A Dream Realized

There’s a saying, “You don’t get what you wish for; you get what you work for.” For NBA veteran and University of Wyoming alumni Tim Breaux, his life is the blueprint of that quote. His story stretches beyond the game of basketball and touches on the importance of perseverance and believing in yourself. There’s something truly special about sharing someone’s personal journey in life with the world. Whether you are aware of Tim’s basketball career from the 90s or are a casual sports fan or not, his story is a constant reminder that we are only blessed with one life, so live it to the fullest with no regrets.

Tim’s path to professional basketball mirrors the many collegiate athletes who go undrafted and are overlooked by NBA scouts and organizations. He went from being undrafted, to being invited to the Los Angeles Lakers training camp, to the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), to playing overseas in Europe, to earning a roster spot on the 1995 Houston Rockets Championship Team, to fighting two bouts with cancer only to overcome it and proudly share with the world that he’s currently in remission. While Tim’s path to professional basketball is not the traditional college to the pros fairytale, it’s truly a story that will hopefully resonate with aspiring athletes or non-athletes to go all in and always bet on yourself in life.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS . . .

Tim Breaux’s story begins in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he was born and raised. After the age of 10, his family moved to Zachary, Louisiana, which is about 15 minutes away from Baton Rouge and more of a country town. Tim reflected, “At the age of five, I knew in my mind that playing professional basketball was what I wanted to do when I grew up.” Tim played all types of sports growing up but he believed in being “all in” with regard to picking the one sport he wanted to put his heart and soul into. He never believed in splitting his time, energy, and focus between multiple sports. He felt deep down that “Basketball was my sport of choice and I did not want to live life with regrets, wondering what if, or saying later in life, I wish I could have . . .” 

Growing up Tim described himself as more introverted and private. He reflected on his childhood and shared, “I was truly a loner and enjoyed shooting hoops in the driveway by myself. I’d take a baseball bat and practice hitting very small stones from the driveway to work on my hand-eye coordination. Socially, I sacrificed a lot because my focus was on basketball. I didn’t go to many social school events, parties, or get into the typical adolescent fun the kids in my neighborhood got into. Being inside of a gym and shooting for hours and working on my game was fun for me. At times, I may have been misunderstood by a few classmates for keeping to myself and just wanting independence from larger groups. Due to the fact I was more introverted, personal space meant a lot to me. I preferred to do school work and projects independently of my classmates and friends. It’s unfortunate to say but several teachers would directly say negative things to me; in short, they would say I would never be successful in life. All of that was just fuel to the fire to make me prove them wrong later in life and a reason why I enjoy motivating people present day through public speaking.”

GRATITUDE AND THANKS

When we look back at life, we try to pinpoint what shaped us, both mentally and physically, to overcome the adversity that life would introduce. For Tim, this foundation started with his parents. His father, Herbert Breaux Jr. was the role model, hero, and, of course, the patriarch of the family that would mold Tim into the man he is today. Tim personally shared, “My father is the blueprint and the epitome of hard work and sacrifice for his family. My mother Louvenia is where I credit my inner strength from. I credit her spirituality and dedication to my success in life. As a kid growing up in Louisiana chasing my hoop dreams, my mother was there for every game I played. Looking back at things, I have an even greater appreciation of the sacrifices and unconditional love my parents provided me. Everything I needed as a foundation started with my parents and stems from there.

Tim Breaux played for the University of Wyoming Basketball Program from 1988-1992

“My Uncle Alfred, who is on my mother’s side, was the first one to show me how to shoot a jump shot, helped me with my footwork, and shared all the intricacies of the game of basketball. Growing up in my neighborhood in Baton Rouge, I would witness how intimidating he was to the local basketball players. He was admired by many and I truly feel that with the right guidance, he could have made it to the league and played professionally.

“My gratitude continues with my high school basketball coach at Zachary High, Sam Barham, and my college coach at the University of Wyoming, Benny Dees. Coach Barham gave me the opportunity to realize my talent and showcase my skills at the high school level. At the University of Wyoming, Coach Dees provided the extra push and reminder to never give up and to not take this opportunity I’m blessed with for granted. If by chance I was slacking off, Coach Dees would be the first one to remind me to focus and dig deeper.”

PATH TO THE PROS

As Tim Breaux’s college basketball career came to a close at the University of Wyoming, his path to the draft and his hopes and dreams of playing in the NBA would be a challenge. As an NBA rookie that went undrafted, Tim was invited to the training camp for the Miami Heat and then jumped on an opportunity to work out for the Los Angeles Lakers. During that brief stint in LA, Tim had the honor of scrimmaging against, and with, the future Basketball Hall of Famer, Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Tim will never forget Magic telling him, “Tim you are not gonna make this team. We have too many guaranteed contracts unfortunately. What I want you to do is go down to the CBA (considered the minor leagues to the NBA), play hard, stay in great shape, and put up some numbers down there and I guarantee you’ll be back up here one day.” To hear words of encouragement from an NBA icon and someone that was globally respected by all meant the world to Tim and continued to inspire him to not give up on his dream. 

For Tim, his time in the CBA would be one of the more humbling experiences he would ever endure with the game of basketball. As Tim reflects, “It was not the most glorious time of my life, the travel wasn’t great, the hotels we stayed in were not the best, and we were lucky if we made $500 a week.” There’s quite a few success stories of athletes making the leap from the CBA to the NBA and those handful of stars all had one thing in common from Tim’s point of view, “The players that made an NBA roster from the CBA all came in with a chip on their shoulder and were willing to do whatever it took to not get sent back down to the CBA.” When Tim and I sat down we talked about John Starks and the late Anthony Mason as prominent names from the 90s that successfully went from the CBA to eventually playing pivotal roles on the New York Knicks.

OVERSEAS—EURO BASKETBALL

Beyond the traditional path of playing professional basketball in the states, many American athletes venture overseas to play. For Tim, his journey in 1993 started in France where he played for a few months and then would eventually play in Valencia, Spain. The opportunities for Tim were truly about him being in the right place at the right time. Tim replaced two different injured players in France and Spain, respectively. The journey was eye opening and the opposite of what Tim expected to experience. Tim took a moment to reflect, “My game reached a whole new level by playing in Europe. It started with the coaches, the fundamentals they practiced over and over; practice was twice a day, and we spent a lot of time doing shooting drills. At the end of the day, as long as you put in the work, your game was guaranteed to evolve and reach new heights.”

Tim shared some words of wisdom for athletes looking to play professional basketball overseas, “My best advice whether you are early in your career or somewhere in between, go there with an open mind. You’ll be exposed to a new culture, community, and environment. The coaches in Europe are a lot different than the American coaches. It doesn’t matter what you accomplished in the states; when you walk into that gym, leave your ego at the door. While you may find teenagers from international countries playing with grown men, the majority of the league is filled with professionals that are there to earn a living and play ball. I was mistaken by the perception versus the reality of the talent in other countries. I truly thought the talent would be watered down and inferior to the states. I was dead wrong! The men overseas can play and if you don’t show up, you will get embarrassed. I’m blessed to have experienced their version of basketball. My time in Europe and Central America during my basketball career in the 90s are chapters that I’m very proud of.”

REALIZING MY NBA HOOP DREAMS . . .

When Tim moved back to the states, he crashed on the couch of a friend by the name of BJ Johnson, who worked closely with Tim’s agent. During his time in Houston, Tim would play pickup basketball in the summer at the legendary Fonde Recreation Center. Each summer, that gym was graced with a who’s who of NBA stars, college athletes, and local legends. 

Tim said, “In order to play in that gym, you had to earn your way onto the court. The first few days they didn’t know who I was and I rarely got on the court. After a few days, I finally got to play and I never looked back. It just happened that a scout from the Rockets was in the gym and word got back to Rockets Head Coach Rudy Tomjanovich (Rudy T.) about me.” The Houston Rockets had just come off a championship in 1994 and there was an opportunity to earn a roster spot due to potential off-season changes. The scout was very persistent with Rudy T., who was initially against the idea of taking a look at Tim. Thanks to continued persistence, Rudy T. and the organization gave in and invited Tim to Utah to showcase his skills over eight games in the summer league. 

