During the course of five years in the NBA, Victor Oladipo learned how to turn being counted out into fuel for pursuing greatness. From a promising start to being traded twice in one year, Oladipo never let his journey become a one-man quest for redemption. Instead, he stayed true to what got him this far — hard work, love for the game and being a committed teammate.

We caught up with Oladipo to talk about what winning the 2018 NBA Most Improved Player Award means to him.

When you talked to us during All-Star Weekend, you described how doubt from others inspires you to work harder. What advice do you have for someone who feels like they’re underestimated?

My advice would be to understand this: there is a point in everyone’s life when they will be counted out for something. How you take it and how you apply it to your everyday life determines whether or not you’ll prosper from it.

For me, I took the doubt people had in me and let it fuel my fire. I was already motivated to be great. I was already motivated to be the best.

Use it as motivation. It can actually be a helping hand.

Speaking of being counted out — winning the Most Improved Player would be one of the best ways to answer critics. What would that award mean to you?

It’s a blessing to be considered the most improved player in the NBA after having a great year with the Pacers. It would definitely be a testament to the hard work I put in. It’s only the beginning for us, and it’s only the beginning for me.

Before landing in Indiana last season, you switched teams a couple times. What does winning the 2018 NBA Backbone Award mean to you, given that it’s voted on by your teammates?

It’s definitely a blessing coming from my teammates. It takes a team to do something special. I thank them for the award and for considering me the backbone.

Everyone is familiar with the high-flying dunks and clutch shots, but you were also named to the All-Defense First Team this season. What drives you to be a great defender?

I want to be the best in the world playing both ends of the court. Growing up, I was always the best defender on the floor. I wasn’t the most skilled or the most gifted, but I worked hard, so I take pride in that.

You’ve talked about the adjustments you made last off-season: working out three times a day, drinking a gallon of water a day and changing your diet. It clearly paid off. The night your season ended, there was the famous text you sent to your trainer about getting back to work. What adjustments have you made this off-season, so far?

I’m doing everything I did last summer but just turning it up a notch. I’ve been going to another level with my training, my eating habits and my mind — trying to make sure that when next season comes along, I’m better than I was last year.

We know you love playing in the Air Jordan XXXII. What shoes are in your summer rotation when you’re not training?

I just got these Levis 4s. I’m looking forward to rocking those. Honestly, it’s so hard to pick. Everyone asks me, “What’s your favorite Jordan?” To this day, it’s so hard to pick, because there are so many of them that are meaningful. I just go with the flow, whatever I’m feeling that day.

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