DALLAS — Bobby Brown’s road back to the NBA has been winding to put it mildly.
Brown, 32, signed with the Houston Rockets in September, and then he made the Rockets’ opening-night roster in year one of the Mike D’Antoni era.
After going undrafted back in 2007 out of Cal State Fullerton, he started his pro career overseas in Germany.
But Brown returned stateside and spent the next few seasons bouncing around the Association, playing 113 games for the Kings, Timberwolves, Pelicans, who were then still known as the Hornets, and the Clippers between 2008 and 2010.
He then ventured overseas, this time playing in Poland, Greece, Italy, Turkey and most recently in China before returning to the NBA this fall.
And he wouldn’t trade the path he’s taken to the end of the Houston bench for anything in the world.
“Definitely (been interesting), been gone six years. I was in Europe for three, China for two. I had a great experience. I got to travel the world for free, experience new things, play on a lot of different teams, have a lot of new teammates who are my good friends now,” Brown said prior to a game in Dallas last week.
“I wouldn’t take it back for anything. Won some championships, won some individual awards and it led me to coming back, going to training camp and trying to make the team. After doing all that, it just feels real good that all the work that you put in in Europe and in China has finally paid off.”
Not only did he get to see the world while playing the game he loves and was paid pretty well to do so, but Brown also knows that being exposed to so many different styles of basketball made him a more well-rounded player and helped prepare him to return to the NBA, which now has more European influence than ever judging from the number of Euros now coming across the pond to play in the US.
Of course, there were certain styles of play he felt like he was better suited to play than others. And thankfully, D’Antoni plays the type of basketball he feels he’s best suited to thrive in.
“It definitely helped me a lot. The European style has definitely helped me right now in the NBA. China is a lot different because there’s a whole lot of back-and-forth scoring and stuff like that,” Brown said. ”But the European style is more physical. It’s tough to score and everybody knows how to play. You see more European players are coming to the NBA, so I feel like I adapted myself to each style, but I was fortunate to play for coaches that their offense and their defensive schemes fit the way I play.
“Now I’m here with a coach who loves to get up and down. That’s the style of game I play. It was an easy transition (to the Rockets).”
But it wasn’t like Brown was completely isolated during his time abroad. Most of the teams he played for in Europe had five American players compared to only two Americans on each roster in China.
However, his time in China was made easier due to the fact that his teammates all spoke English, a good thing because he called Chinese one of the toughest languages to learn.
Hands down, his favorite experience came in Italy, when he played for Montepaschi Siena, which is located in the Tuscany region. Brown’s time there remains memorable for several great reasons.
“It was real nice. The fans were amazing, the team was great,” Brown said. “We won the championship, we won the Cup and just my overall experience with my teammates and the fans in general, it was great. The food was amazing. I ate a lot of good food every day and everybody spoke English.”
He also picked up a good deal of Italian during his time in Tuscany, a foreign tongue he calls one of the easiest to learn from his time overseas.
“It (Italian) was not the easiest, but not like Chinese (which is very complicated),” Brown said. “The German language is not tough either. When I was there, it was easier. When I’m in the country for that time period, it’s easy to pick up on, but when you leave it’s like, oh, I’m not practicing that language anymore. Italian was the easiest (to learn).”
Brown enjoyed the life and money associated with playing abroad, but as someone who got a taste of what life in the NBA was like earlier in his career, doing all he could to ensure a return to the Association was in his future was definitely the carrot in front of his face.
And even when things got tough overseas, he never lost faith that this, in the NBA, is where he would eventually end up.
“I just felt like one day it would happen. I just didn’t know when. I just had to focus on what I needed to do to get back,” Brown said. “I was fortunate to put myself in a situation where I can come and showcase on a stage where I can compete at a real high level and show what I can bring to a team.”
Brown is friends with current Rocket teammates Trevor Ariza and James Harden, so when Ariza suggested during the Vegas Summer League that he come work out with the Rockets, he took the invite and practiced with them for four days.
Those workouts helped lead Houston to invite him to training camp, and the rest is history.
And now that he’s back in the States, that means the jokes about his famous name are sure to start again.
But for Bobby Brown, who more than paid his dues overseas, where he doesn’t remember hearing anyone joke about his name, it’s a small price to pay to be back in the NBA.
“No, not abroad. When I’m home (yes). No jokes, none of that (while I was overseas),” he said.