Oklahoma City Thunder: Sebastian Telfair hopes time in China helps rejuvenate once-promising NBA career

Sebastian Telfair’s high school career was so celebrated that he was featured in a documentary titled, “Through the Fire.” Now, as a 29-year-old, Telfair has been through the professional fire, and he says he’s better for the experience.
by Anthony Slater Published: August 2, 2014
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photo - Phoenix Suns' Sebastian Telfair, left, stops his drive against Dallas Mavericks' Brandan Wright (34) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Phoenix Suns' Sebastian Telfair, left, stops his drive against Dallas Mavericks' Brandan Wright (34) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

With his 19th birthday still more than a month away, Sebastian Telfair called a press conference in downtown New York City to announce a pair of highly publicized decisions.

This was back in May 2004, when Telfair’s popularity was rapidly rising. He was yet to graduate high school, but in basketball circles, he was on his way to becoming a household name.

Already known as one of the best prospects to ever come out of Coney Island, Telfair’s hoops journey would soon be chronicled on a highly acclaimed documentary titled “Through the Fire.”

The film went behind the scenes of his senior season at Lincoln High School, trailing Telfair and his family as he wrestled with the decision to go to college at Louisville or turn pro.

And the film crew was there on that May night in NYC, when Telfair officially announced both his intention to enter the NBA Draft and his recently signed multi-million dollar shoe deal with Adidas. Two months later, Telfair was drafted 13th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers. The documentary ends as he and his family emotionally celebrate a bright basketball future.

But ever since, things haven’t exactly gone to plan for Telfair. The undersized point guard struggled with the physical adjustment, quickly falling out of the rotation in Portland. Then, over the next nine seasons, Telfair switched teams eight times, unable to find a stable role and never playing for a contender. He is still yet to appear in a playoff game.

“I’m definitely unsatisfied,” Telfair said of his career. “I’m a hooper, I’m a player, I like to play a lot. I just didn’t get as many opportunities as I would have liked.”

Because of the attention and hype heaped upon him at such a young age, Telfair, maybe unfairly, has been labeled a bust. He was drafted behind Luke Jackson, Rafael Araujo and Robert Swift, players who have long been out of the league after unsuccessful careers.

But Sebastian Telfair is a well-known name. And his relatively disappointing career arc has its followers. So when he signed with a Chinese team last offseason, it seemed like the latest low point, a year in basketball exile for a 29-year-old who many expected to be a star at this point in life.

But, as Telfair tells it, the year abroad was exactly what he needed. A career rejuvenation.

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by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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