NBA Player Patrick McCaw is trying to figure out what shoes he’d wear for a championship game.
He hesitates, twisting his head slightly to the left and squinting his eye. “It all depends….” He’s silent for a moment until he suddenly looks up and smiles, “Yeezys. I’d definitely play with some Yeezys on my feet, that’s a good way to go out. The high top ones. The black ones.” Jelan Kendrick, his former UNLV teammate and close friend, throws up his hands, “Yeezys? Some Yeezys?!” Patrick chuckles and smiles, “Yeah, I’m gonna go with Yeezys.”
While he answers hypothetically, a championship game is a very real possibility for 21-year-old Patrick McCaw. Freshly drafted to the Golden State Warriors, it’s not a reach to believe Patrick may be gracing a championship court within a year – in Yeezys, no less.
Sitting down to talk with Pat, I can’t help but notice there’s something effortlessly cool about him. As he talks about his hometown St. Louis, his time at UNLV, and his excitement on being a Warrior he emits confidence without the ego, humility without being meek, and a relaxed demeanor that puts you at ease.
When asked what he was like when he was young, Pat immediately gives a sly smile. “I had braids.” He laughs, “I had cornrows in Kindergarten. The long ones, they were down to my back. I was cool as kid. Growing up I was one of those boys that everyone loved. I remember being in first grade, everyone was cool [with me], you know the older girls, everyone just loved them some Patrick.”
He may have gotten love from the older girls then, but now he’s getting love from #dubnation
When the topic of the 2016 NBA Draft comes up Patrick’s eyes grow wide and he shakes his head in disbelief. “Once my name was called – I kind of didn’t believe it. I was just crying for 30 minutes, and it was just, I can’t really explain it, but to have the opportunity to have my name called … a lot of people didn’t even think I’d be in college….”
He stares off wistfully, his sentence fading off. It’s silent for a moment, and then he loosely shakes his head, releasing himself from the moment before giving a swift, firm nod of reassurance.
“And to be an NBA player now? It’s crazy.”
Patrick, who spent two years in Las Vegas playing for UNLV’s Runnin’ Rebels, brings up his college memories with a smile.
“I had a lot of great times. The chemistry and the talent that we had was just amazing. My best memory is when we beat Arizona. It was my freshman year (2014), and beating the number #3 team in the country, and seeing everyone storm the court like that? It’s like a dream come true for any type of basketball player. That’s probably the best moment to me.”
The chemistry between him and his teammates is echoed across the board. Teammate and friend Jelan Kendrick recalls the first time he met Pat, noting, “he walked in all smooth, and he didn’t say much, he was quiet, but there was something about him. I couldn’t put my finger on it but there was something about him. Patrick’s sleek, he’s like a unicorn.”
He adds, “Oh, and the motherfucker doesn’t miss a shot.”
The love and support is not lost on Patrick, who returns it immediately. “Me as a person, I really – like I have to sit and talk to you, and how you approach me is kind of my first impression. And JK just welcomed me, I mean I was one of those kids that came to UNLV and I really didn’t have a name, and I think he knew that. And he just welcomed me with open arms and told me he was going to take care of me, and from then I just looked at him as a big brother.”
He applies that to all his teammates. When asked about their other UNLV teammates the jokes begin to flow. “Rashad Vaugn’s the ultimate prankster,” Jelan states. Pat nods in agreement before adding, “Jerome (Seagears) did the speeches a lot, he was nice with the speeches.”
“Jordan (Cornish) had the best dances, always.” Jelan remarks.
I ask about Chris Woods, and without a glance at each other they both remark, “Clown.” They laugh. “Chris Woods is Chris Woods. He’s just Chris, you can’t not love him.” Jelan says with a smile, Patrick nodding in agreement.
They joke, but there’s also an underlying sense of protection, a bond. Speaking of each other the way one speaks of their siblings, words dripping in jest, but heavy in defensive undertones. They were, and still are a team. It’s a bond Pat doesn’t take lightly.
“I think the relationships I built these past 2 years at UNLV definitely helped me. The relationships I built with my teammates were something special. I can call each and every one of them to this day, and just sit and have a conversation with them. That was the special thing about us, just the brotherhood that we built.”
While he highlights the relationships, Pat also sheds light on the magnitude of what getting a scholarship to UNLV meant.
“That’s the biggest moment for me [and my family], definitely getting a scholarship. People always doubted how far I would go with basketball, and I think that type of stuff has always motivated me. A lot of people were saying I was never going to be playing D1 ball, I was probably going to go to JUCO (Junior Colloge), and maybe, who knows where I’ll go from there. It’s just crazy to see how far I’ve come, and the time and work I’ve put in is paying off.”
Paid off it has. As he talks, I can’t help but think of a line in J.Cole’s Intro from 2014 Forest Hills Drive, “They say that dreams come true and when they do, that there’s a beautiful thing.” So I ask him the question he will, no doubt, repeatedly get for the next few months (but what we all want to know) – what’s it like when your dreams come true? Has it hit you yet?
He shakes his head, “It hasn’t really hit me yet. I mean in this next chapter everything is kind of continuing to get better for my family and me. I’ve been at low points in my life, and to see how far I’ve come is exciting. It’s exciting to know how much more I have to grow as a young man and as a player. It’s also just the fear of what could happen in the future. I always think of both the negative and the positives, but it’s still surreal I’m actually in the NBA, an NBA player….” He stops and gives a sly smile, the phrase still new on his lips.
“I don’t know it’s just, it’s crazy. Can’t really put anything into words. I made it, but I still feel like I’m not there yet. Still kind of feel like I’m in college.”
While he may still feel like he’s in college, Patrick’s already dived head first into the next chapter. He completed his first NBA Summer League this past July, and most recently made his debut as an NBA player in October. A daunting change for some, but Patrick is assured, his confidence lying in his talent, his determination, and his faith.
“You just got to keep your faith strong. I mean I faced times when I really wanted to give up, but just believing and keeping my faith, and praying every night – I think that’s what helped me as a young man. I’ve been in situations where I just wanted to give up, but just, stay strong with your family as well, family, definitely keep that close, you just can’t really doubt yourself, you’ve got to trust in everything you believe in and where you want to be in the future.”
He speaks these words firmly; with a self-assurance that leaves me with no doubts that Patrick McCaw will be a trending topic this season. And soon.
“You can’t second guess it.”
It’s time for Patrick to grab lunch. He’ll get a quick bite before heading off to practice where he’ll be surrounded by the likes of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson – guys that were once just players to him, now peers.
As he stands to leave, he suddenly stops. He hesitates for a second, then looks up with a smile reminiscent of a kid waking up on Christmas. “I got to do the camera thing for NBA 2k17,” he says. “It was crazy, they had me make the game winning face, and all that. It was cool.”
Grabbing his phone to head downstairs he stops once more to glance around the room. Golden State embossed gear lay scattered, our photographer shifts positions to capture Pat in the right light, and outside the window the world waits. Pat smiles, “It was all just, really cool.”
– – –
Later on friends ask me what the newest member of the Golden State roster is like. I pause to think back to his pure excitement, his humble confidence, and his dauntless attitude.
“He was cool, you know? He was just, really cool.”