A Mother's Guide to Raising an NBA Superstar
Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports
It's a pretty safe bet that none of us would be here without our mothers, but it takes a special kind of mom to raise a world-class athlete that transfixes a nation and drives an entire pro sports league.
Thankfully, basketball is not like gymnastics or figure skating. You don't necessarily have to wake up before dawn each day from the age of six to reach the top of your field.
But all really successful ballers carry the values and work ethic instilled from mom directly onto the court, and it shows in their dedication, passion and team mentality.
As difficult as it is to play in the NBA, raising a kid is much, much harder. And giving birth is really hard.
After all, as LeBron James says, "Being a mother—it's the toughest job in the world. It's tougher than being a professional athlete or being the president. It's a powerful thing...mothers should have more than one day" (per James' autobiography, Shooting Stars, via book review in WebMD Magazine).
And so, in the spirit of Mother's Day, here are some tips directly from the top NBA moms for turning that little bundle of joy into a 6'8" multimillionaire NBAer.
Kevin Durant's mother, Wanda Pratt, always preached humility to her lanky son.
As she recalled, "One of the things I've tried to instill in you, is that it didn't have to be you, it just happened to be you. You have to accept your responsibility and be humble. It could just as easily be someone else. All of this is a blessing for a mom to see that her son is the way he is" (via Andrew Gilman of ESPN.com).
And that stress on remaining humble has clearly carried through to Kevin despite his three scoring titles at age 24.
Wanda also must have been a bit of a disciplinarian when KD was growing up. She was kind enough to come on ESPN's First Take last year to talk about her son, saying that she's "really proud of what he's done," but also calling herself "his biggest critic."
When Stephen A. Smith asked her what kinds of things she says to him, Wanda sounded more like an assistant coach than a mom:
I tell him sometimes he needs to drive to the basket before he shoots the three. That timing is everything. He needs to know when to make the pass. He needs to know when to shoot. He needs to know when to be aggressive on the boards...Sometimes, I think Kevin is a little more reserved than I would like for him to be on the court.
Wow. Is Scott Brooks taking notes?
It seems that the Durantula has taken his mom's advice to heart, because he has played with a renewed tenacity this season, and his hunger for a championship shines through. It's no wonder that Durant has been the finest player in this year's playoffs, essentially carrying the diminished Oklahoma City Thunder into the second round.
And Wanda is no exception in the family, as Durant's grandmother takes the same approach of encouraging KD but also identifying where he can improve.
Kevin Durant Instagram'd this funny text from his Grandma. “Kev Kev stop cussing so much” twitter.com/BleacherReport…— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 15, 2013
It's clear that Kev Kev owes more than one mom a bounty of gifts this Mother's Day.
Robin Paul did a tremendous job of raising Chris Paul; it's just a shame that his identical twin, Cliff Paul, was separated from him at birth (even though they retained the same last names for some reason).
In a somewhat odd promotion called "Taste of Success," organized by Ball Park Franks, Robin provides some background on child rearing and how to keep your hot dogs plump and juicy (use tongs, not a grill fork).
Robin confirmed that family was the foundation for molding Chris into the CP3 that we know today, saying, "We stressed morals, we stressed faith and family. We tried to always eat together as a family."
Education was also a big point of emphasis for CP3 growing up, so he was not allowed to play video games during the week. But the operative word there is video.
As the saying goes, a family that plays together stays together. And the Paul family loves to play games of the non-video variety.
As Robin told Dave Walker of The Times-Picayune, "Everybody who knows us as a family knows we love games. We all are competitive. Very, very, very." So now we know where Chris gets that competitive edge.
For visual proof of the Paul family's love of games, look no further than their appearance on Family Feud.
Why go on a game show for middling prizes when Chris makes so much money in the NBA? "We really love Steve Harvey," explained Robin. Who doesn't?
LeBron James gives his mother tremendous credit for molding him into the man he is today, saying, "She was my mother, my father, everything. To grow up in a single-parent household, to see what she could do all by herself, that gave me a lot of strength" (per Shooting Stars).
Gloria James was only 16 years old when LeBron was born. She had support raising him from her own mother, but LeBron's grandma passed away when he was just three years old. That left Gloria with tremendous responsibility solely on her shoulders and very limited means to care for her child.
The home they lived in was condemned and bulldozed when LeBron was only five years of age. They moved a dozen different times.
When her son was nine, Gloria decided she could not provide him with the stability of a family environment like she had growing up. She sent him to live with his football coach at the time, Frank Walker, and his wife Pam.
Gloria called it "the hardest decision I'd made in my life." But she spoke to the power of sacrifices made in a child's best interest, saying, "It was also one of the best. At that time in his life, he needed stability. It was hard, but I knew it was not about me. It was about him. I had to put him first" (per Shooting Stars).
And it's that principle of selflessness and sacrifice Gloria knows so well, which was the key to giving her son the wealth of opportunities that opened up in his teens.
As she says, "The most important—and sometimes the hardest—lesson to learn is patience. It doesn't matter if you are sick and tired. Your baby doesn't know that, doesn't know when you are irritated. And it's always about that baby, it's not about you."
As the best basketball player on the planet, LeBron has clearly demonstrated those virtues of patience and sacrifice in the interest of benefiting those around him. Just ask Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
So if you want your son or daughter to ascend to greatness in professional basketball, look no further than Wanda, Robin and Gloria. Through varied circumstances and situations, the cornerstones of child-rearing shine through: humility, family, togetherness, patience and sacrifice.
Oh, and no cussing.
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