Last month, Toney Douglas had a new roommate living with him right in the middle of the New York Knicks' regular season. But this wasn't just any ordinary roommate he found on Craigslist or an old college buddy who recently moved to New York looking for a job.
Instead, it was a professional athlete named Harry Douglas, Toney's older brother who plays wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons. Harry spent three weeks living in Toney's Westchester home as he began preparing for life after football with an internship at the NFL's league office in Manhattan. Toney couldn't have been happier having a family member, mentor and workout partner all in one close by as he began the tail end of his rookie season in the NBA.
Toney and Harry, who are separated in age by only 18 months, currently talk every day, but nothing could have benefited Toney's progression this season more than having somebody in the same house who has already experienced a professional rookie season of his own. While Toney admits that "you have to have it in you" to make a living playing sports on the world's biggest stages, he does believe that having a role model around helps motivate him to reaching his highest potential.
"I don't think my brother motivated me to be a professional athlete but I feel like he motivates me with his work ethic," Toney, a 6-foot-1 guard, said after a recent practice. "He has a great worth ethic. When I was a senior in college and he was in his rookie year in the NFL, I kind of got a heads up before I came to the NBA."
Harry began his NFL career nearly two years ago when he was drafted by the Falcons in the third round of the 2008 draft. Last June, Toney was selected 29th overall in the NBA Draft after playing a combined four college seasons at Auburn and Florida State. The brothers have certainly come a long way since the days of being teammates in three different sports - basketball, football and baseball - at Jonesboro High School in Jonesboro, GA.
In fact, according to the Alias Sports Bureau, the Douglases are only the sixth pair of brothers to play in the NBA and the NFL and the first since Kevin and Nate Burleson during the 2006-07 season.
Toney and Harry were such great athletes growing up that they probably could have even flip flopped sports and still would have been successful. But Harry chose football over basketball because he is very physical and "probably would foul out" of NBA games despite being just 6-feet and 183 pounds, Toney says. Toney, on the other hand, wouldn't dream of being anywhere else than on the hardwood.
"He just loves the game," Harry Douglas III, Toney's father, said. "He put it down in I think in 11th grade and said, 'Dad, I just want to stick to basketball.' That's his passion. He eats and sleeps basketball. I'm just being serious. God, he loves the game and he has the passion for the game."
For Harry and the rest of the Douglas family, watching Toney playing for the Knicks is nothing new. Harry has had more time than usual on his hands after being forced to sit out his second season with a knee injury suffered during the offseason. And Mr. and Mrs. Douglas would come to all 82 of Toney's games if it were possible. But Toney estimates that they'll attend at least "50-something" games when it's all said and done.
"That's their job," Toney said. "They love their kids and they love to support their kids no matter what. They've always been like that through middle school, high school and college."
Harry's job might be even tougher than his parents' trips to the Garden from Georgia for home games once his leg is fully healed. It wouldn't be surprising if the younger brother had challenged him to a game or two of one-on-one, just like when they were kids. Only this time it might not have been Toney suffering the loss, although Harry might have what it takes to defeat his NBA player brother.
"I'm the little brother and there's just something about the big brother," Toney said. "Even though I'm the better basketball player, there's just something about them... they just know you."