Rookie challenge

Spurs sub Gary Neal took the long road to the NBA

Updated: April 7, 2011, 3:11 PM ET
By Anna Katherine Clemmons | ESPN The Magazine

This story appears in the April 18, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

ONCE UPON A TIME, Gary Neal thought he'd spend his days as a basketball player toiling in Europe. Or as a teacher. Or, for a moment, a convicted felon. Sharpshooting NBA combo guard? Not likely. The league's second-oldest rookie who's been a consistent contributor to one of its best teams all season? Never.

The question wasn't whether the military brat could ball. He averaged a triple-double ...

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