Jabari Bird's journey to Boston Celtics started with him sleeping in basketball shoes

Go down

Jabari Bird's journey to Boston Celtics started with him sleeping in basketball shoes

Post by bobheckler on Mon Sep 03, 2018 10:33 am

https://www.masslive.com/celtics/index.ssf/2018/09/boston_celtics_jabari_birds_jo.html#incart_river_mobile_index



Jabari Bird's journey to Boston Celtics started with him sleeping in basketball shoes



Updated September 3, 2018 at 6:05 AM; Posted September 3, 2018 at 6:00 AM




By Fred Katz FKatz@masslive.com



Everyone blacked out.

No one remembers what the Birds were having for dinner on a late July evening, when their son, Jabari, received a text message saying the Boston Celtics were about to sign him to a guaranteed NBA contract.

Jabari remembers his mother, Tonya, had cooked something. Tonya can't recall what she made. Jabari's father, Carl, has food amnesia, too. No one knows exactly what words exchanged in the immediate moments following the most important news of Jabari's professional life. Carl and Tonya just remember their son yelping something incoherent after receiving a text from his agent, Aaron Goodwin, midway through the meal.

It was the perfect message in the perfect place.

"I called him back and was like, 'You could've called me. You had to text that?!'" Bird said. "And (Goodwin) was like, 'Yeah man, I wanted you to read it and be more surprised. If I called, you'd know what to expect.'"

Bird was sitting in the home in which he had fallen in love with basketball, the one where his father once poured out 10 yards of concrete in the backyard to build a homemade court for his hoop-addicted child, the one that had what must have been the filthiest childhood bed in human history.

A younger version of Bird cuddled a basketball -- as if it were some sort of leather beanie baby -- to go to sleep. His grandfather gave him his first pair of Air Jordans for his fourth birthday. He refused to take them off when he went to bed. He'd play in them outside, rain or shine, even as his mother pushed for him to come in once it got stormy.

"I'd be like, 'You have to come in,'" Tonya said. "He would literally cry."

He'd scuff up his bedsheets after -- and he was persistent enough that Mom or Dad would have to wait until he passed out to sneak into his bedroom and slide off his shoes. They couldn't wake him, either.

"I'd play with them, sleep with them," Bird said. "I wouldn't take them off...If I woke up with them off, I'd be upset. That is definitely fact."

Bird looked up from his phone to share the message from his agent with his parents and his sister, Kamilah.

He leapt out of his chair in a house that basketball had always dominated. The only posters on his once childhood wall were of Michael Jordan and were mostly Space Jam-related. He finally calmed down enough to tell his parents the news after his mother grabbed him and repeated, "Calm down, calm down. What happened? What happened?!'"

"I don't even remember what he said," Carl said. "He was just excited."

The blackout was real.

Bird signed a two-year contract with the Celtics once he returned to consciousness. He had inked a two-way contract the previous summer after Boston selected him in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft. He bounced between the G League-affiliated Maine Red Claws and Celtics as a rookie.

He was the clear best player on Boston's Las Vegas Summer League team but didn't receive an official contract offer until a couple of weeks after that.

"There was definitely pressure on Jabari. But you learn to fight through that," Tonya said. "He knew what he was up against."

Bird already had the structure to support an infatuation with hooping.

He wasn't allowed to play in the backyard as a child until he finished his homework, so he'd sit at a table with a basketball on his lap. He spent years bringing a ball into the first day of school at Wardlaw Elementary School in Vallejo, Calif., testing out a different teacher each year and hoping he or she might just be the one to let him hold it while he sat at his desk.

It never worked, but hearing "no" never curbed his obsession.

"Just like anyone with a passion for anything, you never want to let go," Bird said. "You just want to stay in that moment forever."

Bird's done exactly that. He gets to touch a basketball whenever he wants at his new job.

He'll sit in film sessions with them. He spent last year studying other NBA players with Red Claws coach Brandon Bailey. Bailey would queue up clips of similar players and quiz Bird on what could, would or should happen on particular plays.

Ironically, it's Bird's work off the ball that's the concentration.

Bailey would show him tracks of Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum running pick-and-roll or 2018 MVP James Harden drawing fouls, but he knows Bird's offensive role in the NBA will come as a cutter. It's already one of the shooting guard's strengths.

Bird's best offense last season came from gritty plays. He averaged more than 1.6 points per play on possessions that ended in his cuts, according to Synergy Sports. No other G Leaguer had more impressive numbers in such situations. He fared well coming off screens, too. He watches former Celtics shooting guard Avery Bradley's off-ball actions to see how he could fit in with Boston.

But those around the organization, Bird included, talk often about how he "cuts himself out of 3s." The Celtics believe he can shoot triples more reliably, especially if he can create more spot-up opportunities for himself.

"When he does take those shots -- and we charted all that stuff, we looked at all of that - he's a very efficient player," Bailey said. "And we just have to eliminate the ones that we don't necessarily want him taking."

Returning to a familiar environment must be comforting for Bird. After all, the previous year was one of the most unusual of his basketball life.

He grew up in Northern California and went to high school down the street from his home. The first time he dunked in a game, it was on a team his dad was coaching. He stayed close to home for college, attending University of California, where Dad played in the 1970s. But joining the Celtics meant heading across the country.

The only person he knew was Jaylen Brown, who was a freshman at Cal when Bird was a junior. The two were neighbors in college. Now Brown, who had been with the Celtics for a year when Bird showed up, was the veteran of the two.

"It went from big brother, little brother (to) little brother, big brother," Tonya said.

Bird stayed at a local hotel when he was in Maine, but he lived with Brown, rent-free, while in Boston. He fit all his Jordans and Nikes into the corner of a new bedroom but didn't put up any Jordan posters.

"(It's) kind of crazy to have my college teammate with me every step of the way; makes me feel like I'm in college again," Brown said, via text message. "I'm happy for my brother but we still have a lot of work to do and it's dope we can do it together."

Bird will live near another teammate this year, moving into the same building as Celtics' 2018 first-round pick Robert Williams. The apartment is a short walk from the team's practice facility. Bird's used to the short walk. Just making it to the NBA, however, didn't surprise his parents.

Carl says he knew his son had a chance at the league when he first dunked on a fast break during the summer between eighth and ninth grade.

"There was a separation in his skill set," he said. "He had a chance to go somewhere with the game."

But maybe it was clear even earlier. Bird used to bring a VHS of Space Jam with him every day to preschool. He knew the lyrics to every song -- his favorite, R. Kelly's I Believe I Can Fly.

"(The teachers) all knew, here comes Jabari with Space Jam," Tonya said.

There's that expression: someone can eat, drink and breathe basketball. Bird literally slept with one.

Maybe his success story is that simple. He wouldn't let go.

"Nothing's really changed," he said. "Still love basketball. Still love my shoes."



bob
MY NOTE:  At 6'6", and playing in the backcourt behind Jaylen, if he has the footspeed and athleticism to stay in front of NBA 2s he could be an X-factor.


.
avatar
bobheckler

Posts : 38269
Join date : 2009-10-28

Back to top Go down

Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum