For some NBA rookies, going to the pros is all about family

For some NBA rookies, going to the pros is all about family

When the Houston Rockets selected Jabari Smith Jr. from Auburn with the third pick in the NBA draft on Thursday, it continued a basketball tradition as a family heirloom.

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

“My dad just told me it’s time to amp it up a bit, 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.

For an executive of NBA players, having a relative or being related to someone who played in the NBA or WNBA isn’t particularly unusual. 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’s 5% of the league and nearly twice as many players as about two decades ago.

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

WNBA connections could also be found 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, says her mother “stayed with me, always held me responsible and made sure I was on the right track.” The Detroit Pistons selected Purdue’s Jaden Ivey with the fifth pick. His mother, Niele Ivey, played in the WNBA and recently served as an assistant coach for the Memphis Grizzlies. She is now the coach of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team.

“It’s actually an amazing story to have a mom who’s been in the league,” Jaden Ivey said. “You don’t see too many stories like that, and the bond we have is special. I thank her for everything she’s done for me. I know I wouldn’t be on that stage, I wouldn’t be there, without her.

Sometimes the bond 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 picked Isaiah Mobley from the University of Southern California, which will come in handy for family visits, as his brother, Evan Mobley, is already on the team. (Brothers are common in the NBA See: the Lopezes, Antetokounmpos, Balls and Holidays.)

In some cases, there were recognizable names that weren’t drafted but nonetheless received contracts. 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 alum whose father, Ron Harper, won three championships alongside Pippen, is expected to be offered a similar contract with the Toronto Raptors.

But while father-son relationships in the NBA were on full display with this year’s draft class, the phenomenon is nothing new. Consider Golden State’s roster, which included four second-generation players in the team’s championship this year: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Gary Payton II.

And some of their fathers were in the foreground.

As Payton prepared to play in Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics, he spotted his dad, nine-time All-Star Gary Payton, sitting next to Detlef Schrempf, one of his alumni. teammates. Father and son made eye contact – no words had to be exchanged.

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

And as the final seconds ticked away in Golden State’s decisive Game 6 victory, Curry hugged his father, Dell Curry, along a baseline. Stephen Curry broke down in tears.

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

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

Players and coaches have cited a number of factors in the decades-long steady emergence of father-son pairings, starting with genetics: It obviously helps to be big. But many sons of former players also benefited from early exposure to the game, top-notch instruction from the moment they were able to 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 full-length court in their family’s backyard, complete with lights.

But with some privileges come pressures, especially when you share a name with a famous dad. Gary Payton II recalled how his dad learned to back off when it came to basketball so his son could develop a passion for the game on his own. They just stopped talking about hoops, and it stayed that way.

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

But sometimes it can cause tension, like the one between Tim Hardaway Jr., a Dallas Mavericks guard, and his father, Tim Hardaway, a five-time All Star who played from 1989 to 2003. They have both spoken publicly about how whose relationship was made more difficult due to the elder Hardaway’s harshness with his son over the game.

It can also be a strain if your dad is the coach, a situation Austin Rivers faced when he played for his dad, Doc Rivers, on 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 as a father, but Austin Rivers told The Ringer that “everything else, man, is hell,” because it created discomfort. dynamic with teammates.

A similar situation could play out again next season: the Knicks have 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 very well, as it did for Gary Payton. In the hours after Golden State won last week in Boston, he celebrated his son’s triumph by dancing in the halls of TD Garden.

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