Person 2 Person: Thurl Bailey

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Person 2 Person: Thurl Bailey (Photo provided by Thurl Bailey)

(KUTV) Thurl Bailey is a former Utah Jazz player, who has now worked for the team as a broadcast analyzer for 18 years.

He is also a humanitarian and musician.

Bailey grew up in Washington, D.C. in the 1960s.

"My neighborhood was what you would imagine a very urban, crime-ridding place to grow up in," he said.

Bailey was "very fortunate" because he both his mother and father in his home--something not every child in his neighborhood had.

But it wasn't always a happy home.

"It got violent, but I think my parents did the best job they could to protect us from that," he said.

He lost his father last year and his mother the year before but he learned a lot from them growing up.

"They were always there," he said. "They showed up every single day."

Bailey grew quickly, but wasn't always the most coordinated young man.

Instead of sports, he focused on his education and music.

He discovered basketball when he was in junior high while watching a basketball game with his dad.

"I saw this really cool guy with some great short shorts on. He had an afro and my dad said he was 'Dr. J,'" recalled Bailey. "I said, 'Doctors can play professional basketball?' and then I found out Dr. J was one of the greatest athletes at that time."

Bailey decided then and there he wanted to be just like him, and asked his father to teach him how to play.

He tried out for the basketball team in junior high, and he was cut.

"The next year, I had as much desire to walk in and try out again for the same coach--and I was 6'7"--and he cut me again," Bailey said. "He just told me he didn't have time to teach me how to play the game."

That coach ended up leaving his position, and a new coach came who, according to Bailey, "changed my life one day after I made the team, because I still wasn't very good."

The new coach offered to come early and stay late after practice to help Bailey improve his game.

"He said, 'I see potential in you. I see potential in you that you might not even see in yourself,'" said Bailey.

He still spent a lot of time on the bench, but he did get the chance to play.

And of course, went on to have a successful basketball career, and even got to meet his hero, "Dr. J," also known as Julius Erving.

It was during his rookie season with the NBA, playing for the Utah Jazz and coach Frank Layden.

"We were playing the Philadelphia 76ers that night, and before the game starts, a guy taps me on the shoulder, reaches out and says, 'Thurl, congratulations on the great college season and welcome to the NBA,'" remembered Bailey.

That man was Dr. J.

"Actually, I feel like that's probably the greatest moment of my NBA career," he said.

With all of Bailey's success, he has given a lot back to the community and beyond through youth basketball camps, humanitarian trips, and more.

But it's not about success to him.

"I was raised to be compassionate, raised to stick up for what I believe in," he said. "I was raised that there's always someone worse off."

Bailey wants to be remembered as a great husband, father, and friend and "as someone who showed up."

Web exclusives:

Thurl Bailey's music career

Thurl Bailey has 'the best job in the world'

Thurl Bailey on his drive to become a basketball player


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