DALLAS - When Bernard James was drafted by the Cavaliers and then traded to the Mavericks, he called it a symbol of how far he's come.
Now that he's on the floor with the Mavericks summer league team, James, a 27 year old, seems a perfect example to prove it’s never too late to chase your dream.
"I wouldn't say perfect, but I’m pretty close to that," James said. "Yeah, I think it definitely speaks of not giving up on your dreams, no matter how things go. Always keep chasing it and you never know what can happen."
James joined the Air Force in 2003, and served three tours of duty in the Middle East.
"This is unique," said Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle. "You get a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force that has taken bowling. There aren't many guys like that around."
James' assignments included a stop in Kuwait as a customs official, working base security in Qatar, and working as a prison guard at a detainment facility while he was in Iraq.
James' time in the military has matured him beyond his years. He's not your typical rookie and his military experiences have made him feel lucky to be alive.
"The worst experience? Our base got attacked one day, a mortar attack," James said. "It was really chaotic that day. A couple of detainees got killed, and a couple of them got hurt as well. I was really close to that."
Once back in the states, James played two seasons at Florida State and helped the Seminoles win their first ACC tournament title in school history and earned consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament.
He credits his college success to his training in the military.
"Yeah, that was the best thing that happened to me in my life," James said. "I definitely wouldn't be here right now if I hadn't joined the military. It completely changed me as a person."
Now he's hoping that his military training will lead to a career in the NBA.