Former All-Star guard Baron Davis on path for comeback
POSTED: Aug 31, 2015 5:09 PM ET
UPDATED: Aug 31, 2015 5:24 PM ET
Top 10: Baron Davis Plays
A look back at the ten best plays of Baron Davis' career.
David Aldridge's Monday morning column, The Morning Tip, is on hiatus. Before he took off, Aldridge asked for volunteers to fill in while he's away.
Today's Guest Tipper is Baron Davis, whose life and career are something out of a movie -- which makes sense, given that he's now making movies, two years after his NBA career appeared to end with a severe knee injury in New York (more on that below). Davis grew up in South Central L.A., and went to the prestigious Crossroads High School, where his classmates included Kate Hudson and Cash Warren. The L.A. Times Player of the Year in 1997, Davis stayed at home and went to UCLA for two years before being taken by Charlotte with the third pick of the 1999 Draft. The original Beard, Davis was a two-time All-Star and played 13 NBA seasons, starting with the Hornets, and then the Warriors (where he was a key contributor to Golden State's upset of the top-seeded Mavericks in the first round of the '07 playoffs -- and immolated Andrei Kirilenko in the second round). Davis came back home when he signed with the Clippers in 2008, but his time, and team, in L.A. was a horror show. Former owner Donald Sterling heckled him -- his own player -- from Sterling's courtside seats. The Clippers traded Davis to Cleveland, along with what became the number one pick (Kyrie Irving) in the 2011 Draft, and after signing with the Knicks the following summer, Davis blew out his knee during New York's first-round loss to Miami. Yet Davis was already well on his way to establishing his next career, as a filmmaker. He had formed Verso Entertainment while a player; now he went full-time into the movie-making business, producing a documentary on the history of the Crips and Bloods gangs in L.A., which was nominated for an Emmy Award. Yet the idea of playing again has gnawed at Davis, a subject he first raised in a very funny series of "mockumentary" shorts in 2014. But many around the league knew Davis was really contemplating one more run at one more season in the Association. Today, Baron takes you along through his last few years on and off the court, as a notion became an obsession.
Kid: "Looks like time is passing you by old man..."
Me: "Old? I'm moving faster than you!!! How old are you?"
Me: "I thought you were 15, 16... You're little as hell. Malnourished, I bet!"
After about three games and back-and-forth trash talking, I worked this kid over. Crossover. Fade. Pick 'n roll floater. Post action D-Bo status or should I say Z-Bo status. I realized that I was the LeBron James meets Steph Curry on these runs.
I felt great afterwards and was riding a high. 'Man, I know I can play in the league again,' I said to myself. Even though I was playing against a mix of guys who play once a week and high schoolers who probably played 50 pickup games that week. It's Sunday morning and all the old heads (older ballers who are now weekend warriors) are egging me on.
"BD, you still got it fool."
"What are you doing?"
"You playing around dog."
I was playing around. Once I got hurt and carried off that court in 2012 in Madison Square Garden, the Mecca and grand stage of basketball, I told myself it was over. Just forget you ever played and don't bring it up. If anybody tries to remind you how much you love it, just brush it off as something that you were good at a long time ago. Give yourself amnesia. Tell yourself you hate playing the game and it will be easier to move on.
My grandmother always told me to have something to fall back on.
"You're not going to be able to play forever. You're a good basketball player, but you are also good at other things. You could get hurt the way you play out there, like your life depended on it."
She must have been psychic, because she called it. I had pushed my body to the limit at an early age and the injury was the coup de grace.
So after that devastating injury at MSG, I hid. I half-heartedly moved my way through rehab because I didn't want to show I could do it. I didn't have the drive to prove anything. I wasn't Kobe (Bryant). I wasn't ever going to be him. I was numb. I remember after my surgery, I would sit in my apartment and DJ and write to pass the time. Family Feud became my saving grace. Thanks Steve Harvey, the best host ever!! I can remember taking Percocet and falling asleep thinking that it was me filling in for Steve Harvey on Mondays and Wednesdays. (Insert the stars and flying on clouds and unicorns and aliens...lol.) Bad Percocet, maybe the next one in four hours will be different. Bad joke.
I needed an escape and a way out of this basketball world, where I was and always called upon to do and be what people wanted me to be. And if I didn't in some occasions, then I was the bad guy or the scapegoat. I really needed a break from the game. I knew I needed to miss it and play just because it was fun again. I had to find that inner child.
That summer, the Drew League (the elite summer Pro-Am in South Central Los Angeles) was the place to be. The gym was packed. NBA players were finally coming to the hood. As a matter of fact, these dudes were from the Hood of L.A. and were now young rising stars (James Harden, DeMar DeRozen, Klay Thompson, Pooh Jeter and Bobby Brown). I saw a new energy and brotherhood. I remember I would show up on random weekends and they would walk over to me at games and give dap and just include me in the vibe like I was still one of them. It made me want to get out there and dab my toe in the water.
At least I could play next year. But I was injured that summer. And the next season I got farther away but closer to my fallback plan as a filmmaker. I continued to film action from the Drew League. I wanted to capture the brotherhood and comradery that was building among these young stars. All the little homies and bigger than the big homie.
All I wanted to do was really get back on the court to play with some of these pro players in the summer. No way would I touch an NBA court but I might have a chance if I can see them in the summer. When I wanted to draw on the strengths and mental drive it would take, I always thought back to the teams I played on and what it was like to be on those teams.
