Take a look at the NBA’s 30 rosters and you’ll notice there are a lot of second-generation players. This obviously isn’t exclusive to basketball; it happens in all professional sports. However, in the NBA, many sons who follow in their father’s footsteps have emerged as significant contributors.
Examples: Stephen Curry and Seth Curry (Dell Curry’s sons), Klay Thompson (Mychal Thompson), Kevin Love (Stan Love), Al Horford (Tito Horford), Andrew Wiggins (Mitchell Wiggins), Devin Booker (Melvin Booker), Jabari Parker (Sonny Parker), Jae Crowder (Corey Crowder), Gerald Henderson Jr. (Gerald Henderson Sr.), Justise Winslow (Rickie Winslow), Jerami Grant and Jerian Grant (Harvey Grant), Domantas Sabonis (Arvydas Sabonis), Austin Rivers (Doc Rivers), Tim Hardaway Jr. (Tim Hardaway) and Glenn Robinson III (Glenn Robinson) among others.
The complete list is longer, and that’s without counting NBA players whose fathers played professionally overseas or in college.
Three players left off the above list are Larry Nance Jr. (Larry Nance’s son), Garrett Temple (Collis Temple’s son) and Xavier Silas (James Silas‘ son). HoopsHype spoke with these three players to find out what it’s like to be a second-generation professional hooper. Their fathers’ accomplishments:
- Larry Nance played for the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers. A three-time All-Star, he was also an All-Defensive 1st Team selection and NBA slam dunk champion. The Cavaliers have only retired seven jersey numbers and Nance’s No. 22 is among them. In his 13-year career, Nance recorded 15,687 points, 7,067 rebounds and 2,027 blocks.
- In 1971, Collis Temple became the first African-American basketball player at LSU. With the Tigers, he earned All-Southeastern Conference honors. At one point, Temple received death threats and the United States National Guard was called because segregationists were upset with his inclusion on the team. Temple was drafted by the Suns and also played for the San Antonio Spurs.
- James Silas was drafted by the Houston Rockets, but played the bulk of his 10-year career with the Spurs. He was a two-time ABA All-Star, and he was one of just 30 players named to the ABA’s All-Time Team that highlighted the league’s “best and most influential players.” Silas was the first Spurs player to have his jersey number retired. Today, his No. 13 is one of only eight numbers retired by San Antonio. Silas totaled 11,038 points, 2,069 rebounds and 2,628 assists.
Put simply, Larry, Collis and James were exceptionally talented and cast large shadows over their basketball-loving sons.
There are a lot of misconceptions about second-generation athletes. Yes, many have fantastic genes. Many had a very comfortable upbringing. And, of course, they had a former NBA player to help guide them as they chased their dream. All three current players – Larry, Garrett and Xavier – stressed that they were fortunate and didn’t take their situation for granted. That said, they were also honest about some of the unique difficulties they faced as sons of notable players.
What was it like for Larry Nance Jr., Garrett Temple and Xavier Silas as they tried to carve out their own identity on and off the court, while also dealing with heightened pressure and lofty expectations due to their fathers’ success?
Silas: “I think a lot of people just think it was easy for us because of our dads. There was always a target on my back. There were people who thought things were handed to me, and I hated that. It made me work harder. My dad ran a city league when I was growing up. When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I remember this older player who was probably like 21 or so. I heard him say about me, ‘I bet he’s one of those kids who does art or something.’ That stuck with me, and made me aware that people were already judging me when I was just a kid.”
Temple: “There’s no question that other players resented me. No question, especially since my dad was the coach of my AAU team. But he made it clear that the best man would play. I actually had one year, I think I was 11 years old, and I wasn’t in the rotation for a whole summer. And it wasn’t my dad just trying to get on me the most, it’s because I wasn’t good enough. That helped a bit because the other players saw he’d always play the best guys, even if it meant benching his son. But, yeah, there were guys who said, ‘How does he get to go to ABCD Camp instead of me?’ I heard, ‘He’s only getting to go to LSU because his dad was the first black player and his brother just went there.’ I definitely heard that kind of talk and knew those feelings were going around. That motivated me even more. I heard pundits say things like, ‘He’s not even good enough to play college basketball. He’s only getting this chance because of his father and brother.’ Really? So when it came time to play and I left LSU with the most minutes played in history, it was kind of like… now what are you going to say? Then it was, ‘No way can he play in the NBA. He’s not an NBA player, he doesn’t score enough or shoot the ball well enough.’ I used all of that stuff as motivation.”
