By: Benjamin Cruz
Most Warrior fans remember the 2005 NBA Draft for 2 reasons: drafting Ike Diogu with the 9th overall pick (Andrew Bynum was taken 10th) and drafting a high school kid out of Jackson, Mississippi named Monta Ellis in the 2nd round with the 40th overall pick. The Warriors actually had a 3rd pick in the 2005 draft and they used it to take Chris Taft, a 6’10 forward from the University of Pittsburgh.
Taft was able to crack then-coach Mike Montgomery’s rotation right away providing energy, hustle and defense to a team that was very thin up front. Unfortunately, Taft’s time with the Warriors was short-lived as a persistent back injury caused by polymyositis limited him to 17 games in his rookie season which, was then followed by his release prior to the start of the 2006 season. “Before [the back injury] happened, I [had never gottten] hurt before: high school, college, AAU, going back to the first time I started playing basketball. I never missed a practice, never missed a game, never missed anything” Taft said in a phone interview. “As soon as I got to the highest stage to [play basketball], during the summer, was when I first got hurt so this kept happening to me and then the team released me, so that was really hard for me.”
Despite his short tenure with the Warriors, Taft enjoyed his time in Oakland. “My time with the Warriors was great. I got to play with great players: Baron Davis, Derek Fisher, Jason Richardson, Mike Dunleavy. It was a wonderful time. I really, really enjoyed it there. It was one of the best places I got to go to and play at.” One of the players he also got to play with was the man taken 2 spots ahead of him in the draft, Monta Ellis. “I knew from day 1 [that] Monta was gonna be one of the best players there because he worked so hard” Taft stated. “I’m not surprised [at how good he’s become] because I saw it in practice. There were times where he was the best player out there; no one could guard him. He can score, he can score on anybody and you can see it now so I’m not surprised at all. Not only is he really talented, but he works really hard.”
After not being able to play basketball for about a year, Taft would eventually fight his way back to the court and wind up with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA D-League. However, Taft would unfortunately suffer another setback, as he would dislocate his ankle after just 8 games. That didn’t stop him from taking his time in the D-League as a lesson. “Honestly, I wish [my time] in the D-League was longer. During my time there, it was great. It kind of humbled me a little bit with the way we traveled, the hotels we stayed at. It was very different from how it was in the NBA. But at the same time, guys were working just as hard, if not harder then guys in the NBA ’cause they wanted to get to that level.”
As another injury piled on, it seemed like it may have been the end of the road for Taft. But now, at age 26, he is attempting to make it back into the NBA and is as healthy as can be. “Injuries are behind me. It’s been a couple of years now and I haven’t had any issues and I’m very, very grateful for that. I really feel like it’s behind me right now and I just feel like the best way for me to show that is just me being out there on the court again” he said.
Now that injuries are a thing of the past, Taft can focus solely on his number 1 goal: getting back into the NBA. “My trainer has me doing everything on the court: dribbling, shooting, post-up. We’re in the weight room every day. We’re doing everything you can think of. We’re working really, really hard. I’m pushing myself because I know that I haven’t played in an actual basketball game in years. So I have to do a lot more than what the next person is doing.”
When Taft isn’t in the gym working to keep his dream alive, he is spending time with his wife and 2 children and attending church 2-3 times a week. “I’m about God and family and basketball,” Taft said.
Chris Taft’s basketball career has been anything but easy. While many athletes go through injuries, Taft was faced with an injury where many doctors didn’t believe that he would be able to play basketball again. But when you come across a guy who genuinely wishes he could have played more in the D-League, (let’s be honest, there aren’t many players out there who genuinely want to play in the D-League) you see that his drive and determination are so great that he wouldn’t let any amount of injuries get in the way of getting to where he wants to be.
When asked if he ever thought about giving up throughout his journey, he quickly shut down any notion of that.
“That’s not in my vocabulary. I don’t even know how to do that.”