They say the first door is always the toughest one to open.
But once that door opens, it leads to countless doors of opportunities. For Decorey Jones, that first door was Malaysia.
Jones received an invitation from the MABA (Malaysia Basketball Association) to play in the one month league. After a few mishaps at the Atlanta, Georgia airport Jones was finally in the air and en route.
His first stop was a layover in Seoul, South Korea where he would run into his first life experience in Asia.
“The layover was crazy. I spent 19 hours in Incheon airport. It’s my very first time in Asia, I’m watching my back because I didn’t know what was going on. There were just so many people. I went to the Burger King in the airport to get something to eat and when I got to the counter the entire menu was in Korean. Of course they got my burger wrong. I was sitting down, eating and realized I was the only black person in the entire airport. I was going through it man!”, said Jones.
Jones’ connecting flight to Malaysia was not displayed on his ticket. Confused of the situation at hand, Jones decided to take a quick nap in the airport and figure everything out closer to boarding time (19 hours later).
“What worried me the most was the fact that I didn’t know what gate to go to for my connecting flight. So when I woke up, I see all of these Koreans sitting around me and I was like ‘Ok it’s time to find my flight, it’s time to get back to it.’ I took a quick glance at the boarding screen and realized my flight was only two gates away.”
He checked in, got on his flight and was on the final stretch of a long journey from Atlanta to Malaysia.
“To be honest with you I was scared. I never had to go through customs and all of that stuff. I had my passport checked a thousand times by a thousand different people before I could get through the gate.”
When Jones landed in Malaysia, the excitement turned into fear when he realized there was a slight confusion in the travel plans.
“I remember when I got to Malaysia I was in this long line. It was really hot. Then I thought to myself ‘who am I supposed to see? Where am I supposed to go? I hope somebody is here to pick me up.’ I didn’t know the process. What car was I supposed to go to?”
Finally, Jones gets through the get and takes his first official step on Malaysian soil. His fear quickly turned into joy when he saw a familiar name.
“I saw this guy holding a sign. I didn’t know who he was. I just knew he was holding a sign with my name on it, Decorey Jones.”
Jones’ first ride through Malaysia was one he will never forget.
“It was a beautiful night. The driver was showing me the city. What stuck out the most was the KL towers. When I saw that I knew I had finally made it.”
Jones did indeed finally made it. He was in Malaysia, getting paid to play basketball.
His role along with the other foreign player on the team, Keven Van Hook, was to act as mentors for their Malaysian teammates who were gearing up to take part in the FIBA Asia tournament.
The league ended in late November of 2012. Jones would return to America where he went back to training and marketing himself. He was waiting for the next door to open.
“I remember I was training with my trainer in South Carolina. I still didn’t get any calls until late December when somebody by the name of Raphael Harris reached out to me and said ‘Hey man, I got this gig in Mongolia. The other import is not coming back so we need to bring another American over to come help the team.’ So I said yeah, cool, I’m in.”
Jones’ love for the game of basketball would take him anywhere. Little did he know, Mongolia is no Malaysia.
“It took a lot of adjusting because it’s VERY COLD in Mongolia. The arenas are heated by old pipes with little effect on the temperature. It was like playing outside. It was very, very cold.”
The temperature was not the only set back. Jones would fall into some communication barriers amongst his teammates and coaches.
“In Malaysia everyone could speak English but in Mongolia the communication barrier was bad. Nobody could speak English. My head coach didn’t speak a word of English.”
Jones fought severe sickness from the food. He overcame social barriers. He overcame all adversities. Once the all-star game came around, Jones finally reached the climax of his basketball career.
In the all-star game, Jones was on top of his game. His all-star team was victorious and Jones would go on to win the all-star game MVP.
After the game was the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.
“I got a call from my friend before the competition and he said ‘Decorey if you want to win the dunk contest you’ve got to do something different. You’ve go to do something you have never done before.’ He was right.”
Jones did something that would reflect on his entire story. He picked out four Asian’s from the crowd and jumped over them for a thunderous high-flying slam dunk.
The Asian volunteers weren’t just acting as a prop for his title clinching dunk. The Asian volunteers signified Asia; the place where Jones’ career was lifted to heights unimaginable turning this “impossible dream” into a dream come true.