Los Angeles Lakers forward and Chicago native Anthony Davis was back in his hometown earlier this month for the Nike Rise Camp at Kenwood Academy. The camp, host to 2,000 boys and girls from Chicago's South and West sides, featured not only basketball training, but also experiences with business leaders and entrepreneurs.
Before surprising the campers, Davis talked to me about how cultivating knowledge and skills off the court is as important to success as learning how to box out or shoot a jumper.
"I know it's cliché, but [my advice to kids] is [get your] education [and go to] school," Davis said. "That was the biggest thing that my parents instilled in me. I couldn't even play outside in my own backyard if I didn't have good grades. That's the biggest thing, education, making sure you're going to school, going to class. if your dream is to play basketball -- if your dream is to do whatever -- that will help."
Davis gave Chicago Bulls fans a glimmer of hope in advance of his 2020 free agency, telling the Chicago Tribune his hometown is the "Mecca of basketball." But, when asked what wearing a Bulls jersey one day might mean to him, Davis' response was decidedly measured: "If the opportunity ever presents itself and when that time comes, I'd definitely consider it."
Either way, he's firming up his connection to the city ahead of the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago, while also helping inspire young basketball players to follow his path from Englewood's Perspectives Charter School to professional basketball stardom.
"Sports meant a lot growing up," Davis said. "Chicago has a great history in sports, especially in basketball, so for me to be a part of that and to come back and give advice and experience to these kids, it means a lot."
In Davis' early days at Perspectives, few could have guessed he would one day return as a six-time NBA All-Star. He was just 6-feet tall as a freshman, before shooting up to 6-8 by his junior year. While answering the "Spanish Inquisition" -- questions posed to guests of my "That's What She Said with Sarah Spain" podcast -- Davis said his tremendous success is the result of being able to grow up fast coming out of high school.
"I was a bit immature -- a big kid -- and then obviously being drafted and going to the league at 18. I had to mature very quickly," he said. "Throughout the years, I [have] grown up a lot, and that's why I'm able to be successful."
You can hear the rest of Davis' answers, including the surprising thing he's most afraid of and why he'd welcome The Purge, by listening to my special edition podcast with him here.