At the age of 36, Tim Gittens admits that he is never content and always ready and willing to work.
Growing up, Gittens was constantly around basketball players who were industry legends, including his father. Being around his Harlem Globetrotter father and friends, Gittens always felt nervous and intimidated when around such great individuals. Whenever Gittens would play basketball on the local courts, he would hide away or go sit on the bench if he saw his father anywhere around. The moment he lost sight of his father, he would return to playing. While basketball wasn’t his thing when younger, Gittens began playing more once his father passed away in order to feel closer to him, soon realizing basketball was what he was born to do all along.
At the age of 13, Gittens began playing in different tournaments. During a game, he got hurt causing him to wear a head wrap. When people saw the bandage, they quickly gave him the nickname “Headache” which ironically fit him very well. Gittens was looked at as a headache no matter what position he played on the court. He recalls many games where fans would bring aspirin, throwing it on to the basketball court because they knew the other team was about to experience a true headache.
Between 2001 and 2005, Gittens was privileged to play with both And1 and the Harlem Globetrotter teams. When describing the difference between the two, Gittens states, “The Harlem Globetrotters was more of a wow moment for me because I was following in my father’s footsteps who was a legend with the team. On the other side of things, And1 was more of my element. It was the type of playing I had grew up with. I looked at the Globetrotters as the “corporate” version of And1 due to its more organized and choreographed aspect; however, both allowed me to touch lives and speak to kids. I understood that some parents were giving their last to allow their child to see us play and wear our paraphernalia. Playing or not, kids look up to you and see accomplishment – whether playing basketball is what they want to do or not.”
Aware that kids nowadays are quick to quit, believe they can’t accomplish something or need constant encouragement and reassurance, Gittens wants youth to know that sometimes when you fail at something, it may just be a setup for something better. “You never know what God has in store for you and what doors are being opened,” says Gittens.
When it comes to moments Gittens himself wanted to quit, there were plenty. One instance includes a time when Gittens was young, playing in his first tournament in New York. In his zone and playing well, gunshots suddenly began going off. Some people ended up hurt and it caused Gittens to question if playing ball was something he wanted to continue if this was the type of behavior and actions expected. A second instance involved a time Gittens was attending NBA camp. Knowing he was one of the best players and well-known names there, he was the very last to get cut with no real explanation as to why. After this moment, Gittens then called his agent and told him that he was done trying out. Time in college, at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, was also tough. He remembers his coach making him suffer a lot more than his teammates; however, Gittens explains how the behaviors from his coach is what created the fire and drive he has to succeed and continue playing well. When college had come to an end, Gittens received a set of NBA socks and a Bible from his coach who told him, “This is all you need right now.” This revealed to Gittens that the push from his coach wasn’t hate or disrespect but simply a push because of the potential and passion he saw in him.
Basketball has helped Gittens grow into the man, husband and father he is today because the game overall prepares you for life. “Don’t think when you become an athlete it gets easier and different. You’ll always have doubters, people who don’t like you and constant trials and tribulations. With life comes curveballs, difficulties and injuries – just like the sport. You’ll never know where you’ll end up as the years pass you by. And just like life, basketball forces you to adapt. I had to adapt when I played in China. I had to adapt when playing in Africa, Japan, Germany and so many other places.” Gittens laughs before adding, “I will say one thing though. It doesn’t prepare you for having kids. That’s a whole new life and trial.”
To Gittens, “Love the Game” means being true to the game, working hard and giving it your all. “Respect the game and it will love you back,” says Gittens, who often jokes with his wife by calling her his mistress because basketball is indeed his first love.
Motivated by his wife and three kids (two daughters and one son), Gittens is focused on being there for his family while also looking to coach full-time at the college level within 2 years. “I want to be one of the old guys who have been coaching for 20 plus years. I don’t want to be the guy that worked hard playing ball all these years and now stuck working a 9 to 5. I want to enjoy my family and do what I love.”
As an athlete, husband and father, Gittens has worked and continues to work in order to leave a lasting impression of achievement.
“Your biggest obstacles will constantly be what people think of you, dealing with criticism and fighting against the politics. Advice will not always be in your best interest and you should never allow someone to push you into the wrong decision. You have one life to live so if you quit, ask yourself, “Will this hurt me?” It’s always better to attempt and fail then to not try at all and have to live with the thought of “what if?” Be a driving force. If you can do that, you can play and survive in this game.” – Tim Gittens
Written by Erica Wright