BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- In life, we tend to take our loved ones for granted without even realizing it. But when push comes to shove and times are tough, it's usually your family that's right there with you fighting the battle. Many of the success stories out there seem to always include a sacrifice made by your loved ones.
For Willie Reed, the newest Brooklyn Net and NBA vagabond, his family's sacrifices helped him finally reach his lifelong dream of becoming an NBA player and family pioneer.
"Growing up I didn't have much," Willie Reed told NetsDaily. "I actually slept on the couch or on the floor while growing up just because we had to stay with my grandmother. In order for me to go to private school, my mom saved as much money as she could and it was either I could have my own room, or I could go to private school."
His mother and grandmother played a huge role in him finding his path to success, but without his sister's personal motivation and recognition for Willie's bright future, things might not have been the same.
"My sister thought it was a good idea. She thought I had a lot going for me so she sacrificed for me and went to public school and that allowed me to go to private school. I kind of just took off from there and I'm just thankful for everything my family sacrificed for me."
After a long journey taking unconventional routes, Reed can finally say he made it. And because of that, there's something even more incredible about the success of Reed and his sister, as it's inspired his family to explore their own ceilings. They've shown what true leadership is.
"My sister was the first person in my family to graduate college. I was the first one to attend a Division 1 college. So we were kind of the trendsetters. Now a lot of our family members are trying to go to beauty school or get a degree at a community college, and we'd like to think we started that. We were just happy to have that motivation to be an inspiration on people. We'd like to think that we started that and could be happy for the rest of our family that we could do that and have that type of impact."
It wasn't an easy road in getting here, though.
The NBA vagabond has played for clubs in three different countries, four D-League teams, and has played on NBA Summer League teams for the Kings, Grizzlies, Pacers, Heat and Nets. Prior to this year, he's been on the rosters of the Grizzlies and Kings, but never stepped foot in an NBA games.
He signed a one-year deal with the Nets this past summer, but suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb in a preseason game against the Boston Celtics. It was just days before the final cuts and the injured Reed would face yet another obstacle in getting an opportunity at the NBA.
"It's just been a long journey, but like I said, you begin to appreciate every step so I appreciate every step because it's made me who I am today and I'm very thankful for it."
But as he's learned his whole life, he wasn't getting anywhere without perseverance. And something special was in the works for Reed, as the Brooklyn Nets saw his potential and placed him in one of the final spots on the roster.
On December 4th, Reed made his debut at Madison Square Garden where he recorded eight points in 11 minutes. He finally made it through persistence from not only himself, but also his family.
"This wasn't just for me that I made it, but for them too. I think it really hit them in a nice spot to say, ‘everything we did really turned out good for him. We're happy for him,'" Reed told NetsDaily.
Willie's pride never let him fall off track and forget about his ambitions. His past struggles and future goals were too strong to fall off. He had worked just too hard to make it this far.
So now that he's here, Willie feels he can be something special for the Nets, similar to what the D-League prodigy Hassan Whiteside is doing with the Miami Heat.
"His journey was somewhat similar to mine. He wasn't doing anything different than what he was doing before, it was just a matter of opportunity for him and he took advantage of it. I would love to take full advantage of my opportunity here in Brooklyn. You know, be that presence in the same way as him."
And while he hopes to follow in similar footsteps as Whiteside, there's a former NBA player that Willie wants people to stop confusing him with: Willis Reed, the former Knick and distant cousin of Willie.
But during his days playing in the Dominican Republic, Willie recalls a funny story in which the announcers would refer to him as Willis Reed Jr. He requested they stop and call him by his real name, but for some reason they refused.
"I told them every single day! But everyday they still said it. I think it was something for them or maybe they didn't understand me -- or something of that nature, but I told them everyday, but everyday it still came out the same way. Eventually, I just went out there and played."
The Nets gave him his long awaited dream, and he gave the Nets and its fans a player that's proud to be a part of the Brooklyn Nets, something that's hard to come by nowadays. He sees a lot of himself in your typical Brooklynnite.
"When you look at the city of Brooklyn, you know that everybody is hard working. They don't make any excuses, so they get down and dirty to do everything to their best ability. Obviously I'm proud to be here for the simple fact that this is the character of the people here, so to represent the city in that way is a great opportunity."
He's Willie Reed, a member of the Brooklyn Nets and NBA player, he hopes, for years to come. And to his family, he's someone who made it thanks to the unbelievable sacrifices they made in helping him become hard-working man he is today.