Many of Eddy Curry's NBA battles had come at the dinner table, not under the backboards.
Health issues, poor conditioning and a perceived lack of motivation couldn't validate his fourth overall selection by the Bulls in the 2001 draft.
Curry and Tyson Chandler, both 7-footers straight out of high school, were teammates in Chicago for a few seasons before going their separate ways.
Chandler's defensive game blossomed and Curry became a high double-figure scorer with the Knicks until 2008-09 when knee and weight problems had his critics swarming overhead like vultures in the desert.
They called him an underachieving, overpaid bust.
But something wonderful has now happened to the Thornwood grad and 2001 Illinois Mr. Basketball: at age 29, the light bulb finally clicked on and Curry appears determined to save a once-promising career.
If you watched the Dallas Mavericks' 99-91 win over the talent-loaded Lakers late Tuesday night, you would've seen a slimmer, tougher Eddy Curry hold his own against Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
"The Curri-nator!" Mavs' owner Mark Cuban was gushing afterwards.
Dallas is hurting for size after losing center Chris Kaman (calf) and Dirk Nowitzke (knee surgery). They signed the 295-pound Curry two days after the Spurs released him in preseason.
Against the Lakers, he had seven points and four rebounds in 17 minutes and frustrated Gasol to no end.
It's a startling turnaround for someone who had played just 24 games the past three seasons, combined, with the Knicks and Heat.
"I'm definitely focused," Curry said Wednesday. "I worked pretty hard this offseason and it's paid off for me.
"They like me here. I like being here and I'm ready to play and they see it."
Is this the new Eddy Curry?
"I just got a little older. With age comes maturity," he said. "Having a family, people that depend on me, I'm taking it a lot more seriously.
"I'm doing all the things I can do to be professional and set a good example for my kids. They look to me for strength and for guidance and I want to practice what I preach."
His wife, Patrice, and their five children, ages 2 to 11, are his inspiration when the shots don't drop and the rebounds escape his grasp.
They can thank the Heat for that new-found "focus."
Though Curry earned a championship ring with Miami, he appeared in only 14 regular-season games. But it was a learning experience, one he desperately needed.
"I definitely 'figured it out' at the right time," Curry said. "Even though I didn't play a lot in Miami, it taught me a lot by being around guys who worked so very hard every single day.
"I had never been in a situation like that before and it rubs off on you. I'm a better person for it."
A guy who's had his share of personal tragedies, Curry still has critics who remember when he resembled the Michelin Man at 340 pounds and higher.
"I couldn't really care less what anybody else says. I'm playing for my family," Curry said. "It's all about my sons and my daughters and my wife and my mom and my dad. That's all that really matters to me."
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.