Will Bynum knows all about overcoming. He made it out of tough, inner-city Chicago, flourished at times in college before having to find himself all over again as a player in Israel. Since earning his way back into the NBA with the Pistons, Bynum staked his claim to a roster spot and a guaranteed place in the league.
He knows all about perseverance, and from August 1-3, Bynum went home to offer a camp (free of charge) for 100 8-15-year-old Chicago youths. The 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. camp gave them the chance to learn hoops from a pro but more importantly, it taught them leadership and life lessons so many of these kids desperately need.
“My main thing was to get the message across to the kids of the values that it took me to succeed and the things that were instilled in me,” says Bynum. “With me going through the journey that I’ve been through and having success the way that I did, I was just telling them that you gotta have a great attitude, one. And two, you gotta work hard no matter what you do. You’re gonna go through a lot of times where you fail or are disappointed and things don’t happen your way. But you have to persevere and keep working through those times.”
Bynum brought in speakers from the U.S. Army and Navy, as well as some of the area’s best college coaches, to talk about anti-violence and avoiding gangs as most of the campers hailed from the West Side of Chicago. Bynum wanted the kids to know “it’s okay to be different.”
“Those times are the life-changing times when you can just look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘It’s my fault’ instead of trying to blame someone else,” Bynum says. “Those are the times that can change your life if you have the right mindset and approach the situation with a different mentality than everybody else. That’s what I was trying to get across to the kids, especially here in Chicago. The kids are coming from the inner city, poor areas, the same areas that I grew up in so I understood that and I could relate to the kids really well.”
The Detroit guard showed the kids how to break down film (one of the main reasons he is where he is today) and put them through a lot of basketball drills. The youths also received free pairs of gym shoes, and Bynum even played in the camp’s All-Star game, where he put down this dunk.
I talked with Will earlier this summer in-between his workouts (the dude works out eight hours EVERY DAY) about nearly everything, including some of his journey and how his time overseas changed his career.
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Dime: What did you learn during your time overseas?
Will Bynum: It was special because when I was there – unlike a lot of other places that I have been – I felt like they genuinely taught me the game and how to play the game the right way. For me understanding that, at the time I didn’t understand that when I first was there because they would write bad things about me but I would be scoring a lot of points. I didn’t understand. I would be like “Why? What’s going on?” I was watching a lot of film and I was realizing that they were teaching me the game and teaching me the value of sharing the basketball. After I learned that, it made me a better player. And even like the people on the street would come up to me and would be telling me things like “You play very well. You are really, really good. But you have to learn how to pass the basketball” (laughs). So I took that, I kinda took that as a good thing and I didn’t take it like they were saying things bad about me or taking it in a negative way. I took it in a positive way. I worked on it. I watched a lot of film and what I realized was they were teaching me the game man. It helped me get to the point where I’m at now.
Dime: You say you learned so much there. Do you think that before you got there, you weren’t enough of a traditional point guard?
WB: All of my life I was playing the point guard position, but since I was so talented I was able to do what I wanted to do on a team. So there wasn’t a whole lot of teaching going on because my talent level was so high. In college, I was on extremely good teams in Georgia Tech and Arizona which had point guards at the time in Jason Gardner and Jarrett Jack when I was there, so they kinda just played me with those guys. It worked out well. We were winning and we went to the championship, but for me to be effective at the next level, I had to learn how to dominate the game from the shoulders up and that’s what I learned in Israel.
I didn’t have an opportunity to run my own team in college.