Tim recalls Coach Rudy T. calling him and telling him, “I really love your game and we could really use a person of your skill set to attack the rim with your athleticism.” After summer league, Tim signed a three-year deal that gave him guaranteed money but he still had to earn a roster spot by competing against two roster players and a second round draft pick. While it was a tall task to overcome, Tim beat the odds and became an official Houston Rocket for the 94–95 season.

Houston Rockets – 1995 NBA Champs (Back to Back Champs 1994 and 1995)

As the regular 94–95 season kicked off, Tim’s first game as a Rocket was capped off by the ring ceremony for the 1994 Houston Rockets Championship Team. For Tim, “The chills started in the locker room where I easily spent a lot of time staring at my jersey hanging in my locker. As I put it on, I couldn’t help but look in the mirror and say to myself, I made it! There was a buzz in the building and a sense of optimism by the fans. I was in awe for the first time ever. On that evening coach didn’t put me in the game. I was ready and willing to contribute and make my debut on opening night, but I was a spectator of greatness and that evening I was shown a foreshadow of the beginning of our NBA championship run. In game two of the season at Minnesota, I saw my first action as an NBA player and contributed to a winning night on the road.”

For Tim, the compliment that solidified his confidence and belief that he belonged would come from none other than ABA and NBA Legend and Basketball Hall of Famer, Julius Erving aka “Dr. J.” Tim remembers Dr. J personally pulling him aside and telling him “I really like your game, you can play, young fella!” For Tim to hear that from one of his childhood heroes solidified any doubts that he belonged in the NBA. In 1995, Tim was a part of the Rockets Championship Team, led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler that defeated the Orlando Magic featuring Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway in a four-game sweep.

THE MOMENT I KNEW IT WAS TIME TO RETIRE . . . 

As Tim reflected, “It was tough for me because when I stopped I was 35 years old. I felt as though I could still physically play well into my early 40s, at least overseas. I got to the point where I was getting tired of temporarily living across the country and being away from home. Truth be told, the first five years of retirement was the toughest for me. I went in waves of depression and sought help to overcome the dark times and better understand myself. 

“We are all creatures of habit and, as athletes, our daily regimen is thrown off when we enter retirement from professional sports. Similar to the mental adjustment of a soldier transitioning from military to civilian life, an athlete goes through their own cycles of adjustment. I went from traveling all over the world and country with my teammates, playing with and against future Basketball Hall of Famers and stars, being the center of attention by the fans, the adrenaline rush of competing and pushing your physical limits, and most importantly playing the sport you love on the stage you dreamed of as a kid, to all of a sudden having that taken away and having to reinvent myself and start a new chapter in my life in a totally different industry and role. The question of ‘what do I do next?’ is a real thing. In the early 2000s, the mortgage industry was booming and my friends were making really good money. As I transitioned away from the game of basketball, I decided to give [finance] a shot because I was always interested in it.

“During my first ever interview for a mortgage company, the odds of me getting the position was a long shot. I had zero professional experience. Years later, the person that interviewed me privately shared that the decision makers above him were opposed to taking a chance on me based on my lack of professional experience in that industry. I remember him telling me, ‘Although you have no previous job experience in this industry, as an athlete you possess the skills to excel in this space. You understand teamwork, sacrifice, goal setting, facing adversity, and based on your tenure as an athlete, you realize the importance of relationships and communication.’ He took a chance on me with the faith that my instincts and abilities would translate over and I’d be successful. I did everything humanly possible to not let him down and 14 years later here I am still standing strong in the mortgage industry.” 

OVERCOMING THE ODDS WITH CANCER, TWICE . . . 

