RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — The basketball court is a familiar place for Marcus Hubbard. And he'll never forget his humble beginnings.
“It wasn’t easy - nothing is,” he says.
Hubbard and his childhood friend Leemire Goldwire faced poverty growing up in Riviera Beach.
Hubbard says his father was never in the picture and his mom died of HIV/Aids and cancer when he was 14.
For both Hubbard and Goldmire, basketball filled a hole.
“Basketball is my life, basketball is my first girlfriend. I married her at 14, you know, I’ll never put her down,” says Hubbard.
Goldwire says he feels similarly, “It saved my life. I grew up without my mom, I grew up without my dad. I kinda figured out early on if I was going make it out of Riviera Beach it was going to be through the sport of basketball.”
The two followed their hoop dreams.
Hubbard recalls, “I literally used to shoot free throws in the rain back here to make it on the basketball team. Me and this guy used to be out here every day in middle school trying to make a dream a reality.”
For Hubbard, it led to a career in the pros signing contracts with the Atlanta Hawks, LA Clippers, and the Milwaukee Bucks and then international play.
Hubbard’s retired now and back at the Riviera Beach park where it all started.
He's not just sharing his skills on the court, he's also become a mentor.
"Any kid I see nowadays,” says Hubbard, “If I can do something to inspire them - I don't care if it's to change their attitude or help get them further in what they want to do. That's what I'm here for."
The kids he's helping are those like Hunter Presson. At 6 foot 5 inches tall, the 14-year-old sticks out among his classmates. And Hunter's mom says he didn't always have his sights set on sinking shots.
Hubbard taught him to embrace his height and build a more positive attitude.
Hunter's mom, Kimberly says Hubbard’s presence has been life changing for her son, "He put his hands on Hunter's shoulders and told him from this moment forward you're going to love your height. So, Marcus started to slowly pick away at the confidence, attitude issues."
Hubbard ultimately wants all kids to know, “If I can come out of that situation and reach basketball's highest pinnacle and go to college and get my scholarship, my education and everything and graduate - anything is possible and I want to preach that to not only kids but adults as well.”
After all, sometimes being on the wrong road can put you on the right path.