Nance Jr: “I’ve definitely felt that from other players too. I’ve heard that kind of stuff secondhand like, ‘Did you hear what that guy just said about you?’ You’d think it’s my fault that I was born Larry Nance’s son. Look, I didn’t choose this. I’m awfully glad it happened, but we’re not able to choose what life we’re brought into. I think, no matter what, you just have to try to make the best of your opportunity. For the guys who had it rough growing up and made the best of their opportunity, that’s awesome! For me, I made the most of my opportunity. I just had an awesome upbringing; I admittedly had an easy one. But I feel like there’s respect to be had either way. Because at the end of the day, there are plenty of guys whose dads played in the NBA and they aren’t in the league. Getting to the NBA still requires a ton of work and time and effort. Yes, we might be more blessed than others genetically. But, I mean, there are players with great genes whose dads didn’t play in the NBA. LeBron James’ dad wasn’t in the NBA and look at him!”
Again, the trio insisted they’re extremely grateful that they each had a terrific childhood and strong support system.
However, Xavier made an interesting point about how that comfortable lifestyle could’ve limited his work ethic, and how he and his peers had very different motivations despite training toward the same NBA goal.
Silas: “Man, I would hear all of these stories of guys who had their lights turned off or didn’t have food or didn’t have both parents or grew up in a terrible neighborhood. The motivation to make all of that shit better must be great.
“But what if everything is fine at home and the refrigerator is full and your first car at 16 years old is a Lexus? You have to be self-aware and let your dream motivate you. Most of us [second-generation players] were well off, living in nice houses and nice neighborhoods. We don’t have the same built-in hunger and motivation that guys who were coming from the hood had. I’m aware this sounds pretentious and ungrateful, but what I’m trying to say is that you had to be mentally tough coming from both backgrounds. A lot of guys came from nothing and used basketball to get out of their situation to help their family. With us, it wasn’t like that. Our motivation and drive had to come internally rather than externally. It’s a different mental beast. I could’ve quit basketball and been okay. So when you’re waking up at 5 a.m. to go run stairs, it takes a little more to get out of bed — in my opinion. I used to play games in my head and make sure I worked harder than the kid on the ‘bad side’ of town. I figured it didn’t matter if I was working out in a country club, what mattered is that I was doing more than him.”
Temple: “What Xavier said is so true. A lot of the guys who I played with on my AAU team had really tough backgrounds. Some had drug-addicted mothers. Some only had a mother in the house, and she’s working a ton of jobs to support the family. Some had both parents in the house, but they weren’t academically inclined so they weren’t as well off. For those players, basketball was their only way out. For me, both of my parents were well off. We went on ski trips. We traveled and I was able to go to Africa twice. Even after my parents got divorced, my father was still in my life in a big way. I didn’t have to grind like that. I wasn’t thinking in terms of, ‘I have to get my mom out of here.’ I didn’t have that motivation. Some guys think things like, ‘I have to get to the NBA to provide for my family. I need to get my mom or my dad or my grandma a house.’ Those thoughts never once crossed my mind. It was obviously a huge positive for me and my family that we were able to live the way we did; I want to make that very clear. But I had to find my own motivation to get where I wanted to go to, and sometimes that internal motivation isn’t as strong. Luckily for me, I was able to find it enough to get that work in.”
Nance Jr: “I would always hear the stories of guys who had it really rough and they’d say, ‘I have to get out of my situation and basketball is my way to escape.’ I never had to escape anything; I had a terrific upbringing and a terrific life. Like Xavier said, I could have never picked up a basketball and still lived a completely comfortable life. I think this is the first time I’ve heard someone say that and put it that way, and I appreciate it because Xavier is right.”
Inevitably, each of these up-and-coming players were compared to their famous father as their game developed. That led to high, unrealistic expectations for the NBA sons.
Temple: “Yeah, the expectations were pretty high. For me, there were high expectations coming out of high school and entering college because my dad was the first black player at LSU and my brother also played at LSU and had a great career. So it was like, ‘Okay, what is the youngest Temple going to do?’ It was that kind of deal. But even when the pressure was great, I didn’t really feel it because I had a great support system – my father and brothers – and they would calm me down. And I’ve never been a guy who gets overwhelmed or rattled easily. I just try to stay poised and let things roll off my shoulders, so that helped.”
Silas: “There were always expectations. I don’t think any of my coaches expected me to play just like my dad in terms of style, but they did expect a certain standard from me – if that makes sense. I had the NBA pedigree, so they expected me to play at a high level.”
