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Home » How to Grow from Underdog to Basketball and Social Media Icon: The Professor (Transcript)

How to Grow from Underdog to Basketball and Social Media Icon: The Professor (Transcript)

Grayson ‘The Professor’ Boucher

Full transcript of Grayson ‘The Professor’ Boucher’s inspirational TEDx Talk: How to Grow from Underdog to Basketball and Social Media Icon at TEDxDenHelder conference. This event occurred on October 8, 2018.

 

NOTABLE POINTS FROM THIS TALK:

  1. You have to prove yourself every day.
  2. Hearing “No” isn’t the end of the road.
  3. I would encourage everybody to try to seek their passion, because I think often that’s where you can find your purpose.

 

[Video clip]

Grayson ‘The Professor’ Boucher – Streetball Legend

Good afternoon.

My name is Grayson Boucher, better known as The Professor. I’ve been blessed to play the game of basketball for 15 years professionally and still going.

I’ve had the opportunity to be hosted for events in over 40 countries worldwide. Though I’m an athlete, technically my job title is social influencer.

For those of you guys who don’t know what social influencer is it’s somebody who utilizes social media full-time for a living.

My main part of my business is my YouTube channel: Professor Live. I have 3 million subscribers, over 400 million views and it’s host to the number one web series on all of YouTube called Spiderman Basketball.

Now despite any of this, when I walked to the stage a few seconds ago, my guess is that none of you would have assumed that I’m a professional basketball player.

As a short white guy, I don’t have any outstanding athletic features, not all, not big.

So when people hear that I’m a pro ball player, they tend to ask two things.

First thing they ask is: How? How is it that you’re a professional ball player based on your size and stature?

The second thing they ask is: Why? Why are you not in the NBA? Because when people think about a long-standing basketball career they tend to think of the NBA.

So that’s why I’m here today. I want to take you guys through my journey and answer those couple of questions.

It all started off for me — small suburb town of Keizer, Oregon. Started playing basketball at two years old. My dad put the basketball in my hands. He had a passion for the game and it wore off on me almost instantly.

I started playing basketball every day. Started on a Larry Bird nerve hoop and then this is the driveway that I was practicing every day.

My goal was to be in NBA by about third grade.

I started working with a skills trainer. This skills trainer taught me some vital fundamental ball handling drills, they needed for the long run.

By sixth grade, I had mastered a few moves. For you ball players, I mastered the in and out, in and out crossover and then my favorite moved to Allen Iverson Crossover. Allen Iverson was my favorite NBA player at that time.

Now my whole childhood I was very very small. I was always a late bloomer. All my peers were always way bigger than me. So I was on the court, I was always playing bigger competition.

And when I would do crossovers and moves like that against the defense, the crowds would go crazy.

Freshman year in high school, I was 4’11, 85 pounds. As you can see number 10, much smaller than my teammates. Started on the Freshman team. Things were good.

15 years old. I got a hold of the AND1 Mixtapes. These tapes had gritty street ball and it was a flashy style of play with hip hop music over the top as of VHS tapes put out by the company. AND1 was a sneaker and apparel company that they used this to promote their brand.

So these things inspired me the next level, the guys that were playing on them were my idols and it made me want to take my ball handling creativity to the next level.

Junior year in high school, I get cut from the varsity team. This was a major bummer to me. My whole identity was in basketball. So for me not to be able to play with my peers on the varsity level and have to play junior varsity as a junior was kind of embarrassing. I hated it.

And at this time, the AND1 style of play had sort of started to influence my game.

I remember one time my coach pulled me aside and he said, “Grayson, is everything okay?”

And I was like, “Yeah, what’s up?”

He said, “Well, are you dribbling for show or you dribbling for dough?”

And I remember I said dough. But the truth is my play started to look like the sizzle reels that you saw earlier is a little bit flashy.

Come senior year. Transferred to a small school: Salem Academy Christian. There’s only like 300 kids in the entire school. I wanted to get more opportunity and to plan on a varsity team. I got the second team all-state. I was one vote away from League MVP and I averaged 22 points and 7 assists.

So things were going pretty good.

After my senior year, I was thinking I would get some college offers. But it turned out I got no college offers.

I went to try out for three different colleges. I got cut from all three. Every time the coach would tell my dad the same thing and say, “Hey, you know what, this kid’s got some skills offensively, but he’s a little bit small. You know, we don’t think he could guard anybody at this level.”

