NBA Draft

Former NBA star Carlos Boozer says he’ll always call Juneau home

Carlos Boozer with his parents, Renee and Carlos Boozer Sr., on a hike in Juneau. (Courtesy of the Boozer family)

Former NBA star Carlos Boozer was born in Germany, spent some of his youth in Washington, D.C., and now lives in Florida. But he considers Juneau his home. 

He’s just published a book about his career playing for teams like the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s called “Every Shot Counts: A Memoir of Resilience.” 

Boozer moved to Juneau with his family when he was a kid. His dad wanted to live in Alaska and have an adventure. 

On Thursday, Boozer joined his long-time friend Christina Michelle, the host of Culture Rich Conversations from Juneauʼs Black Awareness Association on KTOO. They discussed growing up in Juneau, his early days of basketball, and what he learned in his career. 

Here are some highlights from the interview. You can listen to the episode here

He calls Juneau his home

A lot of listeners here kind of watched me grow up. You guys, even Natasha, came by almost every game. We’d get all the support, but it took a village, man. I was very lucky and fortunate to have a great family first. And then great friends like yourself, who also became family, and then great coaches and teammates and teachers, and it took a village. I think the biggest thing for me was I didn’t give up. 

Coming from Juneau — beautiful, beautiful town that we all grew up in. I feel very fortunate to be able to grow up there and be safe. I knew everybody’s dogsʼ names in my neighborhood, so to speak. Was one of those towns that we knew everybody, everybody took a second to get to know one another. 

I want to say that first — very fortunate to grow up in Juneau, Alaska. Always call that home.

Finding community in a town with fewer Black people

Coming from Washington, D.C., that’s really all we saw. And then going to Alaska, with a lot of Native American brothers and sisters. And then, you know, a lot of Caucasians. And that was great, too. But we’re so used to seeing people that look like us. But you know, it was one of those fortunate things where it opened my eyes to new possibilities to making new friends and different races. 

I was very different. I looked different. My swag was different. I’m coming into school, in that old ʼ85 Dodge van, bumping Tupac and Biggie, and it was like nobody had ever heard of those rappers before. They embraced me, and they loved me. And I love them back for that. 

Outdoor opportunities in Southeast

It was one of those things that opened my eyes, you know, I’m coming from the inner city, to go into fishing and going hiking and going camping and skiing, snowboarding and living more of an outdoor life, where you’re out. You want to be outside and enjoy nature. 

We didn’t have nature in D.C., but in Juneau, we got every bit of nature that we wanted. And to be honest, for me personally, I can speak for myself as that was the best thing that could have happened to me, you know, getting the chance to be well-rounded.

His supportive family

I was very fortunate to have parents that let me dream, because I’m a dreamer. And think about a kid at 12 years old, in Juneau, Alaska, telling his parents, “Hey, I want to go to the NBA and be an NBA player.”

As soon as my parents got home from work around 5:30 or 6, we bussed out to Auke Bay, basketball courts, or outside behind Auke Bay Elementary School. And me and my dad would go at it for two hours, two-and-a-half hours, and we come home and have dinner. And that was my routine since I was 12 years old. 

Varsity career at Juneau Douglas High School

When I got to high school at 14 when Coach Houston put up the list of the guys after try-outs that said made the team, and I saw my name, I was like, “Yo!” I ran home to Mom and Dad. I was like, telling my brother, my sister,  I was telling everybody who would listen that I was on the team.

And I was lucky enough to be schooled by them, for them to teach me and give me a chance to play with them and teach me the ropes of how to be competitive and what work ethic really was like. Because them guys put the work in, and that’s why they were studs at JDHS.

And shout out to my seniors, man, they’ll always be my seniors.

Roses and thorns of his NBA career

I’m gonna go with the thorn first, it’s always good to get out the way first. So, obviously, like I said, I won the starting spot early on in my rookie year, and so I’m pumped, I’m excited. But what I didn’t tell you was when you win the starting job, that means you’re playing against starters. That means you’re playing against some of the best players on the planet.

Iʼm going up against Minnesota, and they got a guy on their team named Kevin Garnett. And then he was like, one of my idols. Like, I idolized the way that he played the game with that much passion. He was like seven feet… And then the other thing about KG was he’s so psychological with his attack on you. It wasn’t just his physical game on the court. He talked to you the whole game. So I’m over here thinking he’s struggling. Next thing you know, he goes — his nickname was the Big Ticket — He goes “Ticket, this boy can’t mess with you!” He said this. And he said it so loud. The whole arena, I thought, could hear him. And I’m like, “Dude, heʼs talking to me.” And then he went off and went crazy. Got like 37 points, like 19 rebounds.

The thorn is when you work your butt off, and you really want to be a starter in the NBA. Sometimes they’re gonna grant you because you earned it, you worked so hard for it, so I became a starter. But I was getting torched. 

The rose is that it made me work even harder. I got back in the lab, I got back in the gym, I got in the weight room. I got some muscles with me. Now I got my jump shot looking good. I got in the best shape of my life. And I made the All-Star team. And for those that don’t know, when you make this, there’s only 24 All-Stars every year.

His takeaway for listeners

I would say, kind of along the same lines of something that Coach K taught me when I was at Duke. If you got the ball in your hand, you turn the ball over. And if you dwell on that turnover, or that mistake in the game, it can be a domino effect and lead to other mistakes. 

And so Coach K was always like, “Next play, if you make a mistake on that end of the court, make up for it on the other end of the court.” Move on, think ahead, pick yourself back up. 

Disclaimer: Carlos Boozer is the brother of Natasha Boozer, who produces Culture Rich Conversations.

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