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The day I became a father: NBA dads reflect on joys and challenges of parenthood

Professional athletes are hardly immune to the humbling emotions created by fatherhood.

NBA All-Star Dejounte Murray says he almost fainted the day he became a father.

Head down, surrounded by a throng of reporters, Miami Heat forward Kevin Love rubbed at the pockets of his sweatpants, cracking an uneasy smile wrought from sleep deprivation ahead of Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Love, 34, missed the Heat team flight to Denver for Game 5 after his wife, Kate Bock, gave birth June 10th to the couple’s first child. The next day, Love flew back to Denver on his own, arriving just in time to participate in a Heat film session, followed by media availability. Even the extra luggage dangling beneath his eyes failed to dull the glow lighting up the forward’s face once he looked back up to address the reporters at Ball Arena.

“Definitely need to get some rest now, get some sleep,” he said. “Everybody’s happy and healthy.”

As another Father’s Day arrives, let’s welcome in Love as the newest father in an NBA fraternity full of them. Miami’s season ended Monday after Denver won Game 5 in capturing the franchise’s first NBA title. So, naturally, Love likely expects to catch up on some much-needed rest after such a long season. But the NBA dads out there celebrating Father’s Day on Sunday know from experience that’s not happening.

Yet they wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s a love that’s unlike any other. Basketball, I’ve loved my whole life. But my son takes the crown.”

— Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane on becoming a father.

Bane’s longtime girlfriend gave birth to their son, Armani Jordan Bane, last June and the guard’s life immediately changed for the better. While a career in the NBA is typically an all-consuming endeavor, Bane takes comfort in embracing a responsibility far more important than hoops.

It’s no coincidence the three-year veteran produced career highs last season in scoring average (21.5 ppg), rebounds (5.0), assists (4.4) and field goal percentage (47.9%).

Fatherhood provided Bane balance.

“It’s been good for me just to have something that can get me away from hoops, whether it’s going good, whether it’s going bad,” Bane said. “I ain’t gonna lie, once he started kind of locking in, getting to know who I am, smiling back at me, that’s kind of when it all changed for me.”

Former teammate Dillon Brooks admits that during his first two seasons in the NBA, “It was all about the nightlife, blah, blah, blah,” before the Oct. 21, 2019, birth of his daughter, Mila Brooks.

“When you’re trying to grow into an adult and you have a daughter, it makes you slow down your life, makes you realize what’s important and what your priorities are,” Brooks told “It’s made me grow as a man.”

Somewhat similar to Love’s situation, Boston Celtics guard Derrick White was in Miami prepping for Game 2 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals when wife, Hannah, dialed up the six-year veteran with exciting news.

At the time, his Celtics squad trailed the Heat 0-1 in that series.

“I get a call, and she’s like, ‘I think I’m in labor,’” White told “I’m like, ‘What’s going on, what’s the process?’”

White frantically booked a flight back home to Boston for the birth of his son, Hendrix James White (yes, named after rockstar Jimi Hendrix), born May 19, 2022, the same day the Celtics bested Miami 127-102 to tie the Eastern Conference Finals 1-1 before winning that hard-fought series 4-3.

White missed the game, but his arrival at the hospital proved just as nerve-wracking as those tense moments before tipoff.

“Going to the hospital and seeing him for the first time, being able to hold him, I was scared,” White said. “I was nervous. I was like, ‘I don’t even know how to hold a baby.’ As soon as I held him, it was different. This is my son now. It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of growth, and it’s always cool to see him do a new first. I feel like your perspective, it kind of changes once you have a child. We talk about family and stuff. But now, having a son really strengthens that family bond, and you just know what’s most important whether you have a good game or a bad game. Just to be able to go home and see him smile, that definitely puts everything in perspective.”

Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock received a double-dose of such emotions Nov. 13, 2020, when his girlfriend Julissa Marie, gave birth to the couple’s fraternal twin sons, Heart and Soul. Bullock had already endured the excruciating pain of losing two sisters.

His transgender sister, Mia Henderson, was stabbed to death back in 2014 in an alley in Baltimore. A suspect was arrested and charged with first-degree murder but acquitted in January of 2017.

Then, in 2019, Bullock’s 22-year old sister Keiosha Moore was shot to death in Baltimore.

“Losing two family members, I felt like I was blessed back by God with the protection of having two boys, two kings, to be able to bring into this world,” Bullock told “With everything I have going on with basketball and off the court, just being a father, to be able to get them to that level of being a real man out here in this world is a huge responsibility.”

Mavericks teammate JaVale McGee feels a similar burden in raising daughters, Genevieve (Gigi) and Everliegh (Lili) with girlfriend Giselle Ramirez. McGee called their births in 2016 and 2022 “a humbling experience” that forces him to constantly agonize about the potential pitfalls the girls might face as they embark on their respective journeys through life.

“There’s a fear about what women have to go through in this world, how technology is moving, how social media, YouTube, TikTok and all those things are just feeding things to our kids that they don’t need to be seeing at such a young age,” McGee told “Then, I think of just the longevity of myself, making sure I could take care of them the rest of their lives and my life. You think about all those things. I just want them to live the best life possible doing something they love. I want them to get the best education possible, and I just want them to grow up to be respectable young ladies.”

Atlanta Hawks point guard Dejounte Murray laughs even now thinking about “everything going black for me” in 2017 when his daughter, Riley, was born.

“It’s almost like I fainted when she was coming out,” Murray told “Yeah, real story that still touches me to this day.”

A homebody that spends most of his downtime with family, Murray enjoys interacting with all the children from his extended family due to his own rough childhood in Seattle, where his parents weren’t always present. Murray’s mother spent time in and out of prison, and his father drifted in and out of his life.

Murray spent a brief period in a juvenile detention center before he was even a teenager. That experience and others throughout a traumatic childhood only strengthened his resolve as a new father to ensure his children wouldn’t suffer through the same struggles.

Murray entered the NBA in 2016 at 19 years old.

“One thing we grew up with is not really having our parents,” he said. “Just the stuff that I was seeing along with people around me the same age was just stuff not appropriate for kids to be seeing. People don’t realize until they have their own how important it is to raise them right. For me, it’s about leaving my mark, making sure my children go through nothing I went through and know right from wrong right away.”

Murray, 26, and his partner, Jania Meshell, welcomed a new addition to the family on April 9: Icelynn Mercedes Murray.

“I wasn’t able to be a kid. I had to grow up at 11 years old,” Murray said. “People will never realize what that’s like. I want my children to be able to grow up and know what it’s like to be a 6-year-old, a 9-year-old and not skip any steps in life. But I also want them to know they can make mistakes and know they can come to me and feel comfortable enough to talk about the good or bad stuff they go through. I just want to allow them to be kids.”

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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