Steve grew up in Takoma Park, Maryland, just outside his birthplace of Washington, DC. By age 10, Francis worked summer jobs to ease the financial burden on his mother, Brenda Wilson. His two older brothers and younger sister grew up together with their mother and stepfather.
“I know I’ve had it rough, especially being from around here. Just seeing a lot of things happen—good and bad—for people, that really made me open my eyes and see which way I wanted to go and what I wanted to do with my life. It showed me what type of a role model I wanted to be for my little cousins and my little sister and my family and my friends, too, even the ones that are older than me. Since I’ve been going to school and doing my thing, they’ve been changing themselves. Just so it can rub off on other people, that makes me feel better.”
The Takoma Park Boys & Girls Club provided Steve the opportunity to play athletics at an early age. Growing up he idolized Randall Cunningham and dreamed of playing in the NFL. It was an old fire station and local playground courts where his basketball talents would develop. He was academically ineligible to play basketball his freshman year in high school. His sophomore year, he grew from 5’3” to 5’9” and made the varsity squad, averaging 10 minutes per game. An ankle injury during a pre-season pick-up game prevented him from playing his junior season, and tragically when his mother passed away his senior year, he dropped out of school.
“I was at a point where I didn’t know what to do following the loss of my mother; I didn’t know which way to go or what to do. So I just went back to playing ball… To get through that is something you’ve really got to want to do, something you need your friends and family to help you with. You have to have that support. But it’s in my nature. That’s what God put me here to do. To be a role model, especially for those kids who have it tough and maybe don’t have as many opportunities. I’m here to show them that there is always a way to get through it.”
Support and guidance from his family and friends helped Steve get back on the right track. He earned his GED and enrolled at San Jacinto Junior College in Texas. The following year he attended Allegany Community College in Maryland and earned his Associates Arts Degree. Francis led the basketball teams at both of these schools to the NJCAA final. This success landed him at the University of Maryland, and onto to the 1999 NBA Draft, where he was the Second Overall Pick. In 2002, Steve signed a maximum contract extension with the Houston Rockets. He has continued his NBA Career with the Orlando Magic, New York Knicks and again with the Houston Rockets.
“I used to think about all the people who doubted them (Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall and Harriet Tubman) and all the hard work they had to put in to get where they got. It teaches youth that you can overcome anything, and that if you really believe in yourself, there’s no telling what heights you might reach.”
After undergoing a lengthy rehabilitation process on his knee and quadricep following surgery, Steve retired from the NBA but continues to commit himself to his Foundation and many business ventures when he is not enjoying time with his two young children Shailyn and Steven Jr.