While basketball will always be an important chapter in Tim’s life, the year 2010 would forever change his outlook. When Tim went to his doctor for a routine check-up, the doctor noted his white blood count was on the high side. As they conducted further tests, Tim was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. “I didn’t want to believe it and refused to accept the fact that I had cancer. I was healthy and in great shape and couldn’t rationalize the idea of this being a reality. As time went on, it got worse and I received chemotherapy treatment that lasted about eight months. In time I went into remission and everything was fantastic.”

In 2015, Tim went for his routine six month check-up and he heard the two words he was hoping to never hear again, “It’s back!” The thought of feeling sorry for himself or being scared was not an option. Tim had endured a lot in his life leading up to 2015 and the news was just another obstacle he was going to overcome, again. Tim shared, “To show you my drive and determination, I would get my chemo treatments on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday was the long day of treatment and Thursday and Friday would be roughly 2 hours. After the treatments on Thursday and Friday I would go directly to work. I was feeling like crap but I kept grinding. I credit that to sports and the mental toughness and perseverance I gained playing through injuries. By going to work, it kept my mind off of my health and I didn’t have time to overthink things. The only question that mattered to me was, will I die from this? The doctors told me no, and that I can beat this. My will to win and overcome this setback was ingrained in me from a young age. My father prepared me to never give up and focus on putting all of my energy in changing the narrative in my life when I wasn’t willing to live with it. I’m proud to say I’m in remission again and found a way to beat the odds on two separate occasions. I never take a day of my life for granted. I credit my athleticism, self motivation, and mental toughness as drivers that inspire me to work out twice a day, while taking my daily medication to keep the disease at bay. I take the same mantra with my health and wellness as I did with the game of basketball. The approach is pretty straight forward: put in the work and stay consistent with it.”

WHY NOW . . . 

Tim Breaux at the legendary Fonde Rec Center, in Houston, TX. Grateful for being discovered in that very gym. Equally grateful for the legends and Basketball Hall of Famers that graced that gym like the late great Moses Malone.

As my sit down with Tim came to a close, I had him reflect on, “Who is Tim Breaux, not the athlete but the human being? Why is now the time to share your story?” Tim shared the following, “I’ve been hesitant to share my story but came to the realization that not sharing it would be a disservice. I personally want to share my gratitude and thanks to my fiancee, Trenita Oliver and stepson, Reggie Spivey for their continued support and providing me with the inspiration to finally share my story with the world. For every guaranteed first rounder and surefire NBA Draft pick, there’s a larger handful of aspiring athletes that won’t make it to year two or three. It could be due to injury, lack of work ethic, bad life choices, or just taking their opportunity for granted. It’s with the hope that my story will resonate with someone reading this and inspire them to not give up hope and believe in oneself no matter what the odds say. When adversity and failure strikes, it will tell you everything you need to know about your character and inner strength. Mark my words, quitting is never an option whether we are talking about chasing your dreams, achieving your goals, or overcoming the odds of beating cancer. My story is unique to me but has many parallels to the many athletes competing at the NBA Summer League, looking to get noticed. Many of them have been told their odds are slim to make an NBA roster or the harsh reality that they aren’t good enough to play in the league. It’s easy to walk away and quit! It takes a bigger person to believe in yourself, execute on the mission at hand, and prove the doubters wrong.”

Tim Breaux’s story is a prime example of why I created Beyond the Legacy. He’s an inspiration to the athletes or student athletes that have been overlooked or told their dreams are unrealistic. Life will always present obstacles and when we are faced with two choices, we can concede and quit or we can accept the challenge and give it 100%. I salute Tim for sharing his story with the world and making his own unique impact through public speaking and giving private advice to aspiring athletes and students he crosses paths with. I truly feel the beauty of one’s story interconnects with what happened prior to the end result.  Everything Tim endured and all the support he had from his family prepared him for the unknowns the future would bring. The words from Magic Johnson and Dr. J stayed with him to this day and were motivating factors in the moment to believe. It’s very easy to assume things in life are handed to others but until you experience their story through their eyes, you can’t truly see what it took to achieve their goals, overcome adversity and realize their dreams. For anyone reading this, it starts from within by believing in yourself and knowing your worth!

More about Drew Stephens

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