DALLAS, Texas - This is not your normal "uncomfortable questions." This is just more a fascinating handful of answers from a guy who grew up in third-world conditions and is now a millionaire several times over.
Dallas Mavericks center Samuel Dalembert was born in Haiti; he moved to Montreal when he was 14 and only then did he start playing basketball. It really helped he was 6-foot-11. He is in his first season with the Mavericks, and thus far he is averaging 8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game.
He has played 12 NBA seasons, and made more than $85 million in NBA paychecks. That's decent money, even today.
The knock on Dalembert is that he coasts. Considering how he grew up, I am not sure winning/losing a single NBA game can ever be perceived as life or death in his view.
What was it like to grow up in Haiti? That’s a good question. There is nothing to compare. It was what it was. It was a poor country. We find things to do to keep busy. We make toys out of anything. We make toys to keep ourselves entertained.
I am guessing no TV? I didn’t grow up with a TV. I finally got a bike. It was weird to see this big, tall guy on a bike. I just played soccer all the time. Two times a day. I play in the morning, and then when the sun gets too hot – between 11 and 3 we stop – and then we start playing again. That keeps us going. We have other games where we chase each other. Stick ball. We played like Cowboys and Indians.
Was it that much different to be a kid there? It was everything that kids are doing here except we didn’t have the luxury of things like that.
How did your parents decide to move to Canada? My parents left me when they were young. I was about to be one when they both left. My grandmother raised me. They were going for a better opportunity and a better life. They went to Canada. They went for their degree there. When they got residence, that was when I moved there. I got a chance to spend a few years with them.
When you did move to Canada, what your reaction to the weather and the cold? Man ... The first time I had seen snow was on TV. I was like, 'What the hell is that?' Someone said it’s a different part of the world where it’s snowy and icy. So when I left I was on the plane, it was empty. We left Haiti. We were coming in and I could see out the window and I thought, 'Where the hell are we landing?' It was all white. I was like what the hell? I didn’t have a coat. That’s a story again. I didn’t have a coat.
I got off the plane. My dad, he was tall, too. He was like 6-7. I met my dad and the coat was too short. It came up to the middle of my arms. I was like, 'Oh my God.' I met my parents. I met my sister.
Was that an awkward adjustment living with your parents again? My mother and father were already divorced so I lived with my mom. It was weird. It was weird. There was so much to catchup. She didn’t know me. She didn’t know my habits. My grandmother knew me, and my little tactics. We had to get to know each other. There wasn’t as much time. She was going to school and she was working. She left the house at 5:30 or 6 in the morning. And she would come back at 7. So she would come back and she was tired, or she was studying. And then me and my sister. It was like, we really bonded. It was a pretty tricky adjustment.
Other than the weather, what was the hardest adjustment to Montreal? Well, it was better because the chickens were already cleaned up. The food was already cooked. It was a shocking experience. I was like – you don’t have to chase the chicken.
And to go to a grocery store? Yeah, that was weird. It made me sad in a way. ... OK, so we are finished. I have to go.
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