Eric Crookshank is a defensive specialist. And not just in the ways you'd expect him to be. Sure, the Halifax Rainmen's most recognizable is a beast on the basketball court, but the goofy man in a mighty package, known for his dazzling dunks, developed an ability to rebound long before he played pro ball. His retirement from the game this fall (and the retirement of the number 20 jersey he wore for five years) marked a new chapter of Crookshank's life, one in which he transitions from all- star to author. It's Not Just a Game is an autobiographical look at his road to success and all of the hardship that could have, but didn't, reroute him along the way.
Now a father of two, you could say that in some ways the California native has always been a parent. Growing up with a drug-dealing dad and addict mother, Crookshank matured out of necessity and not only watched over himself and his younger sister, but played a role in his father's business. "I couldn't do anything a child could do, I was counting drug money instead of playing," he says of his younger days. "Everywhere my dad went I went. I thought that was life." It wasn't until Crookshank was nearly a teenager and his mother moved the family away from his father, that he realized the weight of what his father was doing, and how badly he wanted his own life to go in a different direction. In a span of 10 years he went from a benched high school player, deemed "too small" (the man we know as Air Canada sprouted from six feet to six foot eight after high school) to an athlete that wowed his way from a pick-up game to a college team. Crookshank went on to earn a degree in business, and slam dunk his way from the NCAA to the pro ranks before moving to Halifax to help shape the Rainmen in 2007.
But now that basketball is on the back burner, he is focused on sharing his story as a lesson to others, starting with revisiting his past in It's Not Just A Game. "I wanted kids to know that through all the adversity you'll go through in life, you can always persevere and get through it," says Crookshank, who plans on penning a second book that'll tackle bullying. His father, who's since made his own rebound from a life of drugs and violence, is also using his story to inspire others through motivational speaking.
"I can't see my life any different," Crookshank says, adding the most important lessons he took from his parents were survival and love. "I can't see my life with my mother and father living together, and a happy family, I don't think I'd be who I am today.
"Sometimes you have to look inside your soul and find something positive to make you see the light at the end of the tunnel, you have to dig deep," says Crookshank. "You have to know that you are somebody. You could be the next president, you could be the next anything if you put your mind to it. If your positive thoughts outweigh the negative you're in good shape."