For Some NBA Draftees, Making It To The Pros Runs In The Family

When the Houston Rockets selected Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. With the third pick of the NBA Draft on Thursday, it continues a tradition of basketball as a family inheritance.

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

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

For a cadre of NBA players, having a parent or being related to someone who played in the NBA or WNBA is not particularly unusual. And many players who are related to someone who played professionally have parents who played college basketball.

This past season, 30 second-generation players appeared in at least one NBA game – a total that represents 5 percent of the league, and is more than 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, the University of Wisconsin’s Washington Wizards. 10. His father is Mark Davis, who played in the NBA briefly after the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him in 1985. 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 been an assistant coach in the NBA since Colorado’s Jabari Walker, a late-second-round pick for the Portland Trail Blazers, son of Samaki. 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 the No. 1 pick, Paolo Banchero, played in the WNBA Banchero, who was drafted by the Orlando Magic, saying his mother “stayed on, always held me accountable 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 was a recent assistant coach for the Memphis Grizzlies. She’s now the coach of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team.

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

Sometimes the connection to professional basketball players is not parental. Midway through the first round, the Charlotte Hornets drafted Mark Williams out of the Duke. His older sister Elizabeth Williams has been in the WNBA since 2015. In the second round, the Cavaliers picked Isaiah Mobley out of the University of Southern California, which will be convenient for family visits, as his brother, Evan Mobley, is already on. 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 along with 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 featured 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 were front and center.

As Payton got set to check in the Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics, 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 need to be exchanged.

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

And as the final seconds ticked off in Golden State’s championship-clinching win in Game 6, Curry embraced his father, Dell Curry, along with a baseline. Stephen Curry broke down in tears.

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

In fact, the NBA Finals offered up 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, were able to keep Damon Stoudamire. Close eye on Williams as one of the Celtics’ assistants.

Players and coaches have cited a number of factors in the steady, decades-long emergence of father-son pairings, starting with genetics: it obviously helps to be tall. But many sons of former players also benefited from early exposure to the game, from top-notch instruction to the time they could start dribbling and various other perks. 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 certain privileges comes pressure – especially when you share a name with a famous father. Gary Payton II recalled how his father had learned to back off when it came to basketball so that his son could develop a passion for the game on his own. They simply stopped talking about hoops, and that remained the case.

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

But sometimes it can cause strains, 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 both spoke publicly about how their relationship was. Was made more difficult as a result of how hard the elder Hardaway was on his son about the game.

It can also be a strain if your father is a coach, a situation that Austin Rivers faced when he played for his father, 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 his father, but Austin Rivers told The Ringer that “everything else, man, was hell,” because it created an awkward dynamic with his teammatesGeneral Chat Chat Lounge

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

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

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