If there was ever a doubt about the high inspirational value of Chris Copeland's dream-chasing NBA story, a recent comment from former Colorado Buffaloes star Carlon Brown dispelled it.
"I'm 24, maybe I have one or two years left — unless I get the Chris Copeland story (of success)," Brown said.
He smiled and said, "I'll take that."
Copeland's journey to the NBA has fairy dust sprinkled all over it. And it has hard work and shrewd moves woven throughout. Copeland, a former standout player at CU, often gets asked for advice about how to make it from overseas to the NBA, which took him six never-give-up years to get there after his time in Boulder.
"Year to year, I just tried to continue to put myself in situations where I could really showcase what I could do," Copeland said. "Some guys overseas, they would chase the largest checks. I was wanting to go to the situations that allowed me to play my game. That was a big thing. I think you're only as good as your situation. That's always been my motto."
Copeland hit the D-League's Fort Worth team after he graduated from CU in 2006. Then came an extended stint overseas.
"I actually went to different teams from Germany to Belgium, Holland, Spain," Copeland said. "All these different places looking for a situation that I could really showcase that I was good enough to make it here. And just get an opportunity, that's what it's been all about. So step by step, year by year, I just tried to keep coming back, do mini-camps during the summer. And I was fortunate enough after my last season in Belgium to get invited to play in the summer league. And from there it was all she wrote."
That summer league tryout was in 2012 with the New York Knicks. After opening a lot of eyes there, the Knicks immediately signed him to a one-year contract. And in one season, where he played just 15.4 minutes per game, Copeland averaged 8.7 points per game and established himself as a true "stretch-4" by shooting 42.1 percent from 3-point range.
His ability to hit the 3-point shot as his biggest — and most important — improvement from his time with the Buffs. He was a good college 3-point shooter, hitting 35 percent his senior season, but now his touch from beyond the arc is elite.
And in a current NBA in which shooters are cashing in big time in the open market, Copeland's skill set is valuable. Think of him as a slightly shorter Channing Frye.
Frye, a 6-foot-10 sharp-shooting power forward, just handed a four-year, $32 million contract from Orlando three weeks ago.
Copeland, who is 6-8, will be a restricted free agent next summer after finishing his second season with the Indiana Pacers, who signed him away from the Knicks in 2013.
He averaged 1.33 points per possession in spot-up situations last season. That ranked among the top five in the NBA.
"A lot of people point to the minutes, and I didn't play as much as I would like but I'm learning so much," Copeland said. "It's a great winning environment to be a part of, top to bottom, from management to the players."
He's soaking it all in.
"This was the dream," Copeland said of being in the NBA. "Could I imagine it? Yeah. Was it likely or realistic? Who knows? This is what you imagine. This is what you dream.
"And then you end up in a situation where you're playing with all of these greats. How does that happen? That's why I continue to say I'm blessed. Too many good things happening at once to put any real logic to it. It's just unbelievable, and I'm just thankful."