LOS ANGELES — When Bobby Portis was in the 10th grade, he had a conversation with his mother, Tina Edwards, that would change his life forever. By then, he was already a starter on the varsity basketball team at Hall High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, though he was still a long way from becoming a McDonald’s All-American, the 2015 SEC Player of the Year at Arkansas and a gifted contributor for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards in the NBA.
In 2011, the Hall High Warriors were well on their way to defending their state championship. But when they got to that year’s title game, Bobby wasn’t getting much playing time.
“I was starting the whole year,” Bobby tells CloseUp360 at his house in Sherman Oaks, California. “About halfway through the season, the coach took me out of the starting lineup and made me come off the bench. I was only playing like 10, 12 minutes a game.”
That night, Hall High claimed its eighth state championship, but Bobby, who played just two minutes in the game, was hardly in a celebratory mood.
“I didn’t feel like I really won a championship ‘cause I didn’t do anything to help the team,” he says. “I didn’t feel like I earned it that night.”
Despite the win, Bobby was filled with tears of frustration as his mother drove him home.
“My mom like pulled me to the side. She told me I got to work harder and that nothing’s going to be given to me,” he says. “That same night, I hit up coach Marcus [McCarroll] and I asked him, ‘Can you start working me out more? Can we get in a gym more?’
“I think that little talk with my mom changed my whole mentality and I started going harder and harder. I don’t think we missed a day for like four years—in [the gym] every day.”
Eight years later, Bobby, who signed a two-year deal with the New York Knicks on Sunday night, still lives by the mantra instilled by his mother that night in the car. The NBA’s only Little Rock native applies it not just to basketball, but also across all areas of his life, including his latest focus: business. Well aware that nothing will ever be given to him, Bobby has taken measures to immerse himself in ventures that will help to not only sustain him after basketball, but also ultimately create generational wealth.
“I’m 24 years old and I have equity in two companies. I think that’s a big accomplishment for myself,” he says. “Obviously I want to play basketball as long as I can, but I know the ball stops bouncing one day.”