Cool jobs: I'm a professional athlete

Three-time All-Star, and later coach, Dan Majerle, was a basketball standout at Traverse City High School in the 1980s before it was called Traverse City Central, then went on to CMU and the Phoenix Suns.
At the onset of the 1980s, when Traverse City Central High School was known simply as Traverse City High, little did anyone know there was a young man traversing the hallways (and the gymnasium) who would soon put the school on the map.

That young man was Daniel Lewis Majerle, who would soon become known as "Thunder Dan" for his thunderous dunks in his collegiate days and early part of his NBA career. Perhaps sports fans around the country were unaware of Dan Majerle back then, but they soon would find out all about him.

Thunder Dan--and the way he played basketball--had a way of capturing a sports fan's attention.

After starring at Central Michigan University, he went on to play 14 years in the NBA, primarily for the Phoenix Suns, with briefer stints with the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was named to three All-Star teams, he was on the 1988 U.S. Olympics team that won a bronze medal, and won a gold medal on the 1994 International Basketball Federation team.

Not bad for a kid from Traverse City High.

Not quite as well known is that in 2013, Majerle, 48, was named head coach of Grand Canyon University, the first year it competed in Division 1 and became part of the Western Athletic Conference. His team finished 15-15, very respectable for a first-year Division I program.

He has been the assistant head coach of the Suns, and he was named to their ring of honor after his retirement from playing in 2002. Safe to say, Majerle was one of the most popular players in Phoenix history.

As his time with the Suns was drawing near an end in 2002, Majerle had no sadness.

"Sad? No, I'm not sad at all," Majerle said. "After all that I've done? What's there to be sad about? I've had an incredible run. Just incredible."

Even though Majerle has enjoyed more success than he could have hoped for in the world of basketball, he doesn't forget his days growing up on Seventh Street in Traverse City.

But he had to seek out help from his father and from Tom Kozelko, a 1969 Traverse City grad who helped him with his game. Kozelko played three seasons with Washington in the early 1970s.

"Coming from Traverse City, there's just not a lot of guys around who've played in the NBA," Majerle said. "So having someone there every day who knows what it takes to make it that far helped a lot."

And, so did all that practice at Traverse City High.

Jeff Barr is a freelance writer who has lived in Michigan for 46 years. You can reach him via email and @JeffBarr88.
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