Issue 56: Six Degrees of Separation with NBA Players

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This issue is sponsored by Craig Leener, author of the Zeke Archer Basketball Trilogy. This young-adult trilogy, which includes the books This Was Never About Basketball, All Roads Lead to Lawrence, and This Was Always About Basketball, are fantastic reads for basketball and non-basketball fans alike. I read the first book on an airplane and it gripped me throughout—I nearly turned to my seatmate several times to say, “look at this!” but then decided they’d be upset that I woke them up from a nap, so instead, I just told them they should check it out as we were getting off the plane.

I’m doing the same for you, now. These books certainly dive into some hoops action, but they’re even more about friendship and finding your path in life, which are areas we can all use some guidance on. Craig’s writing is approachable, enjoyable, and full of wonder, and I highly recommend you diving into this trilogy. Grab a copy of one or all three books here.

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Issue 56: Six Degrees of Separation in NBA Players

At some point in your life, you’ve likely heard about the six degrees of separation idea. This concept says that we’re all six connections (or less) away from a given person.

A trio of students from Albright College popularized this idea with “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” while watching the movie Footloose. It’s the same concept — every actor can be tied to Kevin Bacon in six connections or less.

In fact, you and I can likely be tied to Kevin Bacon, too. You can even discover any Kevin Bacon number on Google because the internet is a weird and wacky place.

The NBA has this “six degrees of separation” action going on as well, and, in some cases, the relationships are much closer than that. Here are a few players with some pretty cool connections.

Tim Duncan’s Brother is a Cinematographer and Survivor Cameraman

Tim Duncan retired in 2016 as one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game. He won five championships, made 15 All-Star appearances, and took home two MVP awards.

Yet, depending on your level of basketball fandom, he might not even be the coolest Duncan in the household.

Tim’s brother Scott, who’s nine years older than the NBA Hall of Famer, is a director and cinematographer. His credits include the main title opens for Survivor and the Olympics, work with networks like ESPN and Nickelodeon, and developing ad spots for some of the biggest advertising firms in the game.

Scott’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed, either. He’s earned 16 Emmy Awards for Individual Achievement in Cinematography and Best Documentary and has received a total of 34 Emmy nominations throughout his career.

And unlike Timmy D, Scott’s still out there every day, performing at a high level.

Kevin Love’s Uncle is a Founding Member of the Beach Boys

One of my earliest musical memories is listening to the Beach Boys compilation album Made in USA.

This album features just about every classic Beach Boys hit — “Fun, Fun, Fun”; “I Get Around”; “Good Vibrations”; “God Only Knows”; as well as some more obscure jams, like “Getcha Back” and “Rock and Roll to the Rescue.” The latter’s music video features bodies buried in the sand while the heads bounce and sing along, and that’s very cute.

I mean this with no ill harm, but Mike Love is probably the least talented of the original Beach Boys lineup. Listen to this vocals only mix of “Sloop John B” and see the stark difference between the first vocal and chorus and then the second verse (with Mike on vocals). The best part of Mike’s verse is the INSANELY smooth harmonies from the rest of the band around 1:15 into the song, which sound like angels greeting you.

If you do nothing else today, I need you to listen to that part. Here, I’ve even queued it up for you.

The Wilson trio all provided something musically. Dennis jammed out on drums, Carl has the most impressive voice of all and played guitar, and Brian is not only one of the greatest songwriters of all time, but he also managed the impressive duo of playing bass while wailing on a high falsetto. And Al Jardine played guitar while providing lead vocs on some classic hits.

Mike Love largely just dances like a 45-year-old dad, both when he was 23 and currently as an octogenarian. He’s still bringing good stuff to the table and his voice is part of the Beach Boys sound, but he certainly doesn’t get as much respect as the other members.

Perhaps it’s only fitting, then, that he’s the uncle of NBA player Kevin Love. Love was a standout at UCLA but then was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves to languish as a lone wolf (or wolve, if you’re extra suave) for several years. He put up big numbers, though they were met with “yeah, but…can he do it on a good team?”

After being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, Love was the third wheel and occasional punchline of the Cavs trio, which consisted of himself, LeBron James, and Kyrie Irving.

