I appreciate Ballers Abroad for giving me the platform to speak.
My name is Robert Crawford and I’m a 198cm guard from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Right now I’m signed with the Worcester Wolves in the United Kingdom (the Worcester Wolves play in the British Basketball League).
Like every hooper, my dream has always been to play in the NBA. At 28 years old, that dream for me is still alive. I just always think “why not?” Especially in the days of social media, you never know what can happen and I’ve always been considered a late bloomer.
I started playing ball at age 3, but I fell in love with the game in sixth grade. That’s where it really all began. I was always considered good, but I never really got the recognition I felt I deserved. In fourth grade I was one of the newcomers at my school, (Victory Christian, Tulsa, OK) so the teams were already established from the previous years. Therefore, all the newcomers and the not so “good” players ended up on the same team, but without a coach. My mom talked to my dad and that’s when my dad stepped in and agreed to be our coach. As fate would have it, our team ended up being the best of our three school teams as well as one of the best around the city. The will and desire to prove that I belonged among top notch players kicked in, and I began to develop the crazy work ethic and passion for the game that I still have today.
Into my high school years, statistically I was one of the best in my city and state but for reasons that I didn’t understand at the time, I still wasn’t getting that recognition. Looking back on it, I credit some of the reasons to not really playing for the right AAU teams and not really having any idea how getting my name out there worked. I was recruited by some mid-major schools coming out of High School: Central Arkansas, Evansville, Florida Atlantic, and a few others. Oklahoma State had a very high interest, but my teenage know-it-all attitude had also kicked in, and I missed out on that opportunity. All other interest I had resulted from playing for my dad’s AAU teams and creating a little buzz for myself in the Midwest. I grinded everything from the ground up with no real help or guidance.
I ended up signing with Central Arkansas out of high school but after a year and a half I transferred to Connors State College. I played well there for my sophomore year and had quite a few Division 1 offers on the table. Interestingly enough I ended up signing back at Central Arkansas, but this time playing under ex-NBA player Corliss Williamson.
I finished out my collegiate career at UCA, with good enough stats to attract agents from all around the world. I graduated college, and the following season I began my professional career in Hungary. After being there for a month I was released in the preseason averaging right around 16 points per game. A couple months after that I was drafted into the NBA G League with the Tulsa 66ers (now the Oklahoma City Blue). Being barely 21 years old, I was intimidated by the “old timers” even though I was just as talented. By the time I made my up my mind to break out of that rookie shell and just play ball, I got released. One of the assistant coaches asked why I hadn’t played like that from the beginning of the training camp, but it was too late.
This is when the real grind began. I thought I would graduate college, start my pro career, make my money and live happily ever after. Little did I know I would be sitting at home jobless from December to late March with no money and no direction. However, I still had that crazy work ethic, unbelievable heart, patience and resilience.
In March of 2014 I landed a job in Spain’s fifth division with U.E. Mataro. To this day I still thank my coach, Jordi Ventura, for that opportunity. I played there for the remainder of that season. So in the offseason, from May 2014 to March 2015, I had to grind it with a regular 9-5 job cleaning cars, factory work, etc. just to earn money and still be physically ready for my next basketball job opportunity. It was easily the hardest time in my life. I felt it was unnecessary turmoil since I had an associate and a bachelor’s degree, but I just wasn’t ready to give up. Now I’m thankful for this challenging period because this time allowed me the opportunity to create my own media production business, RWC Productions, which produces highlight tapes, logos, and graphic designs for high school to professional athletes in all areas. So right when I was contemplating whether to quit basketball and use my degrees, my prayers were answered, and I got a contract in Mexico from March through May of 2015.
In the summer of 2015 I signed to play in Portugal and my team won the 2016 League Championship. Since then I’ve been gaining momentum playing last season in Germany and helping Rasta Vechta to a championship. I’m currently playing in the UK with the Worcester Wolves and also back in school working on my master’s degree in creative media. It’s been a tough journey but one that I’m extremely proud and thankful for.
Since with God, all things are possible, I still have that NBA dream. That’s why I’ll continue to work and train young players, (my little brother, Chris, included), and will always encourage them to keep grinding. Everybody’s journey is different and to never compare yourself or your journey to somebody else’s journey. Earlier when I talked about some of the reasons things have worked out differently from my plans, this journey has given me the opportunity to continue to cultivate a closer relationship with God. Now if I had the choice of a successful NBA career but not have a relationship with God, I’d choose my journey again in a heartbeat. Today I know that at the end of the day, if I hit the game winning shot, and when the scoreboard is turned off and all the fans have gone home, my life and career would be meaningless without God. There is one thing more than I desire above all else which is to hear Him say, “well done my good and faithful servant, well done.”