My features for The Ringer:
Davante Adams is Peaking in Every Way Possible (1.14.21):
Davante Adams could feel his daughter’s eyes on him. Watching him. Intently focused on his arms, his legs. His face. Then-15-month-old Daija couldn’t look away as her dad worked out in the middle of a gym inside their Danville, California, home last April. So he strapped Daija into a bouncer a few feet away that allowed her to jump and jump until her little legs grew tired. Normally, when bench-pressing heavy weight in front of his Packers teammates, Davante would struggle to complete one rep. But with Daija watching, he easily completed three. She’s watching me, he thought to himself. I have to show her that her daddy can do this. That her daddy is strong. (READ FULL STORY HERE).
Breanna Stewart Finds New Perspective Atop the World (5.12.21):
Dozens of young girl hoopers logged on to their computers, hoping to virtually meet their idol. Usually they’d be lining a tunnel in Seattle, watching Breanna Stewart as she runs onto the court. No matter. The girls were just excited to see her on their screens. Watch her. Maybe even talk to her. The girls were wearing muscle tanks, shorts. They looked ready to compete. They looked like her. Stewart started setting up video calls with young girls’ teams across the country last spring, during the height of quarantine, hoping to inspire the next generation of players while gyms were still closed. She wanted to tell them how to challenge themselves (she has to make 100 3s before she leaves the gym, 10 in a row at each spot). And she wanted to tell them about the voice in her head. The one that pushes her, the one that chases perfection. I have to be the best. I have to be the best. (READ FULL STORY HERE).
The Reason Jae’Sean Tate Has Defied the Naysayers (4.22.21):
Every day on the bus ride to elementary school, 8-year-old Jae’Sean Tate would clasp his hands, tuck his head down, and pray to God: Please don’t let me get in trouble today. Please let me be good today. After arriving, he’d calmly walk into his classroom, find a seat, and think to himself: I’m not going to get in trouble today. I’m going to be good today. And then, the anger would swell inside him, threatening to boil over. Teachers would wonder why he’d randomly start disrupting class, distracting fellow students, and throwing tantrums. He’d get in trouble so often he’d have to eat lunch with a school counselor. The principal’s office had a designated chair for him. He didn’t want to get in trouble. He wanted to be good. He wanted to be seen for what he was: a loving, hard-working, studious boy. What he wanted most, however, was to not hurt anymore. To not break down. (READ FULL STORY HERE).
Andre Drummond Gets a Chance to Start Over (5.19.21):
Andre Drummond was trying to adapt. Trying to be what others wanted him to be. Trying to be what others thought he should be. So every day a few summers back, when he was still playing for the Pistons, Drummond dedicated an entire offseason to just shooting from far out. The 6-foot-10, 279-pound big man abandoned post workouts for the 3-point line and would endlessly catch and shoot, catch and shoot. From farther and farther away. It must have been a strange sight. The NBA’s reigning rebounding champ was out of his element. But around the league, centers were beginning to shoot 3s more regularly, so he felt like he needed to become a center who shot 3s more regularly. Traditional big men like him who played with their backs to the basket were a dying breed. So he tried something drastic. Sure, Drummond had always implemented offensive drills within his workouts, but just offensive drills? And nothing but 3-pointers? (READ FULL STORY HERE).
There’s No Prospect Like Evan Mobley (7.28.21):
Evan Mobley’s family had a fish tank, filled mostly with oscar and African cichlids variations. One afternoon, his father Eric returned home and went to feed them. As he was facing the tank and preparing the fish flakes, a loud noise startled him. “WHOOP!” He craned his neck and saw a pair of long legs whiz behind him. Eric realized those legs belonged to his youngest son. Evan, then a sixth grader and already taller than 6 feet, had performed a backflip over the marble floor in their house, shaking the ground upon landing on his feet. It could have been his head. Evan was thrilled. Eric was terrified. “Did you just do a backflip?!” Eric said. “Yeah, Dad!” Evan squealed. “Please don’t ever do that again,” Eric said, trying to maintain composure. “That is not safe.” Eric knew then: His son was different. (READ FULL STORY HERE).
Rosalie Fish Wants To Be the Face of Change (7.23.21):
Before every race, Rosalie Fish stares at her reflection in the mirror. She pauses a few minutes and thinks of Indigenous women. Women who have gone missing, who have been murdered. Those whose names she knows, those whose names she’ll never know. Aunts, cousins, neighbors, classmates. Women who had families, who had ambitions. Who had children, friends, dreams, desires. She paints a giant red hand across her mouth, stretching across her cheeks. Red is the color that spirits, that ancestors, can see, according to some Native traditions. The hand over her mouth is meant to represent and honor the Indigenous women who have been silenced through violence—sexual violence, physical violence, psychological violence—an epidemic that receives little national attention. “I had always known I was a target,” Fish says. (READ FULL STORY HERE).
The Metamorphosis of Rashod Bateman (4.26.21):
Rashod Bateman would snuggle into bed, clutch his Wilson football tight, and close his eyes. When he awoke each morning, the football would still be nestled in his arms, as if he were trying to protect it. That ball held plenty of dreams for the 7-year-old Bateman, like making it to college, or playing in the NFL. And holding it gave him a sense of peace—something that often seemed out of reach. At that age, Bateman couldn’t understand why his mother, LaShonda Cromer, was suffering. Why she had to work 12-hour days to provide for him and his two brothers. Why his stepfather came home groggy and drunk. Loud. Violent. Bateman thought that if he opened the door to his mother and stepfather’s room, walked to the foot of the bed, and stood there, he could stop whatever nightmares were playing out in real time: his mom screaming for help, his stepfather yelling at her. Maybe if he sees me, he won’t do this, Bateman thought. (READ FULL STORY HERE).
India’s Newest NBA Hopeful is a Window Into the Country’s Basketball Future (3.16.21):
Half the Indian village of Dera Baba Nanak had gathered in the Singh family home. It was late July 2020, and relatives, friends, neighbors, kids, reporters, and even local politicians had poured into the modest four-room space, filling the house with the sugary aroma of pinni, a traditional Punjabi sweet that’s stuffed with almonds, pistachios, and raisins. People had come to celebrate the then-19-year-old Princepal Singh, who had just been selected to the NBA G League’s select Ignite team. Standing at 6-foot-9 and 221 pounds, Singh is the tallest person in Dera Baba Nanak, a small farming community of just over 6,000 in the Gurdaspur district of Punjab, India. It’s a village where everyone knows everyone else. And everyone knows Princepal, whose nickname is “Prince.” He is the village’s star, hope, and portal to possibility: that someone from here could become something beyond here. (READ FULL STORY HERE).
The Lasting Memories of Kobe and Gigi (1.26.21):
Kobe Bryant missed only one Mambas practice in two years. The head coach had every day, every practice, every minute accounted for with his team. It was something that made him feel whole again after retiring from the NBA. Determined again. Basketball took everything out of him and coaching his daughter, Gigi, and the rest of the Mambas, filled him back up and gave him a new purpose. He had planned to put all of the girls on one high school varsity team in the near future and become the head coach. “He loved them girls,” says Zach Randolph, the 17-year NBA veteran and father of MacKenly Randolph, a post player on the team. “Everybody was inspired by him.”Kobe’s love for girls’ basketball extended far beyond his own team. He mentored players on rival eighth grade AAU teams and high schools. He had nicknames for all of them. He texted many of them with advice, randomly dropping in little nuggets. I was just thinking about that one move you did the other day. Remember, you have to flash higher if you want to turn, catch, and face more effectively, he’d tell them. (READ FULL STORY HERE).