But Love fought through it and showed that yes, he in fact could put up solid numbers on a good team.

He had a particularly memorable defensive stand in the 2016 Finals, helping preserve the Cavs’ lead and giving Cleveland its first championship in more than half a century. And he’s also an advocate for mental health awareness and has donated both money and equipment to frontline workers and arena staff during the pandemic.

You love to see that kind of thing, don’t you?

Nick Young is Cousins with Fellow NBA-er Kevon Looney and Rapper Kendrick Lamar

Nick Young is one of the biggest modern-day NBA goofballs. He once celebrated a shot before it went in, fully turning away from the basket with his arms in the air. Sadly, the shot did not go in, so the celebration was all for naught.

But when he caught fire, look out. Few shooters in the league could keep up with his blend of shooting stroke and irrational confidence. I still remember his lone season on the Los Angeles Clippers, when he was an integral part of a 24-point fourth-quarter comeback, just sinking shot after shot.

He’s also cousins with a few other famous people. On his mother’s side, he’s cousins with Kevon Looney of the Golden State Warriors. But basketball players having ties to other basketball players is less exciting, so what else does Young have?

How about this: on his father’s side, he’s cousins with Kendrick Lamar, who’s earned 13 Grammies, 5 Billboard Music Awards, two American Music Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, and an Academy Award nomination. Yeah, I think we’re gonna be alright.

Meanwhile, my cousin once sang Lamar’s song “King Kunta” at a wedding after party, so we requested it at his wedding and told the DJ to “trust us” when he gave us a skeptical look.

Let me tell you, the entire dance floor cleared, but my cousin loved it. And that’s the most important thing.

Grant Hill’s Mom Was Roommates with Hillary Clinton

An early jersey in my collection was a Grant Hill reversible one from the 90s Detroit Pistons. This was the era where they had that hideous(ly beautiful) “horse on fire” logo and I wore it with pride. Also there was a lot of teal, because that was the thing to do in the 90s.

Hill soon became one of my favorite players. He was just a smooth operator on the court, deftly handling the ball, dropping dimes, and putting up buckets. Sadly, injuries took their toll on him, but he still had a very solid career.

He’s transitioned into a career in announcing and had a fun moment where a large man (a player, not some random tall guy) dove over the scorer’s table to try and save a ball, nearly taking out our precious Hill in the process.

Put simply, Grant Hill exudes cool. But his parents might have him beat.

Grant’s father Calvin went to Yale and played in the NFL, winning the Super Bowl and making four Pro Bowl appearances. And Grant’s mother went to Wellesley College, getting a degree in mathematics, and, oh, yeah, being suitemates with former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Hill’s mom earned the nickname “The General” as a special assistant to then-Secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander from 1978 to 1981. She also is a scientist, teacher, and even consulted the Dallas Cowboys on image problems in the 1990s.

What a well-rounded family!

Juwan Howard Played with 264 Other NBA Players

Juwan Howard was a member of the “Fab Five” at Michigan in the early 1990s. He parlayed that into a fabulous NBA career.

In fact, no one has played with more NBA players than Howard, who teamed up with a whopping 264 different players throughout his career, more than anyone else.

Howard spent six and a half years with the Washington Bullets/Wizards and three seasons apiece with the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat. But he also had stops in Dallas, Denver, Orlando, Charlotte (with the Bobcats!), and Portland. And he was the first player ever to sign a $100 million contract. Get your money, Juwan!

And because everything comes full circle, Howard is now the head coach at Michigan.

Joey from Crisp Bounce Pass and Steve Kerr Are BFFs

As a bonus, here’s a poor-quality cell phone picture of a young Joey with then-Phoenix Suns general manager and current Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. This was 2009, phones didn’t have good cameras.

I’m standing one step above him, which is why I appear massively tall. But hey, it’s kinda cool to look taller than a multi-time NBA champion.

Crisp Bounce Pass with Steve Kerr

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Other Reads and Watches

Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird are Goals

Renee Montgomery announces Her retirement — and she’s got big plans

The NBA is Literally Becoming a Make-or-Miss League

NBA Twitter reacts to Steph Curry’s ridiculous underhand trick shot after final buzzer vs. Magic

That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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