step up to the challenge of being more of a leader this past season with the Celtics.
Following trades that sent Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green to Dallas and Memphis respectively, Bradley became the longest-tenured Celtic currently under contract.
Drafted by Boston with the 19th pick in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft, Bradley distinguished himself early on by doing his best to soak up every drop of knowledge veterans like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, were willing to sprinkle him with.
And as they moved on to other teams, those lessons did more than just help make Bradley a tougher person and player mentally.
But they would help form the foundation for his brand of leadership which is more about works than words.
However, with so few veterans on the team for the full season, the 24-year-old gradually became more comfortable as both a talkative leader and one who still lets his play carry the day.
Knowing how important it was for them to pour into him the teachings that they received from veterans before them, Bradley acknowledged feeling a need to not let their teachings go to waste.
“I feel like it’s my responsibility,” Bradley said. “All the things that they have shown me, again, on and off the court. It made me into the man I am today. I came to the Celtics at the age of 19. I was able to learn from the greats.”
And as Bradley makes his way from one table to another on Monday admiring the various pineapple-based projects, there was no mistaking the joy that Bradley was getting out of all this.
That’s because in these young, eager youth who are so full of life and optimism, Bradley knows it wasn’t that long ago when he too was one of them.
And while he now finds himself as a role model and leader to them, he understands all too well that he too must continue to grow and still make the most of opportunities to connect with his mentors and role models.
That’s why he looked forward to the text messages this past season from Kevin Garnett that came his way like once a month, or the texts he would get from Paul Pierce who leaves messages like “good job” or “keep pushing” or “keep up the good work.”
“Those guys put in a lot of work,” said Bradley, a grouping that also included another future Hall of Famer, Ray Allen. “They were great guys. I hope I can be just like them.”