Jason here. As a longtime Lakers fan, two teams irk me like no other: the Sacramento Kings and the Boston Celtics. Back in Tha Day, my roommate and I would watch the Lakers/Kings games, and we’d save best our best jeers and smacktalk for one Scot Pollard, a tenacious defender who’d give the Lakers fits (please note, I said “the Lakers” and not “us” – as far as basketball goes, like some 85% of NBA fans, I have no game whatsoever; Wilford Brimley could take me to the hole). Fast forward to 2008, and the NBA Finals – there were the Celtics giving the Lakers a beating, and to add insult to perceived injury there was Scot Pollard, part of that team that returned basketball’s greatest rivalry to its former glory. Fast forward a few months after that: Beth and I were poolside in San Diego with the kids, spending time with some good friends and their kids. Turns out our friends were friends with the Pollard family, and so there I was, hanging out with a very tall – and very gracious and extremely cool – former NBA player. Here he talks about making one of the biggest decisions a pro athlete can make.

Scot_pollard I’ve been a father for 11 years now. Our oldest daughter, Lolli, is now 11 (duh), our middle daughter, Tallula, is 7, and our youngest (and only boy) Ozzy, will be 3 in August. Our oldest daughter has been to 5 different elementary schools through 5 grades. In 11 years of playing in the NBA, my family has come with me to all of the 5 cities of the teams I played for. I think it has been good for them to experience the different cultures that we have in our United States. What I don’t think has been good for them is not having a father around to enjoy those places with them. I was either traveling, practicing, or recovering from traveling and practicing so never did spend much time enjoying the different places with our kids. Conversations with my girls used to go like this: “Hey dad, where are you? Me: “(Insert NBA city here). I miss you.” Them: (in auto reply voice) “I miss you too. Bye!

I’m Scot Pollard, and I retired from the NBA to be around my kids. Sure, I was near the end anyway, and my injuries kept me on the bench for most of the time during the last couple years. Still, there were more offers out there. Offers I decided weren’t good enough to continue being an absentee dad to two girls and a new baby boy. Offers that would have kept me choosing to make more money over being around for my kids.

Not the coolest decision ever made. Dad over the NBA. However, being cool has never really been my aspiration. Being a good father is. I used to be on the road for most of 9 months out of every year. When I was “in town” I would put in a few hours at practice, and either sleep or feed my body for the rest of that time. Physically I was in pro athlete mode and emotionally I was unavailable. Imagine dealing with some of the biggest egos in the world at work, driving your body to the brink of exhaustion on a daily basis through workouts, travel, and sleep depravation. Then you come home to kids who know you are dad but who also treat you like a stranger. Softness was not a part of my personality. Caring for my little girls when they were sick or upset wasn’t in my repertoire. They didn’t want the giant stranger kissing their scrapes. They wanted mom. Rightfully so. “Who was this man that slept in when I got up to go to school, through the afternoons when I got home from school, and said goodbye a lot more than hello?” My girls have never said anything like this to me. But I know it went something like that in their developing brains.

As my basketball career lingered on, my heart was no longer in it. Injuries result from lack of training. I was skipping out on some of the things it took to remain an NBA player to do some of the things it took to be a better dad. And I was failing at both. So, in 2008, after being a part of the team that won the NBA championship, I decided that I would no longer try to be a marginal NBA player and a terrible father.

I’ve been retired for two years now. Our oldest is starting to become my buddy. She genuinely likes to go places with me without forcing her to go with dad. Our middle really plays me to get what she wants. She knows how to push my buttons, and she’s almost a daddy’s girl, but still wants mama when it comes to anything important like sickness or bumps and bruises and scrapes. My son – well, I’ve been around him his whole life. If I walk out of the room sometimes he cries. I like that. Not because it gives me some kind of satisfaction. It reminds me that my girls never did that, and it reminds me that I’m lucky to be able to be around all 3 so much now that they actually do miss me when I leave.

As I watch the NBA finals, I see the passion and the competitive games and I miss it a little. I miss the camaraderie. I miss my kids more. When I leave town now, they are either with me, or I’m on the phone with them. And they actually care when I’m gone now. And I can tell. Because I remember when they used to have to be told by their mother, “tell daddy you miss him, and you love him.” Now they don’t have to be told. They just say it. I’m Scot Pollard and I’m PARENT to Lolli, Tallula and Ozzy. And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done or will ever do.