Humble, hard-working Louisiana product Brandon Bass reflects on a childhood that gained some much-needed structure from basketball.
by Adam Figman | @afigman
SLAM: Tell us a little about your hometown.
Brandon Bass: Growing up, I had three phases. From 1-9, I was living in this little town called Erwinville right outside of Baton Rouge, LA. And my mom passed when I was 9, so I moved to New Roads, LA, for one year, and then after that year I moved into the city of Baton Rouge, and moved in with my aunt.
SLAM: When did you get into hoops?
BB: As young as I could remember, my mom watched all the Chicago Bulls games, because we had the WGN channel. That’s when I really got involved with basketball. I got one of my neighbors to put this wood backboard and rim on the telephone pole in my yard, and I been shooting and working on my game as far back as I can remember, when I was like 5 or 6. I was able to shoot on a big goal once it was up, but I always had little goals in the house that I always managed to tear down, and I got in trouble for that lots of times [laughs].
SLAM: When did you get involved in an official league?
BB: When I was 10, I played in this 11-and-under team in New Roads. I played on it for a couple months, then I moved to Baton Rouge, where I started playing at parks with the older guys.
SLAM: Were there any specific spots where you spent lots of time balling or hanging as a kid?
BB: The Sports Academy. That was the gym back home where one of the coaches picked me up and asked me to be on his AAU team. I used to ride my bike or walk to the gym to play or get shots up and do different drills.
SLAM: How important was AAU ball in helping you realize you could really compete?
BB: I’d seen LeBron was on the cover of Sports Illustrated when I was in 9th or 10th grade, and one of the guys who I trained with showed me that he was the No. 1 player in the country and was going to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game. I asked him what it would take for me to play in the McDonalds All-American Game, and he was telling me to play AAU and play the guys that are ranked already and beat them out of their spots. So I said, What do I need to do? He said, “You gotta be in the gym everyday.” From that day forward, I think I was 14, 15 years old, I’ve been in the gym since.
SLAM: You were pretty highly recruited in high school. Why’d you go with LSU?
BB: The reason I went with LSU was I wanted to be home—I was just comfortable there. I felt like with my putting God first and working as hard as I possibly can, I could make it to the NBA from anywhere.
SLAM: When did you realize you could actually make the NBA?
BB: Probably around 16, [when] I was starting to get ranked. People were saying I could possibly be an All-American, and then when I became one, that’s when it stuck in my head that I could possibly play in the NBA one day if I continued to work.
SLAM: You spoke about watching the Bulls—if you could only watch one guy while you were growing up, was it always Michael Jordan?
BB: Yeah, it was Jordan all day. To be honest with you, I didn’t even know other players existed. It was always the Bulls. I don’t even remember nobody else but the Bulls and Jordan.
SLAM: Do you remember the first pair of basketball sneakers you owned?
BB: The first basketball sneakers I can remember were Patrick Ewings. When I was young, my mom couldn’t afford Jordans for me because my foot was so big. I remember my brother—he was a baby and I was probably 7 or 8—had little feet and he got these Jordans, I forgot what number, but I was so mad because I wanted them, too. She was like, they’re too much for your feet [laughs]!
SLAM: Do you get to give back charity-wise at all?
BB: Since I got to the NBA, it’s been a goal of mine to reach back to underprivileged kids in my neighborhood and my surrounding ones. I have a Brandon Bass Reach Back Day where I give away food supplies, book bags, have a cookout. That one day shows youths in my area that you can achieve your goals, because I was once y’all, and now I’m on TV and in the NBA, and you can do the same, versus being someone that you see every day on the corner like I saw when I was growing up.