Kent Bazemore on Leadership, Legos and Toys R Us
Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images
Story by KL Chouinard
Kent Bazemore likes to set an example, especially for those who are younger than him.
On the morning of the Hawks’ Media Day, with training camp just a day away, Bazemore wanted to get in a basketball workout. With the debut of the practice court at the Emory Sports Medicine Complex still a couple of weeks away, he went to Philips Arena, where the team still practices as the facility undergoes a major renovation.
“The showers weren’t working,” Bazemore said, “so I took a birdbath in the sink.”
On a day when Bazemore was scheduled to meet with dozens of media members and pose for high-definition stock photos, a makeshift bath was no small sacrifice. But together with the workout itself, the benefit of setting an example outweighed the drawbacks.
“I love to lead,” the 28-year-old said. “It doesn't have to be through words or anything. If people are watching me, I want them to learn something. That's just my approach to the season.”
Earlier that day his head coach, Mike Budenholzer, was asked a question about the leadership potential of two of his players. Unprompted, he added a third name to the mix: Bazemore.
"His competitiveness, his energy, when it is positive and when it is in the right place, he has a loud voice,” Budenholzer said. “He has had it in the past, and he will have it going forward. It is critical to us.”
Bazemore recognizes that he has such influence, both spoken and unspoken.
“I wanted to get a workout in,” Bazemore said, ‘and guys saw that.”
Bazemore also keeps an eye out for kids even younger than his first and second-year teammates — i.e., actual, literal kids.
His ARMS foundation (‘ARMS’ stands for ‘Aspiration. Resilience. Motivation. Success.’) has the goal of providing academic and athletic opportunities for underprivileged kids. When asked about current events in the news, Bazemore talks about viewing them through the eyes of kids, both as spectators of a sometimes chaotic display and as future participants in our political system.
“I always wanted to be a mentor,” Bazemore responded quickly when asked what he would be if he hadn’t become a basketball player, although being a pro golfer also ranked high on his list.
So it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that the recently-married Bazemore is a doting uncle.
“I took my niece to Legoland this summer and it was nostalgic,” Bazemore said. “I fell back in love with Legos, and I walked out with three huge boxes. I mean, it's probably the greatest toys in history: a box full of Legos.”
And again, looking out for kids and their path to development, Bazemore even has a preference for a style of Legos: the big, unscripted boxes with no directions.
“They do have them now where they have all the instructions and stuff, but that's cheating,” he said with a laugh. “Use your imagination. Let it run.”
Bazemore said that he plans to do some Lego building himself over the coming months, inspired by some of the projects that his cousin made (including a model of their school) when they were both kids.
“I'm still trying to figure it out, because it's going to be huge,” he said. “I could have put together something quick, but it's going to be nice: running water, lights. It's going to be nice. I love that kind of stuff.”
And then, one more time, Bazemore turned the conversation back to kids.
“There's all this new stuff like the tablets that are coming out”, he said. “Toys R Us is shutting down because kids don't like toys. They like tablets. And I'm like, 'Come on, like that's a staple in life, man.' Everyone loved going to Toys R Us!”
It’s more than just a preference to Bazemore; he sees the developmental value in the process.
“You're able to use your imagination. You can portray an object on a desk with thousands of pieces of Legos.”
Bazemore isn’t the only Hawk who is a Lego fan. When told of Bazemore’s trip to Legoland, Miles Plumlee, a former engineering major and self-professed lover of building things, said that he planned to make the pilgrimage too.
“I love Legos,” Plumlee said. “I've never been to Legoland. I’m definitely going.”
It appears Bazemore’s leadership may be spilling over into Legoland, for both his family and his teammates.