Originally published in SLAM 149

by Adam Figman | @afigman

SLAM: Tell us about your hometown.

Arron Afflalo: I lived in a few different parts of Compton, CA. That’s kind of when I began playing basketball, just growing up, playing in different leagues in the Compton area and the Carson area.

SLAM: Does repping the city mean something special to you?

AA: Yeah, it does. It means something because kids from Compton usually don’t get a great opportunity to succeed in life, because they are born into situations where it’s tough to come up. Most of the kids don’t have the proper guidance and support to even be successful, if they want to. But I was blessed to have my mom and dad around and just have good people around me. I had a great high school coach, had a great AAU basketball coach and I was just blessed from that standpoint, so that they could help me execute [my goals].

SLAM: Coming from a tough area, did you ever doubt yourself?

AA: Not really. I never really thought about the NBA until I got to college, but I always had a natural feeling that basketball was for me because I just felt I was a smart kid with skills, and I felt I had an advantage over kids. Even at a young age—even at 8 years old—I felt I was above average, or better than most kids my age. I would always play against kids two or three years older than me, which helped me a little bit when I started playing against kids that were my age.

SLAM: Are there any notable spots in the area where you grew up spending a lot of time?

AA: There was a park called Campanella Park where in seventh, eighth grade, I used to go there and just shoot on the court by myself all the time. I had a basketball court in my backyard, but it had dirt and it was on a hill, so it was kind of difficult to shoot and play back there [laughs]. And I had dogs that wouldn’t let me play a lot, so I used to go to the park and shoot.

SLAM: You were recruited by UCLA coach Ben Howland to play for the Bruins.

AA: Yeah. When I really started to become heavily recruited after my junior year, I was on pace to become a McDonald’s All-American and stuff like that, so I had a lot of schools that were really interested in me. Obviously my home school is UCLA, and I had heard a lot of good things about Coach Howland from a coaching standpoint, and that was part of it. But what better situation and opportunity than the resources and tradition at UCLA—who was down [as a basketball program] at the time—right there in my backyard?

SLAM: So the fact that you were familiar with the area played a big role in your decision?

AA: Most definitely. I just felt that as I did start to think about the NBA, [as I was] going into school, that for one, UCLA had a lot of tradition and obviously I could be seen as a basketball player there. For me, I wasn’t all about trying to pick the perfect spot for me to be seen. I felt that if you were that good, they would find you. And what better place to deal with relationships and connections than right here at home, at UCLA, and still have that opportunity for myself.

SLAM: Do you get to give back charity-wise at all?

AA: Yeah, I do different things. I don’t have my own personal charity set up, but outside of personal appearances that our team [sets up], I’ve been back to Compton a few times for food drives and to speak to kids, just to do what I can.

SLAM: Growing up, if you could watch one guy play, who would it have been?

AA: I used to watch Byron Scott play—he was my favorite player. I liked his athleticism and his jumpshot. As a little kid, I just remember watching him shoot. It was funny, I had no clue what an elite basketball player was when I was 4 or 5 years old, and I had a video about the Lakers’ back-to-back championship seasons in the late-’80s. My mom bought that video and I would watch it every day. For some reason, I just took a liking to Byron Scott.