Tyson Chandler walks off the court following his Lakers debut on Nov. 7, 2019.
(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)

Tyson Chandler: From Farm Life to the Lake Show

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

Tyson Chandler has called seven different cities his NBA home. He has traveled the globe as part of the United States Olympic Team.

But his basketball journey began on his family farm just south of Fresno.

“My grandfather nailed up, literally, a peach basket to a tree back in the day just to give me and my cousins something to do out there,” Chandler said. “That was kind of my introduction to basketball.”

While he found his life’s passion in that peach basket, the farm also provided Chandler his work ethic.

Chandler, who lived on the Hanford, Calif., farm until he was 9, was tasked with “real labor,” including milking cows, slopping pigs and growing corn.

“I would follow my grandpa around every single day, and I had to pay attention,” he said. “Because if not, you don’t eat.

“It’s the same thing on the court. You gotta pay attention to the details, and you gotta go about it the same way every day. Because if not, you don’t eat. (laughs).”

After those nine years, Chandler moved to San Bernardino and, eventually, Compton, where he sprouted into a 6-foot-11 high school freshman.

And while he lived alone with his mother at the time, he often thought of his middle namesake: Grandpa Cleo.

“I always had him in the back of my mind, of watching him and how he went about his day-to-day,” Chandler said. “He was always who I admired, who I wanted to be like. For me, it was just taking that and applying it to the basketball court.”

Chandler quickly ascended among the nation’s elite prep players at Dominguez High.

He was named California Mr. Basketball twice; averaged 26 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks as a senior; and jumped straight from high school to the NBA as the league’s second-overall draft pick in 2001.

Eighteen years after the Clippers traded Chandler on Draft Day, he is now finally able to play in front of his hometown fans. And he’s also thinking of the next generation of Angelenos.

“When [joining the Lakers] came about, one of my first thoughts was I get an opportunity to go back and help the kids that are walking the same path that I walked 18 years ago,” Chandler said, “and show them that there’s opportunity, there’s a way, and allow them to see with their own eyes that it’s possible.”

When Chandler checked in for his Lakers debut on Wednesday, he was met by a standing ovation from the STAPLES Center faithful. And after his significant impact on the Lakers’ victory, Chandler returned to the court, where dozens of his family and friends were waiting for him in the stands.

Chandler said “it means everything” to finally have this opportunity to play for the city that embraced a farm boy from Central California.

“My family have always been Lakers fans,” he said. “Even with me in the league, it’s always a conflict of interest when I come into town — and a lot of my family don’t choose my team (laughs).

“They’re all excited. It’s gonna be like high school all over again.”

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