Tragedy to triumph for Bronx baller

Tragedy to triumph for Bronx baller|Tragedy to triumph for Bronx baller
Community News Group / Steven Goodstein|Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets

A professional basketball player who hails from the Bronx has not let a career-threatening injury derail him from achieving success.

Chris McCullough, a 6’11” Bronx native who plays power forward for the Brooklyn Nets, has come full circle with his recovery from a torn ACL, that sidelined him from the basketball court for over a year.

McCullough, who was born and raised in the Andrew Jackson Projects, went to Salisbury School, an all-boys, private college-preparatory boarding school in Salisbury, CT for his freshman and sophomore years, and led the school’s varsity basketball team to its first ever New England Preparatory School Athletic Council Class A championship.

After his sophomore year, he transferred to Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, NH before transferring again, this time to IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL.

McCullough then went on to attend Syracuse University, where he averaged a solid nine points and seven rebounds in his first 16 games as a freshman.

However, his year, and eventually his college career, was cut short when he suffered a torn ACL injury after attempting to catch a pass on a fast break in a home game against Florida State on January 11, 2015 and was carried off the court by his teammates and coaches. He underwent knee surgery the following month.

Undeterred, McCullough began rehabilitating following his surgery and welcomed the challenge.

The first three to four months were difficult for Chris, as he was just learning how to walk again.

McCullough’s luck began to change for the better, when, after leaving Syracuse and declaring for the 2015 NBA Draft, the Brooklyn Nets drafted him with the 29th pick in the first round.

Still recovering from his injury and unable to play, Chris was sidelined for the first 50 games of the season.

However, the rookie made his NBA debut on Monday, February 8 by playing 11 minutes in the team’s 105-104 win against the Denver Nuggets. He has since played in seven games for the Nets.

McCullough’s injury wasn’t the first time tragedy struck for Chris.

When he was only 11, his best friend was murdered. Just like his injury, Chris used his situation as motivation, saying that the experience made him strive more for success.

As a kid, McCullough was a big fan of the St. John’s Red Storm basketball teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Being from New York City, he was also a big fan of the New York Knicks teams in the late 90s that were stacked with big names such as Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Allan Houston and John Starks.

The son of a teacher and basketball coach, McCullough learned the game quickly, playing pick-up games at Rucker Park, Dyckman and West 4th Street’s courts. He also played football, lacrosse and soccer as an adolescent.

McCullough, who majored in Communications at Syracuse, originally wanted to be an aerospace engineer.

McCullough recently became a parent, after fathered his first child, Christopher McCullough, Jr., on April 23, 2015.

Now that he is fully recovered from his injury, Chris is looking towards what the future holds for his new career.

“Taking my recovery day by day, one step at a time – it was a very hard time but I just made myself work even harder,” McCullough said at the newly opened Brooklyn Nets practice facility, the Hospital for Special Surgery Training Center, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

The Bronx has produced some great basketball talent over the years – including the late Dolph Schayes, Nate ‘Tiny’ Archibald, Rod Strickland, the late Malik Sealy, Jamal Mashburn and Kemba Walker, who currently plays for the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

Could Chris McCullough be the next generation of talent that comes from the borough?

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 260-4599. E-mail him at
McCullough wears #1 for the Brooklyn Nets.
Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets