DALLAS -- His teammates call him "Sarge," but it's no ordinary nickname for rookie Bernard James. The 6-foot-10 forward/center served as a former Staff Sergeant in the Air Force for six years before beginning his basketball career.
"I’ve been through a lot of stuff. I’ve seen a lot of stuff," James said. "I’ve met a lot of good people in the military. Really, the reason I'm here today is because of my experiences in the military."
James, 27, was in the Air Force from 2003 through 2008 and served three tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Qatar. He didn't even play organized basketball until joining the Air Force. His stepfather, Darryl Cook, has made a career out of military service, so Veterans Day has meant something to James for a long time.
"Usually it’s spending time with friends and family," said James, when asked what he does on Veterans Day. "Most of them are military or have some kind of military affiliation. It’s just spending the time with the people I care about."
James said that perhaps some of the troops serving overseas aren't likely to get much time off to commemorate the day.
"You are over there doing a job and the terrorists don’t take a break, so you can’t really either," James said.
James got his GED and decided to join the military. While in the Air Force, a friend asked him to join a team and James just kept playing and getting better. His height certainly didn't hurt.
Now that he's in the NBA, James has done a bunch of interviews the past few days and is a representative for the military within the basketball community.
"It’s a really good feeling," said James, who added that he's probably seen or received texts from 300 to 400 folks that he met or spoke to while in the military who have told him they're following his progrees. "I’m proud that I can be the NBA face for the military."
As part of a Veterans Day celebration, any fan that shows a military ID at the box office for Monday's game with the Minnesota Timberwolves gets 50 percent off admission. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted the discount and added: "Thank you for all you do and Go Mavs!!"