SLAM: Where did you grow up? 

Spencer Hawes: I grew up in Seattle, on Queen Anne Hill, which is nice because of its proximity to KeyArena and the exposure I got to the Sonics when I was a kid. It has the feel of the suburbs but it’s urban and close to downtown.

SLAM: Did the Sonics influence you?

SH: We were so lucky as kids in Seattle that we took for granted even having a team. I think in the ’90s there was no more entertaining team than GP, The Reignman, Detlef, Hersey Hawkins, Sam Perkins and down the line. They almost ran the old Bulls squad.

SLAM: How is it with the Sonics gone?

SH: It sucks and it’s terrible. I think the city took them for granted. Now, people are realizing how important they were to the community. I think there’s enough good basketball fans here that support the cause and that’s what we need to get a franchise back.

SLAM: What is the Home Team and what do you guys do for Seattle?

SH: It all started with Jamal [Crawford] and him embracing the role of pseudo godfather of Seattle basketball. Every kid that has come up, he has put his arm around them. Everyone is tight-knit. We get back in the summers and hang out. We have runs two or three times a week, and there is anywhere from eight to 10 NBA players. Everyone has a lot of pride for the city.

SLAM: Anybody out of Seattle help you with your game?

SH: Shawn [Kemp] has been great for me. Helping me train and you can bounce any type of question off him. Now he’s got a bar three minutes from my house. He’s just getting more and more involved in the community.

SLAM: Is it true that Metta World Peace came to your childhood house?

SH: When the Kings played the Sonics, my mom didn’t quite understand how the NBA worked. She wanted to do a team dinner and I told her nobody would come. I asked everybody on the team and Ron Ron was the only guy who came. He said he never had pot roast before. Then he made the famous comment that if he had grown up in a house like mine he would have never worked hard for basketball. He gave me a hard time about that.

SLAM: At Seattle Prep, you played with Martell Webster and didn’t win state?

SH: [Laughs] It’s frustrating with us playing together we didn’t accomplish that. The only team in the history of the world with two top 10 picks that didn’t win a state tournament. There’s a fun fact. Playing with Martell was incredible. It showed me what it took to be the level of player he was. It also gave me a blueprint, watching how he handled the scouts and agents. When my time came, it was more simple.

SLAM: Which NBA players influence your game?

SH: I think two guys are Dirk and Tim Duncan. Dirk being a big guy that has the versatility to put the ball on the floor, face up or hit an outside shot. And Tim with his fundamentals and ability to dominate the game. Playing with Brad Miller also taught me to play from the elbow and be a point-center.

SLAM: Being a big center, who has dunked on you the worst and who do you want to dunk on the most?

SH: I don’t catch a lot of bodies these days. You would have to check YouTube. Jeff Green got me pretty bad when he played for the Thunder. Dion Waiters got me bad this year. If I could dunk on one person, it would probably be KD.

SLAM: Do you think white players get respect in the NBA?

SH: It can be hard from time to time, but respect is earned. If you want to be respected—regardless if you’re white, black, purple or green—you got to show people, almost demand people respect you.

SLAM: Any chance you go back to Cleveland next year?

SH: It was a good fit from a basketball standpoint. There’s a lot of pieces and they will figure out how they work. Going forward the talent is definitely in place.

Originally published in SLAM 180