The Bubble Bursts. Now What?

What’s goin’ on y’all!

As you probably know by now, our 76ers season came to an end last week. I’d be lying if I said it was an easy loss to swallow. I’m endlessly proud of my teammates in Philly, and I can say with certainty that this Orlando experience was historic. As the leading philosophers of our era say, what a time to be alive.

But let’s keep it real.

I’m also a bit relieved. After 45 straight days staring at the same four walls, getting COVID tested daily, seeing my family and friends through a screen, and eating the same room service grilled chicken sandwich (which runs ya $27.74 each time, hah!) … well, I’m free — literally and figuratively. Back to real life, or, whatever real life looks like in these times. Let’s get into that.

I’ll never take the sheets of my own bed, or the green grass in my backyard, or just about ANYTHING for granted ever again. These mornings, even the weeds growing out of my lawn are a welcomed sight. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful for the ability to play basketball professionally. I’m doubly grateful to have a job during a global pandemic. And overall, this was an experience I’ll never forget—it went much better than I thought it would, I gotta admit. The NBA pulled this off brilliantly. They did everything they could to make work easy on us while also acknowledging the transformative fights in economic and racial justice that are going on beyond our “bubble.”

So, the bubble has burst and Orlando is over. What now?

Well, I’m entering this offseason as a free agent for the third time in my NBA career. That’s both very exciting and very scary. These situations often play themselves out beyond my control, but this offseason is super different. COVID is dealing us a hand we’ve never seen before. Honestly, we don’t even know when this next season is going to begin. My job for now is to just get healthy and stay ready.

Typically when I finish a season, I take a few weeks off from working out to decompress and reset, both physically and mentally. I’ll be back in the gym later this month to get back to work. This is a huge next chapter in my life but at the end of the day, that’s still just the business side. On a personal note, it’s all about being a father.

Ari’s now two and a half years old. She’s really starting to come into her own. She’s even grown in noticeable ways since I left for Orlando! She’s opening doors and reaching the light switches on her own now. Ari’s also potty training, which…man, that’s another unique experience, hah. She thinks she’s hilarious and laughs at everything! And she loves being outside—we might have a soccer player on our hands, though she’s looking like quite the comedian.

Like I said before, we don’t know when the next NBA season will begin so this could be the longest amount of time I’ve had at home with my baby girl! This has given me a lot of life and energy. Halloween, Thanksgiving, maybe even Christmas at home and close to Ari? I’m excited! As a basketball player, I’m never home in Indianapolis for these special moments. Not a whole lot has gone right in 2020, but I’m humbled by any extra time with my angel, especially while she’s still young.

But, it’s not without complications. I’m also in the midst of a legal case regarding Ari and her best interests. The goal is to spend as much time with my daughter as fairly and efficiently as possible. If it weren’t for the NBA bubble and the timing of the restart, this legal process would already be well underway. I chose to play and be with my teammates because it’s my job and it ultimately benefits my daughter. I’ve learned as an adult that the best decision is your decision and if YOU make it, you have to live with the result.

Presenting myself as a 26-year-old Black professional athlete in front of anyone, let alone a Judge, can be challenging and hard to relate to. Let’s face it: there’s a certain sense of “privilege” that comes with talking about NBA players, and in certain courtrooms there’s an institutionalized stigma on Black fatherhood. I’m here to prove that wrong. I’m naturally nervous about it all, but that’s because this experience is important to me and my motivations are sincere.

During this time of preparation, I’ve learned more about myself as a man than I ever could have imagined. I’ve learned patience and accountability. I’m getting better at managing and accepting my mental health throughout the ups and downs that life throws at us. Every second with our daughter is precious to me and I know her time with her mother is just as valuable. We as fathers have our own roles to serve and often times, we’re the piece to the puzzle that’s missing.

It has troubled me to fully comprehend some of the statistics: kids without their fathers are twice as likely to drop out of high school than the average American child. Even worse, they are four times more likely to be live in poverty, and seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teenager. Regardless of the temporary outcome of this legal process, I continue to learn permanent lessons on just how vital great fatherhood is. Dads literally save lives. I can’t wait to keep learning more and in turn, pass along what I’ve learned through our mission with the ARI Foundation.

Speaking of the Foundation…we’ve got some real exciting stuff in the pipeline. I’ll keep you updated on the bigger stuff later, but coming up next is our back-to-school giveaway for children and their families, including special gifts from Clarin’s Skincare for both mom & dad. Most parents have had a particularly stressful year so self-care is a necessity.

I’m keeping myself busy right now by working on my house in Indy. Please send your interior design tips my way as I get the crib set up! Gotta make this house a home for both Ari and I! Really, the next few months are about exactly that — strengthening and nurturing the relationship between us. It’s funny because the older I get — and the older Ari gets — the more I learn and understand my relationship with my own father. How it’s made me into who I am and the dad I want to be. But man, that’s a story for another day. How about the next blog post? Stay tuned. Until then, you can find me moving furniture, watching Doc McStuffins and guarding my angel as she guards me. That‘s my bubble, until further notice!

GRIII

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