Growing Up ... Kendrick Perkins

Of all the guys we’ve covered in the Growing Up feature over the years, it might be most difficult to picture today’s subject as a little kid.

OK, maybe ‘little’ isn’t the right word. But there was, in fact, a time when Kendrick Perkins was a lanky Catholic school kid, growing up on a farm in Beaumont, Texas. He probably even cracked a smile every now and then.

Actually, despite his years as a Cavs adversary with the Celtics, Perkins is a cool, laid-back guy. But on the floor, Perkins – a 12-year vet taken with the 27th overall pick in 2003 – has always been a big man not to be toyed with. He spent his first his first seven-and-a-half seasons in Boston, winning an NBA title with the C’s in 2008, before being dealt to Oklahoma City midway through the 2010-11 season.

Although he put up huge numbers as a prep star before being selected by the Grizzlies, Perkins has made his mark as a rugged defender in the paint. He has career averages of 6.5 points on .529 shooting, 6.0 boards and 1.2 blocks per contest in 736 career games.

But long before logging those 736 games as one of the Association’s toughest hombres, the Cavs backup center recalls life on the farm, playing AAU ball with LeBron James as a seventh grader and his secret desire to play point guard for an entire game in today’s installment of Growing Up …

J.R. Smith

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I was born and raised … in Beaumont, Texas.

I was raised by … my grandparents on what you would call a farm. I helped with all the farming chores, too. I could kill a chicken for you, clean it and have it ready to eat in 30 minutes.

My mom … died when I was five years old and my dad lives in New Zealand. He played pro ball over there and never came back. He’s actually a citizen there now.

Beaumont is a … pretty small town, maybe 250,000 people. It’s country – but not that country. It’s got a little city to it. It’s on the border to the Gulf of Mexico, so you’re right near the swamplands. So every blue moon, you might see something foreign walking across the street – you might see an alligator walking across the street. Yeah, you might see some crazy stuff.

Besides basketball, I also played … football and baseball. In football, I was a defensive end. And I played first base in baseball.

In football, I was a … defensive end. And I was alright! I could probably get you, like, two sacks, five knockdowns, maybe a forced fumble every three games. I was solid.

I played football … right up through 10th grade. You know, down in Texas, football is huge – almost like it is in Ohio. So you get to where people take it serious, and it only takes one time to get hit low somewhere in your legs. And I thought: ‘You know what? I’m cool.’ And that was it for football.

I stopped playing … baseball in ninth grade. But I played for about six years and it was pretty cool.

I’ve known LeBron since … about seventh grade. He was on the Ohio Shooting Stars. I was on the Houston Hoops at the time.

We became friends … after years of going to ABCD Camp, Nike Camp. We just all played on the same team and then we played together with the Oakland Soldiers.

My grandfather was always … huge into sports. And that’s where I probably got started.

When you grew up in my neighborhood … just from being around, you start to play. You start out by maybe playing kickball, then out in the street they got a goal in the street, then you got a pick-up game on a Saturday. During the winter time, they pull out the football, you find you a nice field, you get yourself a football game in after school. You’re starting to learn it and love it and next thing you know – you get to middle school, high school and you’re involved.

I went to a private Catholic school … from sixth grade on. I really didn’t have a choice. My grandmother and grandfather made sure of that.

The one guy I had to deal with on the court … was Omar Sneed. He was tough. He actually went to Memphis, set a few records, played overseas. He got picked up on a couple NBA Summer League teams but never really made it. He was undersized, but that was the dude that I had to beat out.

Stephen Jackson is from … around my way, too. He’s actually from Port Arthur, maybe a 10-minute drive. And my wife is from Port Arthur. So me and Steve have had some pretty good pick-up games back home.

I first thought I could take basketball to the next level … in eighth grade. Because eighth grade is when I started traveling and really getting involved in AAU. And that’s when your name starts getting thrown in the loop as far as, like, maybe getting drafted or having a chance to go to a D-I college.

Once I started making a name … for myself in the AAU circuit and for a while, I knew it was the real deal. LeBron was ranked No. 1, I was ranked No. 2, and then Chris Paul may have moved to No. 2 and I was No. 3, but once you started hearing that, the sky was the limit.

I pretty much always … played like a big man. I could handle the ball a little bit, but every big man wants to be a point guard and handle the ball. Like, if coach gave us one game where we could do that, it would just satisfy everybody. It would just make my day.

My biggest growth spurt was … between my eighth grade through my ninth grade year. I went from 6-5 to this height. And I never grew no more!

Back then, I was … skinny. I was real skinny. Then I started putting on weight. But I got to this height by the end of my ninth grade year and I stayed at this height. And then all of sudden I started putting on weight.

I wasn’t thought of … as a tough dude back then. I’m really not that mean. I’m actually cool!

Although my wife … actually told me I’m starting to smile too much, (saying): ‘You’re getting too friendly!’ I said, ‘I’m not getting too friendly!’ I mean, I am friendly, but I ain’t friendly, you know what I’m saying? She’s like: ‘And even when you’re taking pictures with people, don’t be smiling in the picture!’

People ask me if … my bent ring finger is an injury from childhood. But I only did it two years ago.

Two years ago … I dislocated it. And then last year, I got it straight. But then I popped it out three or four more times. In the summer, I had it in this cast and I got it straight and then all of a sudden, it started growing crooked. And now I can’t get it back straight. I try to pull on it. Doctors said it’d take eight or nine months to get it straight. I’m not doing that! I’m not sitting out eight or nine months for a finger!

Yep, I remember … my first dunk. I was in the seventh grade, had just made the ‘A’ team. I got on the fastbreak and dunked it with two hands. And you couldn’t tell me nothing after that!

That was my first time … dunking in a game. I was The Man after that! And after that time, that’s all I wanted to do. It became a habit.

It took a couple more games … to start dunking all the time, but once it gets going, it gets going! After that, I put all that point guard stuff away. It was strictly bangin!