Over the past few months, you’ve talked a lot about me — maybe more than some people cared for. So with Father’s Day coming up I thought that writing this would be a good way for me to actually say a few things about you.
The real you — not the person everyone has seen on TV. Just, my dad.
One of the things I admire most about you is that you don’t really care what other people think. People can have whatever opinions they want about who you are as a person, but they’ll never have all the facts. They’ll never know you like I do.
They weren’t there when you cleared out our living room so that my brothers and I would have room to play games and just be kids.
They’ve never woken up to the smell of one of your signature breakfasts, which you made for us every single day when we were growing up.
And they weren’t there when you were making sure that I always took care of business in the classroom and graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA.
But you were.
This probably won’t surprise anybody, but for as long as I can remember you’ve always been the loudest person in the gym.
PHOTO BY ISA SAALABI
It didn’t matter if you were coaching my team or sitting in the stands, I’ve always known you were watching me closely because I could always hear you. And that’s how it’s always been — you’re not just present, you’re involved.
When I was in middle school, I started dreaming of one day making it to the NBA. I wanted to be a point guard, just like Magic Johnson. You agreed to show me how to get there. You made your living training athletes — you still do — so I put my trust in you. And in return, you made me put in the work.
I still have your schedule ingrained in my mind. I probably always will.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday we did weights.
Tuesday and Thursday we did pull-ups.
Then there was the hill. Oh man, that hill.
Every day, no matter what, you’d take LiAngelo and LaMelo and me around the corner from our house in Chino to run up and down that hill in the heat before bringing us back home to do sit-ups.
You were always out there with us, leading the way. You were there for every step. Pushing, encouraging and refusing to accept anything less than our very best. You never forced me to do any of it. You knew that you never needed to. You understood me.
And when I did need some motivation, you always knew just how to push my buttons. It wasn’t by making me do more reps or anything like that. It just came down to saying something simple like, “I hope you know that you’re not getting better.” That was all I ever needed to hear from you to make me keep grinding.
PHOTO BY MICHAEL OWEN BAKER/AP IMAGES
Regardless of what comes next in my life, I’m always going to remember our family road trips to games. It would be you up front with mom, blasting music and getting my brothers and I hyped in the backseat.
The ride to a game was always a party, but the mood on the ride home, well, that all depended on how the game had gone.
You’ve never told me, “Great game,” and just left it at that. Win or lose, you’ve always been able to find something that I could improve. Some people are thrown off by your tone, but I’ve always known to internalize what you say rather than how you say it. Because when you unpack everything, there’s always truth in what you tell me.
I’ll never forget the game we played against a travel team from New York a few years back. They were all older than us, and we were completely outsized. I mean, Melo was probably a foot shorter than every single guy on that team. It was such a mismatch that I had to guard their power forward on defense.
It was the type of game that most teams probably would have gone into knowing they were going to lose. In fact, most teams probably would have been satisfied with keeping the score within 20.
Not our family, though.
We went out there and we ran those kids off the court. We rained threes on them and pressed the entire game. And we won.
That was a really good ride home.
PHOTO BY THE1POINT8
A lot of people ask if I ever get sick of you talking about me. They see how I mostly keep to myself and assume that I’d rather you acted the same way.
What they don’t realize is all of the stuff that you’ve said about me in public is the same stuff you’ve been telling me privately my whole life. And a lot of the time, you’ve been right. Over the years, you’ve spoken so many things into reality that otherwise seemed impossible. Even on the night of the draft lottery, when the Lakers ended up in the top three, you started running around the house screaming, “I TOLD EVERYBODY! I TOLD THEM IT WOULD HAPPEN!” That was hilarious.
People may not see it, but I possess the very same confidence that you have. (I think Melo got all of the talking genes.) In fact, when I think about it, confidence is the most important thing that I inherited from you. The difference is, I’ve internalized it. Everything you’ve told me, I’ve absorbed and used on the court. That’s where I do my talking.
The confidence that you have in me makes me feel so strong. It’s helped me to never back down from a challenge and to stay true to myself. I’m going to be taking this next step to the NBA knowing that I’m ready. And no matter what’s thrown at me, I know you’re always going to have my back.
There’s nothing I can ever do to really pay you back for all you’ve done for me. There might be a car or two I might have in mind, but I know that a car won’t really cut it. The best way I know how to repay you is by living up to the vision you’ve always had for me. You’ve always said that making it to the NBA is much easier than staying there. I want to take the belief you’ve shown in me and justify it. I want you to see me play and be able to sit back with a sense of satisfaction knowing that I made it. That we made it.
I know there are a lot of kids who aren’t lucky enough to have a father figure in their lives. That’s a really tough obstacle to overcome. So regardless of what anyone else thinks of you, I’m just incredibly thankful to have you as my dad. If I didn’t have you as an influence in my life, I don’t think I’d be in the position I am today. Actually, I know I wouldn’t.
You haven’t had the easiest life. Everything you’ve got, you’ve had to work for. And you’ve spent your entire adult life instilling that work ethic into me and my brothers to make sure that we never have to face the same challenges that you did. I can’t think of anything else that you could ask for from a dad.
Thank you for teaching me how to play this game. Thank you for teaching me how to be a man. And thank you for never apologizing for being you.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Love you.