For some NBA inductees, the path to the pros is becoming a family

When the Houston Rockets drafted Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. with the third NBA draft pick on Thursday, he continued the 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’s time to step it up a bit, time to work even harder.” — Jabari Smith Jr. spoke about his father’s reaction to the project. “This is a new level, a completely new game. I’m just trying to get in there and get to work.”

It’s not uncommon for the NBA cadre of 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 played in at least one NBA game, totaling 5 percent of the league’s total, nearly double the number from roughly two decades ago.

Smith was one of several players selected this year whose father had NBA experience. Among them was Johnny Davis of the University of Wisconsin, who was selected by the Washington Wizards at number 1. 10. His father is Mark Davis, who briefly played in the NBA after The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him in 1985.. There was also AJ Griffin from Duke, selected 1.16 by the Atlanta Hawks. His father, Adrian Griffin, played in the NBA from 1999 to 2008 and has been a assistant coach in the NBA The other was Colorado’s Jabari Walker, a late second-round pick for the Portland Trail Blazers, son of Samaki Walker, who played ten years in the NBA and won a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers.

WNBA connections can also be found among top players. Rhonda Smith-Banchereau, mother no. The first choice, Paolo Banquero, played in the WNBA. Bankero, who was drafted by the Orlando Magic, said his mother “supported me, 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, Nealee 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 actually an amazing story to have a mother who was in the league,” said Jaden Ivey. “There are not so many stories like this, and the connection between us is special. I thank her for everything she has done for me. I know I wouldn’t be on this stage, I wouldn’t be here without her.”

Sometimes the association with professional basketball players is not parental. In the middle of the first round, the Charlotte Hornets selected Mark Williams from Duke. His older sister Elizabeth Williams in WNBA since 2015. In the second round, the Cavaliers selected Isaiah Mobley of the University of Southern California, which would be convenient for family visits as his brother, Evan Mobley, already on the team. (Brothers are common in the NBA. See: Lopez, Antetokounbo, Balls and Holidays.)

In some cases, there were recognizable names that were not drafted but received contracts nonetheless. Scottie Pippen Jr., who played three seasons for Vanderbilt. expected signing bilateral 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 with Pippen, is expected to be offered a similar deal with the Toronto Raptors.

But while father-son ties in the NBA were highlighted by this year’s draft class, phenomenon is not new. Consider the Golden State roster, which featured four second-generation players during the team’s championship this year: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, and Gary Payton II.

And some of their fathers were front and center.

As Payton As he was about to register for Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics, he spotted his father, Gary Payton, a nine-time All-Star, sitting next to Detlef Schrempf, one of his former teammates. Father and son made eye contact—there was no need to exchange words.

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

And as the last seconds of Golden State’s Game 6 clinching win ticked by, Curry hugged his father, Della Curry, on the same baseline. Stephen Curry burst into tears.

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

In fact, the NBA Finals was a cross-generational smorgasbord of talent. The Celtics include 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. turn a blind eye to Williams as one of the Celtics’ assistants.

Players and coaches cite a number of factors in father-son pairings over the decades, starting with genetics: obviously being tall helps. But many sons of former players have also benefited from early exposure to the game, first-class training 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 floodlit, full-length court in their family’s backyard.

But with certain privileges comes pressure, especially when you have the same name as a famous father. Gary Payton II recalled how his father 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 so it remained.

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

But sometimes it can cause tension, like between Dallas Mavericks defenseman Tim Hardaway Jr. and his father, Tim Hardaway, a five-time All-Star who played from 1989 to 2003. They have both spoken publicly about how their relationship has become more complicated because of how harsh the older Hardaway was. his son about the game.

It can also be a problem if your father is a coach, a situation that Austin Rivers faced when he played for his father, Doc Rivers, with the Los Angeles Clippers. Doc Rivers played in the league from 1983 to 1996 and is also an experienced NBA head coach. The younger Rivers called it “bittersweet”. Doc Rivers supported him like a father, but Austin Rivers told The Ringer that “everything else, man, was hell” because it created an awkward situation. dynamic with his teammates.

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

Of course, it could work perfectly, as it did with Gary Peyton. Hours after Golden State won it last week in Boston, he celebrated his son’s triumph by dancing through the hallways of TD Garden.