Avery Bradley, a native of Tacoma, WA, has been taking opposing guards to school since his Boys & Girls Club days.
by Yaron Weitzman / @YaronWeitzman
SLAM: Tell us a little bit about your hometown.
Avery Bradley: I grew up in Tacoma, WA. It’s a real nice place. Everybody plays basketball there. You go to any court and there are always people who can play.
SLAM: Where’d you play, usually?
AB: Until high school, unless I was with my AAU team, I always played outdoors. Once I got to high school, though, we started playing in gyms—we’d stay as late as they’d let us. Stanley Elementary School, right by the Boys & Girls Club on the south side of Tacoma—I played there a lot. Also a place called the People’s [Community] Center. And my dad was in the Army so we would go to the army base sometimes. Pretty much wherever we could get a pick-up game.
SLAM: Is your dad the person who taught you how to play?
AB: No, no. My dad was athletic, but he’s so uncoordinated—he doesn’t play sports at all. My two older brothers—who are eight and six years older than me—taught me. Mostly, I just always wanted to be like them and would follow them everywhere.
SLAM: Did you play any other sports?
AB: Football. I was good, too. I didn’t realize it though until we moved to Texas—I moved there when I was in fourth grade, and then back to Tacoma in eighth—where everyone plays football and I was still one of the best. I pretty much played every position except quarterback.
SLAM: In basketball, was there someone you modeled your game after?
AB: Actually [laughs], when I was real young I was a huge Detlef Schrempf fan. I loved those Sonics teams and obviously loved Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, but Detlef Schrempf was my favorite. I wore number 11 because of him. I was also a big fan of Sean Elliott’s. I wore 32 in high school.
SLAM: Was defense your thing back then, too?
AB: Yeah, ever since I started playing. I remember in the first grade I would steal the ball from my brothers and their friends because I just knew their moves. I don’t want to sound cocky or anything, but the way I play defense, the way I can just figure out people’s moves, I really don’t think you can teach that to anybody. I honestly don’t. I think it’s just a God-given gift.
SLAM: Do you study opponents a lot?
AB: Mostly I just do my thing, but before games I’ll read the scouting report and watch the film twice before we play—after I shoot I’ll study the guy I’m going to be guarding, and then I’ll watch the film again in the locker room before the game. I want to know my opponent’s tendencies and take them away.
SLAM: Who’s the hardest guy for you to defend?
AB: I always say [Rajon] Rondo because he’s my teammate and he’s just so talented and so fast. But Kyrie Irving is also a really tough cover.
SLAM: What was your reaction to the big trade with the Nets?
AB: I was actually on a plane back to Tacoma when the trade went down, so when I got off I saw all these texts—I was real down, man. Those guys were like older brothers to me. I was 18 when I came into the League and they helped me become a professional, both on and off the court. It hurts losing them, but I’ll tell you what: Their first game back in Boston, oh man, it’s going to be crazy!
SLAM: How about your thoughts on Doc Rivers leaving?
AB: In the end, everyone has got to do what’s best for him and his family. It hurt though. The Celtics—I can’t speak for other organizations—we’re like a family, even the coaches, so to see him leave, everybody was hurt. But at the same time, we wish him the best because he is family and that’s how we roll, and he had to do what was best for him.