Former Temple basketball star Dionte Christmas returned to Philadelphia for thr first time as a pro with the Phoenix Suns last week.
There were countless moments when Dionte Christmas would stare at the ceiling and wonder if he would ever realize his dream of playing in the NBA.
Those moments took place thousands of miles away from home in places like the Czech Republic and Russia.
But his family and extended family would never let Christmas stop pursuing that dream.
Ever since he was a little boy playing basketball on the playgrounds, he had aspirations of donning an NBA uniform.
Even when times were tough, Christmas wouldn’t stop working. He couldn’t stop working.
He had come too far and worked too hard to stop.
“My last stop in Russia was freezing, negative 20 every day,” Christmas said. “I went weeks without seeing the sunshine. This can’t be life. Everything worked out. I’m so blessed.”
Christmas is a member of the Phoenix Suns and he even has a guaranteed contract for the rest of the season. He doesn’t play a lot and didn’t play at all in the Suns’ 11-point victory over the 76ers Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center. That wasn’t the point.
Simply making it means everything to the former star at Samuel Fels High and Temple University.
Christmas scored more than 2,000 points for the Owls but wasn’t selected in the 2009 NBA Draft. So he took his talent overseas and played in the Czech Republic, Greece, Israel, Italy, Turkey and Russia. He came back and played in the NBA Summer League with the Sacramento Kings and Boston Celtics. Christmas was actually signed by the Sixers in ’09 but was waived in the preseason.
Playing overseas and in the Summer League was a great experience but as each year passed, it made him wonder if he would ever stick in the NBA. Would it be worth the effort? You better believe it.
“Every Summer League, I tried to take bits and pieces from each team and what the coaches had to tell me,” Christmas said. “The little things, not taking plays off, things like that. People always watch in the NBA and that’s one thing I notice. Keep my team in tune on the bench, I’m always one of the first to jump up and give high-fives. People take notice of it. I try to be as positive as possible, especially in this league. You got so many games, so many nights, this city, that city and guys can get tired. I just try to be that guy to bring a spark off the bench when I get in. You’ve got to keep guys motivated and do anything possible to keep my guys motivated even if I’m not on the court. I believe every team needs a guy like that.”
Christmas said he secured 50-to-60 tickets for friends and family at the Wells Fargo Center.
Seeing all those people who helped motivate and guide him made the day that much more special.
Actually, every day is special. As long as he’s among the players in the NBA, each day will be cherished.
“You can’t come into this job mad,” Christmas said. “You’re in the NBA. It’s the best job ever. One night I’m in L.A., the next night I’m in Phoenix. I’m living in phoenix, 80-degree weather. It’s a blessing. I thank God every single day. There’s not one day that goes by that I don’t thank God for blessing me and getting me here.”