Nance Jr: “Teams always knew [who I was] going into high school games because of my name, and anybody who has NBA ties has a target on their back. But growing up, I wasn’t good. I’m serious: I wasn’t good. I was a late bloomer. So I had the target on my back and I wasn’t good, which usually meant opponents would try to get the upper-hand against me. Dads could go home and say, ‘My son was better than Larry Nance’s son!’ That was actually one thing that my dad had a hard time with, people feeling like that and saying those things. But he’d say, ‘Well, you might be better than him now, but just wait.’
“As far as expectations now, there have always been people who want to [compare my achievements] to my dad’s. I’m in my second year in the NBA and I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Your dad was so good, a three-time All-Star. How does it feel to not be one yet?’ I’m usually like, ‘Really?! (laughs) Am I supposed to be an All-Star already?!’ But I can honestly say that I never felt like I was in my dad’s shadow or felt like, ‘Alright, you’re Larry Nance’s son, so you have to step it up.’ That didn’t matter to me. I had my own drive and I’m obviously my own person.”
One topic the players discussed is that many of the fathers who paved the way for their NBA sons were role players during their playing career. Which begs the question, why is that typically the case?
Temple: “We live in a tough society, a dog-eat-dog world. I’m sure some kids are just like, ‘I don’t feel like dealing with this type of stuff. I don’t want to work that hard. I just want to get away from this.’ Society may pressure them, but they may not be interested in basketball or they get worn out. And, look, sometimes the son of a player just isn’t good enough or tall enough or things like that. Having a superstar dad doesn’t guarantee that you’ll make it to the NBA. Michael Jordan’s sons played in college. Jeffrey Jordan played at Illinois and then UCF to team up with his brother Marcus Jordan. But Jeffrey was, I think, six-foot or six-foot-one? As great of an athlete as he was, that’s small for the NBA and it was out of his control. . . . If your father was an NBA superstar and is nearly a billionaire, it has to be even tougher to find that motivation because you’re likely set for life.”
Remember, Larry’s dad was a three-time All-Star. But Larry agrees that most second-generation players were taught by a role-player father and he doesn’t think that’s a coincidence.
Nance Jr: “There’s definitely a certain way many superstars play and not everyone can play that way. If my dad had brought me up and taught me how to iso for 20 seconds and then shoot a fade-away like a superstar might do, I wouldn’t be here right now. Role players have to know how to play the game the right way, they have to know how to read the game and they need a high basketball IQ. Role players can’t just go out there and drop 40 points because they can score from wherever on the court. That’s something you can’t really teach.”
This is true even of NBA coaches. Many star players have struggled when they tried to make the transition to coaching because there were certain abilities and things that made them successful as a player that they just couldn’t teach. On the other hand, there are plenty of role-players-turned-coaches who have thrived on the sideline. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a former role player to experience more success as a coach than they did during their playing days — for many of the reasons Larry mentioned.
Every NBA player, regardless of his genetics, deserves credit for making it to the league. They put in hard work to overcome ridiculous odds and achieve their dream. As the guys pointed out earlier, no player makes it on basketball’s biggest stage solely because of his name or lineage.
With that said, there’s no denying it’s helpful to have those great genes and advice from a former NBA player at your disposal.
Silas: “I had an All-Star down the hall when I was growing up! I could ask any question I had, at any time. But the biggest thing for me was inheriting his genetics and competitive mentality.”
Temple: “Besides the physical traits that are able to be passed down through genetics, once you realize that you love the game and want to play in the NBA, you have someone who has taken that path and had success getting to where you want to go. At the end of the day, you want to hear from people who have been through it and done what you want to do. And when it’s your dad talking about his NBA career, you can trust that he knows what he’s talking about. When he says, ‘This is what you have to do to get there,’ you listen. And having him as a sounding board really helped me. I was able to talk to him as I went through each process — from getting a college scholarship, to playing in college, to trying to get in the NBA, to actually playing in the NBA.”
Garrett also pointed out that because he watched his father’s games and basketball was huge in his family, he picked up a ball early and had a head-start over some of his peers. Finding the game — and ultimately falling in love with it — at a young age is another advantage for second-generation players.
Temple: “I was around basketball for as long as I can remember. Literally, my earliest memory is shooting baskets on a Playskool or Fisher Price goal when I was 2 or 3 years old. I was the youngest in the family and, in addition to my dad, I had older brothers and they both played basketball. There’s no time I can remember where I wasn’t around basketball. Now, did I fall in love with it right away? I was kind of rebellious. Then, my parents went through a divorce and I went through a situation where I was always playing basketball, but I started to question if I was playing it because I loved it or because I was around it for so long and knew nothing else. Then, when I was able to answer that question for myself and realize that I did actually love the game, that’s when my work ethic really came into play.”