As you can see right here, I was about 5’7, 120 pounds.

So my dad’s a small-business owner. He owned a jewelry store, still does today. And he specialized in wedding sets and it just so happened that the one college that I hadn’t tried out for was the local community college. And the head coach just happened to buy his wedding ring from my dad.

And during this transaction, my dad persuaded him to give me an opportunity. He said, “Hey, I got a son. He loves the game. He’s pretty skilled. He’s just not getting the opportunity.”

So this coach was nice enough to let me come out, try out for the team, ended up making the team as the very last man.

So I got very little playing time. I played about three minutes a game. If the game was closed, wouldn’t even get in.

So at that point through my freshman year in college, I was basically a benchwarmer, a scrub at the lowest level of college basketball. My dream of making the NBA stuff like that was somewhere way off in the distance.

So I could have gave up but you know what basketball is my passion. So I decided to dedicate myself that much more and I started doing three days.

I wake up at five in the morning before class. I tried to make a thousand jump shots. Go to class. Afterwards we’d have open gym where we scrimmage five on five.

Then I would go hit some weights and then after weights I’ll come back to the gym and work on my game some more at night.

So I had dedicated myself very hard, and from about March, my freshman year in college 2003 to June, I had improved about 300%. And when we do our open gyms, I was one of the best players of the gym if not the best.

So the hard work and dedication had paid off.

That same summer in 2003, the company AND1 had rose to so much popularity with the AND1 Mixtapes that I love to watch. They landed a reality TV show on ESPN and it was documenting their first nationwide tour 30 cities around the United States.

So me and my brother were thrilled when we found out they were coming to Oregon. Portland was the closest city to my hometown. We drove up our way. We get up there. I can’t wait to watch my idols play. For some of you ball players you might remember the names of Hot Sauce, AO, Escalade, Main Event — these guys were my idols.

So we get up there and it just so happened before the game they had tryouts for locals. And apparently if you make it from his tryout, you get to play in the game against the AND1 players.

So I figured I’d give it a shot. I had a flashy game. I loved this style of play. So I hopped in there in the tryout. Got a few moves off; hit a couple shots. Next thing you know the crowd was really excited.

Myself and another player got voted out of about four or five hundred players to go inside and play against the team, AND1 that night.

So next, I’m more than excited, I find myself going head to head against the headliner of the AND1 Mixtape tour. We’re having this battle. The crowd is loving it.

That night after the game, they asked me to go on tour with them. And then they told me that the ESPN reality TV series is actually all about the locals trying out at each tour stop, going through this whole summer long series of elimination, to narrow it down to one contestant winner to win a contract with Team AND1.

So I was in this contest and I didn’t even care at that point because I was just excited to play with my idols. I was on top of the world as far as a hoop dream could go. This was it for me.

So end up playing out of my mind that summer. I was pulling off moves and hitting shots that I never could duplicate; find myself at the very last city New York City at Madison Square Garden. I end up hitting a game-winning three-point shot from about ten feet behind the three-point line and we beat AND1 for the first time.

And I ended up winning the contract to sign with AND1 and be the winner of the ESPN reality TV show, at 18 years old.

So that’s how my pro career started and during my run with AND1, I had an incredible time. But it was very ironic, because months before I was playing junior college at the lowest level, not really getting an opportunity.

So hard work and dedication had paid off.

With AND1, we were on ESPN for six seasons. Had an incredible run. I got to play in over 30 countries. I got to make a bunch of friends. I met all my favorite athletes and entertainers.

And aside from playing with AND1, I also during this time was still trying to make to NBA playing in conventional leagues and minor leagues and different things like that.

But at a certain point in about 2007, I realized the opportunity and politics just weren’t on my side. Making the NBA was going to be very very tough.

So I decided to stick with street ball, because I already built a legacy in this genre and I said go full force with that. I figured it was my calling in life.

By the end of 2008, me and my teammates were thinking we were going to renew our contracts for a seventh season on ESPN. But it just so happened that we got no call to renew our contracts. AND1 was under different ownership and they decided not to use their street ball tours to promote their brand anymore.

So to us, this was devastating. We didn’t really know what to think. You know, I hadn’t prepared for the next phase of life.

So I find myself in 2009 with about less than $200 in my bank account. I didn’t know what to do to make ends meet.

