At age 33, I learned the man I thought to be my father all my life actually was not. I’m going to explain to you how I got here.
To say my life history has been complicated would be an understatement. I watched my mother pass away when I was 6. She died there in front of my eyes. My father G was in prison at the time. So that was life for me at its very start – no mother, no father around.
My sister Talicia lived with my grandparents, so I went to live with them right after my mom’s death. Tragedy would strike again soon as both my grandma and my grandpa died of cancer within two years.
Me and Talicia moved with my aunt Louise, but she didn’t stick around long. When I was 9, my then 13-year-old sister ran away to live with his father. I would find out later about this. She didn’t tell me where she was going, she just told me to wait for her. I stood there from 9 in the morning to 12 at night waiting for her to pick me up, but she didn’t. I wouldn’t see her again in 12 years.
My father was still in jail at the time, as he had been my entire life. I had zero contact with him. I didn’t even know him. No communication, no nothing. All I had was pictures of him. He wasn’t prepared to take care of a kid, he didn’t want to take care of a kid and didn’t show up.
Well, he showed up once later on. At age 12, I was already very much into sports playing basketball and football. One day I was at the basketball court and I heard, ‘Hey, your father is coming!’ I’m excited about it and run to him when I see him and he gives me a water bottle and tells me to pee in it. He didn’t even say hello. I’m 12 years old and have no idea why he’s asking me to do this, but I do it because you do what grown-up men tell you to do. He takes the water bottle and he leaves. I don’t see him again in eight years.
People who should be around me, who should be taking care of me just kept vanishing away from me. I didn’t understand.
Like for many others, sports were an escape for me and it was starting to become obvious I was quite good at that. It was certainly obvious to my best friend’s uncle. I was just a kid and this man, Kevin Owens, told me I could make it to the NBA just by watching me play in the backyard. He said he wanted to adopt me. I was like, ‘This is crazy’ but my aunt allowed him to do it. Kevin fell ill with cancer soon afterwards and I thought I was going to lose him too, but fortunately he survived and helped me with my basketball career. He traveled with me so I could compete against the best talent in America.
The part about my college career, you probably know a little bit because I was pretty good at Louisville. I ended up the leading three-point shooter in school history playing for Rick Pitino.
My father showed up for a game during my freshman year in college. I didn’t know what his intentions were and I didn’t want to talk with him, but Kevin said I had to hear his side of the story, so I did. I was very suspicious. Was he another guy trying to get involved in his son’s life when it’s clear the kid is good at sports looking to make a profit?
Anyways, I tried to develop a relationship with him. I took this man who had been much of his life in jail to see the world, brought him with me to Italy, for example. Just tried to make everything nice for him throughout my pro career because I thought he was my father. I even took care of him financially because… what are you going to do? When you have been imprisoned for so long, it’s hard to make a living. Since I was well off money-wise, I thought it was the right thing to do.
Fast forward to present times.
I get married and my wife Shakaola gets to meet G. She looks at him and says, ‘He’s not your father’. I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ and she insists he can’t be my father. That knocked me off my feet a little bit, but I left it alone for some time even though her comment was lurking in the back of my head.
By now, I have a relationship with my sister and one day his father, Anthony Pinero, approaches me and tells me he might be my dad.
I felt it was crazy and it was impossible, but we decide to take a DNA test to clarify things.
Results come in: He’s indeed my dad.
Why didn’t he tell me about this earlier? He says he didn’t want to get in the way since my mom had told people G was my father and he had seen I had a pretty decent relationship with him these days.
I learned about this only one month ago and my world has been rocked a bit, but in a good way.
I’ve had good times in my life. Basketball has brought much happiness to me and, even with everything I’ve gone through, I’ve always tried to do things right. No alcohol, no drugs, not much partying, focus on work. But there’s no denying the rough times in my childhood took a toll on me. I have kept a lot inside and I always felt people didn’t fully undertand me. I’m talking basketball people too. Part of it was they didn’t know all I had to deal with. Perhaps they thought something was wrong with me?
I’ve had to go to counseling to make sense of all the bad stuff that has happened to me and it gave me the chance to speak about all the things I was feeling in a place where I felt it was safe to do that and I could tell my story, which I had never done before. That was helpful.
Anthony, my real father, is from New Jersey and he’s moving to Atlanta, the city where I live when I’m in the States, so he can be around me. I’m also taking him to Lebanon, where I’m going to play this season.
G didn’t take the news of him not being my actual father well. I wanted him to know from me directly and not hear from someone else. It was a rough conversation. He cursed me out really bad, told me I was an awful person. From that reaction, I’m kind of guessing he knew all along he was not my dad. I couldn’t understand how he could react to the news the way he did with everything I have done for him all these years.
So it’s no Taquan Dean for me anymore. I went to court and changed my name to Taqwa Pinero. It’s going to take a few weeks for it to be official, though. I converted to Islam (lots of changes!) and took the Taqwa name, which in Arabic means “To be conscious of God.”
I always searched for God looking for an explanation as to why people around me were dying and I had to be hit with so much drama. I was a Christian, then Islam was introduced to me. I was wary and nervous at first about it because of all the things you hear about it. Then in a way I draw a parallel between this religion and myself. Islam is often written off by people who don’t understand it and that was pretty much what had happened to me. As I learned more about it, it brought peace and structure for me and made me understand it’s not about caring so much about yourself, but more about others.
So Taqwa Pinero it is. It’s a fresh start.
Before it’s over, I want to thank Dr. Jean Maculaitis, Alvin Freeman, the Whalen Family, the McGuckin family, the Getz family, the Jones family, Keith Coleman and Joey Raines (rest in peace) for all their support.