Larry, Garrett and Xavier were never forced to play basketball. In fact, it seems that many NBA fathers take a laid-back approach and most want their sons to fall in love with the sport on their own. This certainly describes Mr. Nance, Mr. Temple and Mr. Silas. Other NBA fathers whom Larry, Garrett and Xavier know well also took a similar approach with their sons.
Temple: “One of the best things about having a father who had his own NBA career is that you never have to worry about your dad living vicariously through you. I would see it with some of the parents of my high school teammates. Fathers would be in the stands yelling to their son, ‘Shoot the ball!’ Or they’d yell at the coach, ‘Put my son in the game!’ They were very overbearing and I can only imagine what they’d say to their sons when they got home. ‘You should have done this! You should have done that!’ When they’re saying these things, they’re usually telling their kid, ‘When I was in your position, this is what I should have done. I’m trying to prevent you from making the same mistakes I did!’
“Most guys I know whose parents played, their parents aren’t like that. My father was never an overbearing dad. He was never that type of father, and he even coached me! He was my coach each summer, from my first-grade team all the way through my 17-and-under AAU team just before I left for college. After a game, he was never one to say, ‘You should have done this and that!’ Instead, he’d ask questions. ‘How did you all play today?’ Or he’d offer encouragement. ‘Oh, you didn’t shoot well? That’s okay, you’ll shoot better next game.’ But it was never overbearing and I never felt like he was on my back. When I’d see other parents do that, I always thought, ‘Wow, I’m lucky my father doesn’t do that. I’m glad he’s not that type of father who gets on me like that.’ I think that’s because he knows what I’m feeling. He knows that if I have a bad game, I’m my toughest critic. I know exactly what I did wrong and what I should’ve done, so him berating me and telling me negative stuff isn’t going to help me at all. But it was really helpful for me to have my father there to offer advice and answer questions – that was actually productive.”
Silas: “My dad, like Garrett’s dad, is also from Louisiana. They know each other, and they were actually teammates on the Spurs [in the 1974-75 season]. I think they had the same approach. My dad was never overbearing. He wouldn’t even let me play organized ball until I was in sixth grade. He really wanted to be sure that I wanted it. I used to beg him because all my friends played, but he didn’t want me to BS it if I did it. I think that helped a lot.”
Nance Jr: “I found basketball at my own speed. My dad just let me be me and experience whatever I wanted to experience. I played other sports too – a lot of soccer, some baseball and I ran track. So I tried a bunch of them, and basketball wasn’t really something I was interested in taking seriously until, really, my sophomore year of high school. And he was fine with that. He loved watching me play other sports, seeing me try new things and he loved learning those other sports. When I did decide to take basketball seriously, he was thrilled. Thrilled! So as soon as I decided to take it seriously, he was raring to start teaching me and all of that good stuff. My dad was still very laid back, though. His big thing was that he always wanted me to play hard. There will be some games when you’re making shots and some games when you’re missing shots, but he would say, ‘If you’re playing hard, I’ll always be on your side regardless of how you played.’ That’s definitely something that I took to heart, and I still play that way today.”
In talking to all three players, it’s clear they’re each very proud of their father and grateful that he helped pave the way for them.
Silas: “Growing up, I knew my dad’s jersey was the first ever retired by the Spurs. When I saw it years later, my dad’s number and George Gervin’s number were the only ones hanging in the rafters in the Alamodome at that time. Realizing that one of the two jerseys up there was my dad, that was probably the first time I really understood [the extent of his success].”
Nance Jr: “I’ve always worn my name with pride; I thought it was really cool that my dad wanted me to have his name and it’s something I’m proud to have. There’s a reason that it’s not just ‘Nance’ on the back of my jersey and I think that’s awesome. And I’ve never met someone who had a negative thing to say about my dad, so why would I shy away from owning that name?”
These days, ESPN is already showing highlights of superstars’ kids such as LeBron James’ son and Dwyane Wade’s son.
Temple was complimentary of James and Wade since they have supported their sons while also trying to maintain their privacy and ensure that they’re playing because they love the game. Nance Jr. offered good advice for any NBA son, particularly ones who may find it hard to be in their father’s shadow at times.
Nance Jr: “Just be yourself. There are always going to be people who are comparing you to your dad, but there’s only ever going to be one you. Just be yourself and embrace who you are.”
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