BUDDHA'S DREAM: CONVERSATIONS WITH LARRY DONNELL BOYD JUNIOR
When you first hear Buddha Boyd’s voice you notice that he carries his soul in every word that he speaks. With his depth and the challenges his path etched in his face, there is an unspeakable sense of hope that comes through the gleam of his eyes. Hailing from Killeen TX, Boyd was born to a Korean mother and an African American father. His father deserted while Boyd was still an infant, leaving his mother to eventually marry a young Puerto Rican man with a great flair for salsa and merengue (which Boyd still has a great affinity for). His parents worked really hard to give a great childhood for him and his brother. The children never knew lack when it came down to “stuff” but there was a palpable absence of communication and emotionality. Boyd turned to sports to deal with the deep trauma of the abandonment by his birth father. He excelled in basketball and football, becoming MVP in both during his senior year in high school.
He had charisma and popularity, but soon lost his motivation when he didn’t make the team in Junior College and subsequently dropped out. Boyd became angry with himself and lost his sense of direction with his frustration often culminating in fist fights even at home. After a serious heart to heart with his stepfather, he joined the Air Force with a deep sense of pride. With his military career beginning, Boyd also found love and marriage and a new sense of purpose with the arrival of his daughter, Micaya. However the nuptials were short-lived, eventually leading to a divorce. Shortly after, Boyd found himself stationed in Korea for three years, playing in the base’s varsity basketball team.
Each time he stepped on the court, his doubts vanished, the constant internal existentialist discord dissolved and Boyd finally felt at peace. In 2010 he was drafted in the US All Air Force Team and got paid to play and practice his passion, eventually leading to a gold medal for him and his team. After the championship and with 10 years of military service under his belt Boyd’s inner chatter started to get loud again. “Where’s my life going?” became a constant question in the forefront of his mind. Then one day, in a dream he saw people chanting his name on the court while he was wearing a jersey with his own name on it. He knew it was time to bid farewell to the Air Force. In 2012, at the age 30 he walked away from the military and went back home to honor his dream of playing basketball. From Semi-Pro Leagues, to ABA Leagues to Pro- Am Leagues, Boyd kept honing his craft, while collecting unemployment, which were barely enough to feed himself. He kept praying and asking for guidance eventually learning that he was eligible for assistance from the military to return to school while receiving a small monthly stipend.
And Boyd did just that. While in school, he learned of a basketball tournament at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside. His team didn’t win, but Patrick Conahan, the head coach for Miracosta College approached Boyd. Conahan was impressed by his game. At 32 years old, Boyd made the college’s basketball team. He continued to excel in every game but he was facing challenges in his private life, often living in and out of his car and eventually leaving the college.
He took on a job as a valet parker at the Warner Bro’s lot in Los Angeles. He would go to open runs during the day, he would do the grind at the Veniceball League, then back to work, then to the courts or the gym, while living in his car. Living from paycheck to paycheck, practically homeless for five months, he saved up enough funds to finally get his own room. His discipline and focus started to pay off, with a solid roof over his head, and winning the recent 3X3 Adidas Championship, his luck started to turn. Just the other week, Boyd signed with Prestigious Models, a Century City based agency.
His “I Just Wanna Hoop” brand is starting to take off and Boyd has dreams of becoming a motivational speaker. His faith is unshakable, his drive is solid and what makes things even more touching is that over the weekend at the RedBull 3X Tournament I watched the LA Clippers’ very own Lou Williams and the legendary Chris Mullin chant Buddha’s name – indeed dreams are becoming reality for this committed hooper. I sat down with Boyd on an early Tuesday evening to ask him about life, love and basketball.
What’s it like to grow up in Puerto Rican/Korean household?
I have many great childhood memories because both my mother and stepfather worked. My little brother, Luis and I got pretty much anything we wanted. But with both parents working, we lacked an emotional connection. I didn’t talk about my problems too much. There were a lot of games missed but I understood my parents were working extremely hard.
What did your parents think of you wanting to become a professional athlete?
They totally disagreed. It was hard both hearing my mom asking me when am I going to get a career job, and having to ignore many of her phone calls. I understood she wanted the best for me and that she was worried but I gave 10 years of doing what my parents suggested. I felt I deserved 10 years of doing something I wanted to do.
What was the most trying/challenging part of your childhood?
