Errick McCollum made it a point to attend his younger brother CJ’s contract extension press conference with the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday morning. In fact, the conference was delayed until Friday so that he could do so. After all, brothers stick together; a notion Errick wrote about in his Players’ Tribune article, detailing where he had been just days ago, earning his own massive paycheck.
The piece is entitled How to Grind Your Way to $2 Million and is centered around Errick’s involvement in "The Basketball Tournament" (TBT), an annual, March Madness-style tournament that is open to anyone in the world—with a winner-take-all cash prize. Errick and his carefully constructed team of players that never quite made the NBA (Overseas Elite) won the tournament for the second year in a row. The fire that drove him to success in TBT burns from the torch C.J. now carries as an emblem of the overlooked.
A Goshen College alum, Errick has carved out a remarkable career overseas, but still plays with a chip on his shoulder after missing out on playing D-I basketball as a youth. At that time, he was told he was too small and not physical enough—the same criticisms CJ faced early on, as you’ll read in the article.
Errick took that critique to heart, and made sure to protect CJ when his time came as well, helping him turn rejection into motivation.
I distinctly remember my mom calling me at school during my freshman year at Goshen. C.J. was a sophomore at my old high school, and was in his first year starting for the varsity. The adjustment was tough for him in the beginning, so the coach moved him to the sixth-man role. My mom told me that an AAU coach had approached her and told her that C.J. was "at best a D-II player."
That comment fired me up. I didn’t go to a D-I school, and that made me want C.J., my little brother, to get a chance to go to one more than anything.
"Mom, don’t tell C.J.," I told her.
That year, I would come home from college and take C.J. to the gym. We’d work out for hours. We played angry. We worked out like we had something to prove to the people who had underestimated me, and who were underestimating him. C.J. would get frustrated, but he would never let it get him down. Just like me, he would watch his peers playing on national TV and wonder why so many BCS and mid-major D-I schools had passed on him (he had only one offer from a D-I school).
Fast forward to present day once more and CJ is one of the brightest up-and-comers in the NBA. Errick, himself, is one of the most successful international players around, coming off a Eurocup championship with Galatasaray and a TBT victory with Overseas Elite. The McCollum brothers' relationship has sustained them through the toughest times of their respective careers, and now they’ve hit an intersecting point where they can enjoy each other’s success.
C.J. texted me when I was in the locker room. He’d been watching on TV.
"I’m proud of you. Keep riding the wave."
For just a moment, I reflected on the last year. C.J. got a big contract from the Trail Blazers. Now I had won TBT for the second consecutive time. That chip on my shoulder? I think it’s still there. To have been counted out and succeed, I think, feels better than never having been counted out at all. You certainly appreciate your success more.
To read Errick’s article in full, follow this link to The Players’ Tribune. It’s a good read.