After Dark: Baron Davis
Rick catches up with Baron Davis as they look back on his career and ahead to his various film projects.
I wasn't really 'all the way in.' I was more into getting inside the huddle and shooting a different look and style to the game than playing it well. I was really stuck in the middle of producing a 15-minute documentary. This project may end up a 30-minute feature that could become an ESPN 30 for 30 production.
I played sparingly, but I knew I did not warrant more playing time. I recalled not being in the playoffs and getting benched during the second half of the game we lost. I vowed to the coach I would be back next year and prove that I'm no benchwarmer.
The young homies are now young NBA superstars and the stakes are higher for the Drew title. By this time, I was in full director mode for my documentary (now evolving into a full-length doc, "The Drew: No Excuse, Just Produce"). But I was also the starting guard on "The Cheaters", my old team when I first started playing in the Drew as a teenager and coached by my first basketball coaches, Casper Ware, Bobby Watson and Coach Sip. I actually played well and I locked in because being on that team, basketball was a lifestyle and something my coaches always took seriously.
I wanted to play on the weekends that summer. I wanted be a part of a team. I wanted that Drew league title. I improved every week and even though we didn't win it all (we lost in three overtimes in the semifinals on a bad ref call); I was ready to keep going. The only other run was now with everyone getting in shape for training camp.
I started training at the Clippers practice facility (three years after the trade). The Clippers have a new energy with a new and great coach in Doc Rivers. The team has new ownership. The staff is happy and the energy is positive and uplifting.
Hell, I was waking up working out with CP3 (Chris Paul). I'm actually almost caught in the Matrix. It was flowing and feeling good. My body was getting in shape and quite possibly I could be a second or third guard here. Wouldn't that be nice?
But I was having my first child and what better excuse to stop or distract myself than try to get on a team now and miss the birth of your first child. Hmm, my daddy was never around so all the questions I have may never get answered. It was an easy call to slowly back out and wait for the arrival of my King!!!! Kingman.
Whew, that was easy...that's what I thought. But something inside was pulling me closer to the game. Now, I'm watching basketball every day. I gave my son a ball at three months and he threw it back to me. Wow, this kid is a natural. (wink, wink. All things parents say).
Kingman loves the game!! Or maybe it's Daddy who is in love with the game but trying to hide it. Now I'm going to Clipper games sitting on the floor. Former teammates and players are coming over to give me dap while I'm seated courtside (Thanks Steph. Looking like a Hollywood producer. Ha-ha).
I'm working out more because I know I need to be in better shape now that this pregnancy is over. (Laughing). I'm watching these guys on the court and thinking, I could be a good backup or even a third OG mentor. Some of these kids need that. That could be a great role.
I should have stuck it out and kept going to my workouts with CP3. I would have been there. Now when I walk to the grocery store, the checkout staffer tells me he misses me playing. When I am on an airplane, a passenger next to me tells me he wishes I was still playing. Normally I would dismiss it or downplay it, but I could actually feel the love.
So I started listening to my OGs in the gym on Sundays and to random fans that would say, "Hey man, you are still young, you can do it."
That energy and love acceptance is a crazy feeling. It's almost like you're possessed. Am I on some sort of mission? I feel good. I feel younger than I did my last three years. My knee feels like new. Hell, why not. And once again the Drew League is coming up!!! I just finished the documentary, which was accepted into the 2015 L.A. Film Festival. I couldn't hide behind that anymore. So I'm going to use this summer to really give it a try.
I started my own team, BB4L (Basketball For Life) and now I'm responsible for showing up and leading this team. The Drew is packed with young superstars, NBA All-Stars and MVP candidates now and there is another wave of up-and-comers (watch out for Stanley Johnson....damn, this kid is a beast).
And so the 2015 Drew began with me getting better and better. I'm playing the whole game and I'm actually playing well. My improved play started to draw a crowd and a lot of supporters.
Then, my wife and son come to his first game.
At about eight minutes left in the end of the game, he cried his way down to the bench and into the huddle. This kid's a natural!! He already knows what's going on! He loves this game already! And guess what, I am his hero. Whether we won or lost, I was the man! I could skip out of the gym because I had something to be proud of, something that I could do that could bring a certain feeling to people.
That's what I missed...the purpose and feeling that I couldn't find before. I found it this year.
I'm focused. My conditioning is getting better and I am getting stronger. Hey, I'm starting to look like them and walk and talk like them again. Hell, these dudes are getting up to play against me again. Challenging me. Pushing me. Talking trash. I kinda like this. Wait until I get to where I know I can get to the level I need; wait until I am around a team and can really lock in on tools and start to sharpen them with some structure around.
This is a good feeling. I'm feeling good about this. I need to embrace this feeling and be more like these guys. I like this new generation. I want to be a part of it. I have something to offer, something valuable. I still got it, so they say. But it's a long journey and now I'm fully committed to the journey, the climb, the hurt, the commitment, the unity and the brotherhood.
This time around though, it's more than me I'm doing it for! So, I have every reason to finish the journey.
And it's fun, because it the hardest thing I have done this far and the war with myself is over. The battle with the demon of doubt is over. I'm focused and I'm going for it. Wherever this game leads me, I know it won't be disappointing because I'm appreciative of the journey and the opportunity. It was almost lost, gone and killed off.
But as I'm moving through the fans' well wishes, the haters' dissing, the players' positivity, my family for their constant understanding and patience, there is a lot of positive energy and vibes. So I'm going to not overthink this and just ride this wave back home.