I’d have to say growing up in Killeen, Texas. Shout out to 254, y'all already know! Killeen is tough. Not too much “big dreaming” going on there. A lot of people working just to get by. I remember getting jumped over a basketball game. Crazy thing is the two guys that jumped me I considered my friends. I went to elementary and middle school with them and never had a problem. They jumped me in the garage. I luckily escaped but they continued to chase me down the street until I ran into a gentleman who was outside working on his front lawn. The worst part is for two weeks they waited for me after school at my bus stop. Both in the mornings and afternoons. I walked to my high school and I walked home.
How much importance does faith have in your life?
Faith is everything to me. Without it, I wouldn’t be here today answering these amazing questions from you. Hahaha!
How is your relationship with your daughter?
With all due respect, I’d like to keep my relationship with my daughter private. Just know she is my number 1 supporter and none of this would be possible without her inspiration.
Who was/were the most influential person/s in your life and why?
The most influential people in my life are my parents. They never chased a dream before. They were and still are solid human beings who work hard for a living. My stepfather worked all throughout my childhood. He accepted the role that my biological father was too chicken-shit to do it. I will always and forever have love and respect for my stepfather. My mother was a single mother for a few years when I was a baby. I know for a few years she had to do what she had to do to make sure we were taken care of. She also worked 3 Bingo jobs to help our family. My little brother and I grew up without any struggle and we had what every kid wanted growing up. Nice school clothes and the latest entertainment system that was out. My mom is my hero because she sacrificed so much so that my brother and I didn’t have to feel struggle like she did growing up. Both my parents are foreigners. My stepfather is Puerto Rican and my mom is Korean. I love y’all so much even though I struggle to show you all that love.
What was the most difficult time in your life and how did you deal with it?
The most difficult time in my life was when I was informed that I was going to have to separate from the military. For 10 years I coasted through the Air Force. When I found out I couldn’t re-enlist I was scared of how my life was going to turn out. 6 months before my separation date, I had a dream that I was playing professionally and the crowd was screaming my name, “Buddha, Buddha!!” I woke up with the feeling that someone was in my presence. Then I heard God’s voice for the first time in my life. He asked me, “Do you hear me now?” Mind you, I grew up going to my friends’ churches. People always told me God spoke to them. They said their God loved them. I prayed so many times asking God to please talk to me. Give me strength and guidance. Finally at 30 years old, I heard him. My vision was created, my passion for basketball was refueled, and I made the decision to finally do what my heart wanted to do. From that day on my faith grew to the level where I was not going to be denied no matter what situation came about. I am going to make this basketball shit work. If you don’t believe me, cool! Sit your ass back and watch me work.
What has basketball taught you that carries on into other areas of your life?
I had an amazing game in the Chinese Elite Basketball League. We were down by 25 in the 3rd quarter. My teammates and I fought back and after 3 overtimes, I hit a 3 pointer to win the game. This is a perfect lesson with life. Our team was struggling so bad and in life also, there will be struggle. Despite it, you have to find a way to overcome all the challenges and adversity. You have to believe in your team and yourself always no matter the odds.
How did you end up at the Veniceball League?
I was asked to play with the Chinese Elite team the summer of 2018. We had a great regular season going undefeated but we unfortunately lost in the first round of the playoffs.
What drew you to the Veniceball League?
The energy from the crowd is amazing.
What does it mean to you to play in the Veniceball League?
At first it was just basketball to me. Now that Venice and I have a relationship, it’s more like a family. Just today a player had a situation and another VBL player helped him. We have each other’s back and we all want to see each player do great things.
If you could sit down to dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?
My biological father. He named me after himself, Larry Donnell Boyd Junior for those who don’t know, he has never been in my life. I just want to tell him face to face that I’m solid without him.
Not long ago you were practically homeless. A lot of people give up in these situations or turn to drugs and lose hope, what kept you going?
My faith in God’s Plan and the belief I have for myself. Any bad situation is only temporary. If you put your energy into thinking how you became homeless, you’re going to quit because your mind has to think positive. I came up with a plan, I held myself accountable to that plan, and I never gave up.
What advice would you give to the newcomer who is just starting out on the court?
If you don’t like to put in work to keep your body ready, find a new passion. If you are serious about basketball, go all out and enjoy the process of getting better everyday.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What are your goals?
I see myself hosting my own show, “The Buddha Luv Show” inspiring lives all across the world.