The Dallas Mavericks’ Dwight Powell continues to make his mark on and off the basketball court. The Toronto-born baller was drafted into the NBA in 2014 and throughout his career has been praised for his relentless work ethic and community involvement.
Numerous teammates have remarked how Powell’s often the first one to arrive and the last one to leave, with his drive to keep improving making him an invaluable asset to the Mavs. Wanting to use his privilege and platform to help others, he also works with different charitable and community organizations, including his own Dwight Powell Children and Family Support Fund which helps patients and their children cope with the hardships of cancer. In October 2018, he received the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for the assistance he provides families through his foundation.
Powell spoke with us for Go Magazine about elevating your skillset, ensuring you’re making the most out of the opportunities you’ve been given, learning from NBA greats and giving back.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Some of the best career advice I received early on was to run the race with blinders on. That means to work as hard as you can regardless of how hard the person beside you, in front of you or behind you is working. I think you need to measure yourself against improvement and try to find ways every single day to get better so that at the end of the day – regardless of where you end up – you can be proud and know that you gave everything you had.
When you meet young up-and-coming athletes, what words of wisdom do you share with them?
If they love the game of basketball and have intentions of playing at the next level, they need to do everything in their power to protect that right. And by that, I mean take care of everything you can on the periphery. At school, make sure that you’re showing up every single day and there’s no issues so that they can never take the ball away from you. Make sure that you’re also doing what you’re supposed to be doing outside of school and not getting into trouble so that nobody out there can take the ball away from you. And treat your parents and guardians with respect so that they can’t take the ball away from you. Make sure that everything in your life helps support your dream and that you’re not getting in your own way.
During the past few seasons you had the chance to play alongside and learn from NBA legend Dirk Nowitzki. How important are mentorship opportunities like that to you?
They’re huge, especially with someone like Dirk. I learned so much from him and I couldn’t even begin to list off all the things. I think first and foremost, he showed me how to be a pro and taught me what the definition of being a pro was. It has to do with basketball but is more about being a man in the community and understanding the privilege that we have to play in this league. You have to respect that every single day and find ways to give back and to interact with fans in the community. These people are creating the opportunity for us to even have this league in this country and it’s extremely important to recognize them and to give back. Dirk’s left such an incredible legacy in the city, the state, the country and in the world at large with the work he’s done through his charitable foundation. And there’s lots more that he does quietly on an individual basis to help others. It’s something I’ve been very fortunate to see up close. I’ve taken some great lessons from him and hopefully can carry those on into the future.
You’re very community-minded and seem to volunteer whenever you can. And you’re also doing great work through your Dwight Powell Children and Family Support Fund. Why is it important for you to give back in so many different ways?
It was definitely important for me from the beginning to find ways to give back. I’ve tried to volunteer as many places as I could to just see what was going on out there and in our community. And then as I became more established, I felt the urge to do something on my own and find ways to give back to a certain community that was near and dear to my heart. Through the experiences that I’ve had, I recognized something that was being overlooked was support for the families of people going through cancer treatments and for the families of people who have recently passed from cancer.
There are a lot of funds that help support cancer patients and a lot of research funds that are extremely important and are doing amazing work. But there are fewer that focus on, for example, the child of someone who is going through cancer treatments and supporting them and their specific and unique situation. I’m very grateful and appreciative of the fact that I have a platform to effect some change.
You’ve been described as one of the hardest workers in the NBA. What motivates you to keep pushing yourself so hard?
First and foremost, it’s appreciation. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be in this league and I have a very clear understanding and a daily reminder that this is not promised and no one is supposed to be here. No one has the right to be here. It’s all earned. And that’s something I think everyone in the NBA shares is their own unique story on how they had to fight their way into this league and overcome different challenges in order to reach their dream and their goal.
With that also comes the notion that it could be taken away at any time. So, I want to make the most of my situation and I want to be here as long as I can because this is the game I love and it’s provided me with so many great things along the way. The lessons that this game has taught me are so valuable. Things like being a good teammate, having a strong work ethic, paying attention to detail – those are things that can be applied both on and off the court. These lessons still help me continue to improve as a player and a man.
Why do you think it’s necessary for all people – regardless of their profession – to keep striving to get better?
I feel like stagnation is dangerous for a lot of reasons. But first and foremost, if you’re improving and you’re setting goals, as you knock them down you achieve the feeling of fulfillment. That creates psychological balance in your life and creates emotional balance.
As long as you’re moving forward and striving for something, even if you don’t achieve it within a time span that you may categorize as a success, it’s still something that you can feel pride in. If you’re doing everything in your power to improve your situation – and doing it in the right way and respecting the people around you – great things are possible.
What does being a good teammate mean to you?
It means respecting yourself, respecting one another and respecting the game of basketball. It means finding ways to always improve.
I think a good teammate motivates others by doing what they need to do to help the team win. If you look around the locker room and see 14 other guys doing everything that they need to do to help the team win, then you’re going to be motivated to do the same. So, it’s setting an example for your teammates and it’s supporting them. It’s pulling people up that need a hand and finding ways to support others even in instances when you’re not doing the things that you feel you’re fully capable of.
What are your goals for this season?
Win as many games as possible. I think we need to definitely improve in the win-loss category and ideally make the playoffs. This is my sixth year in the NBA, and I definitely want to keep improving as a player, become more effective and efficient, and help this team both offensively and defensively. But right now, the most important thing is winning. It’s been a difficult couple of years not being able to say we’ve had winning seasons. So, that’s where all the attention and focus is.
No player obviously enjoys losing seasons. But what something that can be taken away from those experiences?
You can learn a lot from your losses. You learn a lot from your wins as well, if you take the time to slow down and truly grade yourself fairly. But I think when you lose there’s a brighter light on the stakes, which helps you develop as a player and as a team, and it helps you better understand how to grade yourself. Sometimes when you’re winning, those things can get overlooked. So, there’s great value in adversity and learning how to overcome it for sure.