Former Houston Rockets star Steve Francis is as surprised as anyone that he made it to the NBA, saying that a few short years before being drafted he was selling crack on a street corner. In a story for The Players' Tribune, Francis opened up about his journey. He told a story of taking a plane ride to a game with teammate and future Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon when Francis was a rookie. "Four years before I was on that plane with Hakeem telling me we're going shopping for cashmere suits together -- four years before I was about to go play against Gary Payton -- I was on the corner of Maple Ave in Takoma Park, Maryland, selling drugs outside the Chinese joint," Francis said. Francis said that he grew up in Washington, D.C., during the crack epidemic of the 1980s. His father was in jail and his mother had died. "Crack devastated our entire community," Francis said. "It was like a plague, man. I watched it. I lived it. I sold it." Francis always had basketball, but not in the way that others did. He barely played in high school, but he did play some AAU ball -- enough that he was noticed and offered a spot on a community college team in Texas. He parlayed that into a spot with the University of Maryland. And from there he was the second pick in the 1999 NBA draft.
Steve Francis talks about unlikely journey to the NBA
ESPN | Mar 8