Rogers delivers message to NBA rookies

Rodney Rogers spoke at the Rookie Transition Program on Thursday. Courtesy of NBA

Former Nets forward Rodney Rogers doesn't want this year's rookie class to take playing in the NBA or earning a lot of money for granted.

That was the message that Rogers, who has been paralyzed since 2008, tried to instill in the league's incoming first-year players at the Rookie Transition Program on Thursday morning in Florham Park, N.J.

"My message was to share with them and let them know that there are things out there that they can get into that will get them in trouble," Rogers told ESPNNewYork.com. "You obviously want to have fun, but if you don't do the right things you're supposed to do, you can get it all taken away from you. I told them, 'Make sure you're in the right place at the right time and try not to get into trouble. If you do good now, you're setting yourself up for the rest of your life.'

"People are going to try to offer you all kinds of things, and you've got to be able to say no. That's what you need to learn is to say no to people. Basketball is not going to be there for the rest of your life. It's short-term and you've got to make the best of it."

Rogers, 42, scored nearly 10,000 points and played for six teams during his 12-year career and won the Sixth Man Award with Phoenix in 2000. He retired following the 2004-05 season but kept working -- operating heavy machinery for the Durham (N.C.) Public Works Department and driving tractor trailers -- even though he made millions of dollars during his NBA career.

On Nov. 28, 2008 -- the day after Thanksgiving -- Rogers' life nearly ended when he broke his neck in a dirt bike accident. Rogers was riding his bike when he hit a ditch and flipped over the handle bars. He was given a 50-50 chance to live by doctors and nearly died a couple times after having surgery and rehabbing in hospitals and rehabilitation centers.

Doctors have given Rogers only a five percent chance that he'll ever walk again.

"It's been difficult, but it's been something my wife and I just said, we've got to deal with it. So we've dealt with it going forward and tried to make the best out of it," said Rogers, who has some feeling in his shoulders and "some feelings in things that I'm not supposed to feel.

"I was kind of nervous and scared at first to go out in public," he added, "because I've always been a tough guy that's running around and taking care of everything, and now I've got to wait on people to take care of me. But it's working out good. I still have my up and down days, but we're trying to stay positive and stay consistent with that."

Rogers is headed to Project Walk, a certified spinal cord injury recovery facility in Atlanta, in two weeks, and hopes to make even more progress.

He thought the players appreciated what he had to say Thursday morning.

"I saw a lot of them taking notes, a lot of them listening, a few of them asked questions and they really really wanted to know about the NBA, what's going to happen and what to look out for," Rogers said.

When he's not rehabbing, Rogers helps run the Rodney Rogers Foundation, which assists people who are living with paralysis, and Jazzie's Trucking, a dump truck and tractor trailer company.

Rogers "hates" that he can't drive a truck anymore. He truly loved doing it.

"I never took life for granted, but it just lets you know that at any given time, anything can happen. The man upstairs is the one that's in control of everything," Rogers said.