I spent my entire childhood in a small town of 12,000 people in southern Indiana.  After high school, I drove an hour up the road and played for my hometown Hoosiers!  Eight years ago, I heard my name called on draft night by the Charlotte Bobcats.  As a 20-year old kid, I had achieved my dream of playing in the NBA!  With that came a sense of uncertainty, fear, and separation because I would be moving 10 hours from my comfort zone in Indiana.  I didn’t know a single person in the big city of Charlotte, I had never lived alone, and I knew that I was in for a rude awakening as I made the jump from college basketball to grown-man basketball in the NBA.

Eight years later…..Wow!!!  THANK YOU, CHARLOTTE!  From day one, I felt welcomed by the community, celebrated by the faithful Hornets fans, challenged by my coaches and teammates, and Charlotte became my new home.  Although my job in the NBA is a little more visible than other occupations, when I walked off the court, I wanted to be like any other kid who moved to Charlotte after college!  I wanted to experience the city, explore all the best sights and attractions, and try the top restaurants.  Since then, I’ve cheered on the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.  I’ve spent Friday nights at Truist Field cheering on the Charlotte Knights and stayed for the postgame fireworks, of course.  In the summers, you could find me walking or running along the light rail, hiking Crowders Mountain, throwing a frisbee around at Freedom Park, or singing along with my favorite country artist at PNC Music Pavilion.  I ate BBQ at Midwood Smokehouse, fell in love with the salmon sandwich and sushi at Cowfish, and even had my own Cody Zeller menu item at Red Rocks!  I swam at Lake Norman, rented kayaks with friends, and we hosted our annual family vacation on the water.  I’m going to miss it all!

When I arrived in Charlotte, I didn’t want to just enjoy the city and leave.  Instead, I wanted to find a way to give back and get involved in the community.  As a rookie, my teammates and I dressed up in Mario and Luigi costumes and visited the kids at Hemby Children’s Hospital for Halloween.  I’ve been going back ever since.  I’ve visited as a Ninja Turtle, Spiderman, Superman, Captain America, and even went as a 7-foot tall minion one year!  A few years ago, I started my own foundation called Like A Child to help kids in a variety of ways, such as my friends at Hemby.  We plan on continuing our support of Charlotte non-profit organizations and celebrating the joy, curiosity, and innocence of children. 

I came to Charlotte as a 20-year old college kid that had never lived outside of Indiana, and I’m leaving as a 28 year old adult with lifelong friends and memories that I will cherish forever!  Charlotte will always have a special place in my heart…. it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later!