For some NBA draftees, making it to the pros runs in the family


For some NBA draftees, making it to the pros runs in the family

When the Houston Rockets picked Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. with the third pick of the NBA draft Thursday, they continued a tradition of basketball as a family legacy.

His father, also named Jabari Smith, played in the NBA in the early 2000s.

“My dad just told me it was time to spice it up a little, time to work even harder,” Jabari Smith Jr. said of his dad’s reaction to the draft. “It’s a new level, a whole new game. I’m just trying to get there and get to work.”

It’s not particularly uncommon for a roster of NBA players to have a parent or be related to someone who played in the NBA or WNBA. And many players who aren’t related to someone who played professionally have parents who played college basketball.

Last season, 30 second-generation players appeared in at least one NBA game — a total that makes up 5 percent of the league and nearly double the number of players seen about two decades ago.

Smith was one of several players drafted this year whose father had NBA experience. Among them was University of Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis, who was picked 10th by the Washington Wizards. His father is Mark Davis, who played in the NBA shortly after he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1985. There was also Duke’s AJ Griffin, who was picked No. 16 by the Atlanta Hawks. His father is Adrian Griffin, who played in the NBA from 1999 to 2008 and has been an assistant coach in the NBA ever since. The other was Colorado’s Jabari Walker, a late second-round pick for the Portland Trail Blazers, the son of Samaki Walker, who played a decade in the NBA and won a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers.

WNBA connections were also among the top picks. Rhonda Smith-Banchero, the mother of No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero, played in the WNBA Banchero, who was drafted by the Orlando Magic, said his mother “stayed with me, always held me accountable and made sure I was there.” was right way.” The Detroit Pistons picked Jaden Ivey from Purdue with the fifth pick. His mother, Niele Ivey, played in the WNBA and was recently an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies. She is now the coach of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team .

“It’s really an amazing story to have a mom who was in the league,” said Jaden Ivey. “You don’t see stories like that a lot and the bond we have is special. I thank her for all the things she has done for me. I know I wouldn’t be on this stage, I wouldn’t be here without her.”

Sometimes the connection with professional basketball players is not parental. Midway through the first round, the Charlotte Hornets drafted Mark Williams out of Duke. His older sister Elizabeth Williams has been in the WNBA since 2015. In the second round, the Cavaliers selected Isaiah Mobley from the University of Southern California, which will be convenient for family visits since his brother Evan Mobley is already on the team. (Brothers are common in the NBA lake: the Lopezes, Antetokounmpos, Balls, and Holidays.)

In some cases there were recognizable names that were not drafted but were still given commissions. Scotty Pippen Jr., who played three seasons at Vanderbilt, is expected to sign a two-way contract with the Lakers. His father, Scottie Pippen, won six championships with the Chicago Bulls. Ron Harper Jr., a Rutgers grad whose father Ron Harper won three championships alongside Pippen, is expected to be offered a similar deal with the Toronto Raptors.

But while the NBA’s father-son connections were highlighted by this year’s draft class, the phenomenon is nothing new. Consider Golden State’s roster, which included four second-generation players during the team’s championship run this year: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Gary Payton II.

And some of their fathers took center stage.

As Payton was about to check in against the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, he spotted his father Gary Payton, a nine-time All-Star, sitting courtside with Detlef Schrempf, one of his former teammates. Father and son made eye contact – no words needed to be exchanged.

“He just shook his head,” Gary Payton II said. “I know that means it’s about time. You know, go to work.”

And as the final seconds of Golden State’s Game 6 title win ticked by, Curry hugged his father, Dell Curry, along a baseline. Stephen Curry burst into tears.

“I saw him and got lost,” he said, adding, “I just wanted to capture the moment because it was so special.”

In fact, the NBA Finals offered a smorgasbord of generational talent. Among the Celtics: Al Horford, whose father Tito Horford played for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Washington Bullets, and Grant Williams, whose cousins ​​Salim and Damon Stoudamire both played in the NBA. This season, Damon Stoudamire was able to keep an eye on Williams as one of the Celtics’ assistants.

Players and coaches have cited a number of factors in the steady, decade-long emergence of father-son pairings, starting with genetics: Being tall obviously helps. But many sons of former players have also benefited from early exposure to the game, first class instruction from the moment they could start dribbling, and various other benefits. For example, Stephen Curry and his younger brother Seth Curry, who now plays for the Nets, had access to a fully-lit court in their family’s backyard.

But with certain privileges comes pressure — especially when you share a name with a famous father. Gary Payton II recalled how his father learned to keep a low profile with basketball so that his son could develop a passion for the game himself. They just stopped talking about tires and it stayed that way.

“He doesn’t really say anything these days,” said Gary Payton II. “We just talk about life, family, other sports and so on.”

But sometimes strains can arise, like that between Tim Hardaway Jr., a guard for the Dallas Mavericks, and his father, Tim Hardaway, a five-time All Star who played from 1989-2003. Both have spoken publicly about their relationship made difficult by how hard the elder Hardaway was on his son over the game.

It can also be a burden when your dad is the coach, a situation Austin Rivers faced while playing for his dad Doc Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers. Doc Rivers played in the league from 1983 to 1996 and is also an accomplished NBA head coach. The younger Rivers called it “bittersweet”. Doc Rivers had his back than his dad, but Austin Rivers told The Ringer that “everything else, man, was hell” because it was uncomfortable dynamic with his teammates.

A similar situation could repeat itself next season: The Knicks hired Rick Brunson, a former NBA player, as an assistant coach and are expected to target his son Jalen Brunson, one of the top free agents, as an offseason acquisition .

Of course, it could work out just as well as it did with Gary Payton. In the hours after Golden State won it all in Boston last week, he celebrated his son’s triumph by dancing the hallways of TD Garden.

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