It just so happened that in my closet I found this box that I had kept 75 of my AND1 game jerseys. And I knew that these held a lot of value because worldwide, even though, we weren’t re-upping for the next year, AND1 street ball was still very very popular.

So I sold all my jerseys on eBay anonymously; end up making like 30 grand and I lived off that for about six months. And so that’s how I could get off my feet.

Other than that, I was doing a few clinics here and there, do some training stuff and I would do like one-off games globally. So I’d do like a Africa game, do a game in Brazil, Russia but the games didn’t come every month. You know we might have a couple games one month, and three months no games.

So it was really hard to make ends meet.

2011; end up meeting a guy in Los Angeles who said that he wanted to start another street ball company. He wanted to pick up where AND1 left off. He said he had a TV show for our tour on Fox Sports. So me and my teammates naturally were excited.

You know, this is a second chance. Most people have their wave of fame or being on top and you don’t get a second chance.

So what he was saying was incredible. He was going to start this tour up. We were getting ready to sign contracts. Were in Los Angeles, 2011. I’m with my good friend right here, Troy Jackson, better known as Escalade, exhaled by his size. He was about 6’9, between 400 to 500 pounds but he’s incredible talent.

I mean this guy was an amazing athlete. He dribbled like a guard even though he was about the size of the center.

So we’re hanging out in Los Angeles, getting ready to promote this tour. Things are looking real good. I wake up that Sunday morning to find out that my best friend here died of a heart attack.

So I was immediately just distraught. I couldn’t even think about basketball, the most down time in my entire life. This moment right here calls me to ask the bigger questions of life for the first time.

You know, what am I supposed to be doing? What is my purpose? What’s going to happen when I die?

So I end up going to his funeral, three weeks later, Brooklyn New York. His brother was actually running the funeral service. His name is Mark Jackson. He’s actually a famous ex-NBA player, famous NBA analyst. But he’s also a pastor.

And during the service it was really hard to sit through a very tough funeral for me especially. You know, I talked to Escalade every day in tour six to eight months out of the year.

But at the end of the funeral service he did altar call. He said hey you know what, if you want to be where my brother is in heaven right now feel free to come to the altar. Give your life to Jesus Christ.

And I felt really compelled to do so. So I did just that and I became Christian at that moment. It was a major turning point in my life.

Fast forward to 2013, working on my YouTube channel, trying to come up ways to expand viewership. I had videos that had 50,000 views, 150,000 views. I did pretty well. But I was trying to figure out how quick — how we go mainstream with the viewership, how can I get millions of views and have a much wider platform.

So a friend of mine we sat down and put our heads together to come up with an idea. He was into basketball but he was also familiar with Cosplay and we came up with a concept where we put basketball and Cosplay together.

And what it was, was I took to the court dressed as a superhero to play people 101 as a prank. And naturally we used the character Spiderman because it covered every part of the body.

So we end up going to shoot this video, dressed as Spiderman, took about 25 minutes at the park. I feel like it was just meant to because every move I was doing was working. I don’t think I missed one shot.

I go home that night. I end up editing the video myself, a couple hours. I uploaded on YouTube. They said it was gonna take like five or six hours so I was tired at night. I went to sleep.

Woke up the next morning, video had 3 million views. To my surprise, I was about to blink my eyes and look like, is that right?

End of the week, it had 7 million views. My YouTube channel had went from 60,000 subscribers all the way to half a million in just a week. And that’s how I became a social influencer.

Fast forward to today, being a social influencer has been great. I’ve got to see even more of the world now, 40 different countries, been doing this for 15 years. I got to do incredible campaigns with some of the biggest companies in the world.

I have a clothing line, I started a month ago called GlobalHooper. Things have gone really really well.

And ultimately basketball has allowed me to live the dream that I never knew I had.

You know, when I was little, I was trying to aim to be an NBA player. But instead I became a global basketball entertainer. And I realized that’s actually my calling. And it was so much of a better fit for me.

So I hope today you guys could draw some encouragement, inspiration from my story.

But I want to send you away with three things that I learned.

Number 1: You have to prove yourself every day.

Number 2: Hearing “No” isn’t the end of the road.

And number 3: I would encourage everybody to try to seek their passion, because I think often that’s where you can find your purpose.

Thank you guys for your time.

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