A Letter To Ari

December 2, 2020

Dear Ariana,

When I dropped you off last Friday, I knew it would be a lil while before I’d see you again.

We had an amazing Thanksgiving together, one that was full of love and really embraced your Black roots. We were back home in Gary, IN. With everything going on in this surreal year, it felt amazing to enjoy dinner with our whole family for one special night. Your uncle Gee and cousin Rain; your aunt Cherri and uncle Dion; your Granny, and of course, your Great Grandma. We had four generations of family, a shared history of recipes and traditions, all around the table. You’re gonna have to work on your poker face…it was pretty obvious that you wanted to dig in to your turkey leg before the meal even started! When we prayed together as a family, you couldn’t wait to shout AMEN like you always do, with carefree love and blind faith that I really admire, especially in times like these.

To watch you interact with your grandmother and GG is specifically special.

Three strong, beautiful Black women with so much in common. Right from the moment we walked into Grandma’s home, the entire physical space was full of positive energy. It sounds like some holiday movie stuff, but I swear the family spirit was alive throughout the house, that Black love you just can’t get anywhere else. Everyone was so excited to spend their Thanksgiving day with you! The way Granny loves to do your hair, sing & dance with you and wake up early to cook breakfast…it makes me feel a level of connection and fulfillment that I never thought was possible. To keep it real, it makes me wonder if Granny wanted two girls instead of Uncle Gee and I! You seem to inspire and excite her so sincerely.

When it was time to drop you off with your mother, things felt different. I knew a big decision was coming up. I knew a chapter of our story was ending. I now have to balance what’s best for you, what’s best for myself and what’s best for my professional journey. Making some calculations out of all that is a challenge. The media makes it look a lot easier and more glamorous than it really is. This is how our business works. It’s a blessing and a curse, and feelings can get complicated as the process plays out.

I’m not a big GOODBYE type of person. I don’t like endings, but I do love change when it’s needed.

I don’t know how to feel these days, knowing it will be my last time seeing you for an undetermined amount of time. I watch the clock to see how much time we have left, counting the hours and making sure we’re not late to drop-off, hah! I get emotional…it feels like butterflies in your stomach and rainstorms in your head. I don’t eat quite as much, and more importantly, I feel like I sneak you extra snacks and juice! It takes some time to learn this, but I know that it’s OK to cry.

I do my best to hold tears back until I drop you off. Maybe I also need to work on my poker face, hah. But the way you look at me, and the way you reflect all the light and strength and positivity in the galaxy…if I get sad, you’ll get sad too, and we need Angels spreading cheer and happiness during the holiday season.

Our drop-off routine is solidifying. We cruise in the car, windows cracked, and though YOU clearly have the pop-star voice of the two of us, I do my best to sing the Minnie Mouse & Doc McStuffins theme songs. You don’t quite understand everything yet, and it’s real cute. When you want the music turned up, you yell “DOWN” instead. But you say it like such a lady, such a boss, that I know to raise the music and belt the words to the top of my lungs. Then we pray together, every single time. We pray that God keeps you safe, healthy, and away from evil. We pray for your protection. And I promise to do right by you, a vow that I’m doing everything in my power to give you the life you deserve. Every chance I get, I tell you how proud I am of you. It’s a different kind of “I’M PROUD OF YOU”  than after gymnastics, or after swim lessons. It’s something only you can feel.

I got a call from my new coach, Luke Walton, a few minutes after I agreed to a contract with the Sacramento Kings. This was on Sunday. It was refreshing to know that my six-year NBA career would push forward to lucky number seven. It was nice to feel wanted by the city and community of Sacramento. And to be honest, it’s a rush to think about how I can help this team right away, both on and off the court. Living in San Francisco, while playing with the Warriors last year, taught me a lot during a critical year of my young life. I’m ready to apply what I’ve learned, studied and absorbed to another year in sunny California. Some quiet West Coast time will help me focus on my goals, the foundation and my physical well-being.

But leaving you is never easy.

This is one of the hardest and most intimidating parts of my work year, and the games haven’t even started. Leaving you for a new basketball season is tough, every single time. I take a picture of your room for the memories, and I hug your Black Minnie Mouse pillow the same way you do. I say goodbye to our goofy, perfect dog Jewelz. I toss away the strawberries you didn’t get to devour, and I water the lemon tree we planted together. And then I pray.

It’s important that you hear this from ME, directly.

In the immediate future, I might not be there with you every day. But I’m preparing to always be there in the future, in the long run. This is about the big picture. Missing your funny words and your clumsy, adorable first steps will hurt me. Every moment matters, especially as you grow up so quickly. Working through co-parenting and lawyers while preparing for your new job…it’s not easy. When I’m on the West Coast, I’ll be waking up at 5 a.m. my time to take our daily phone calls that were granted by the judge. As I see it, the hardest things in life are the unknowns. You were a blessing coming into this world, and you will continue to make a difference in it! I’d bet the whole world on that, no poker face needed.

Until then, I’ll be holding it down. The mission keeps rolling on: we’re going to improve lives and better this planet, through the foundation in your very name. You already know Dada can feel you cheering by his side. I’ll hear you scream through the TV! Angels are Real, you’re living proof!

Love,

Dad

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