GlobalGrind caught up with super tatted baller and NBA superstar Brandon Jennings hours before the 2011 NBA Draft got underway.
We spoke to the Compton, CA born Milwaukee Buck point guard this morning at the Cooper Square Hotel near Astor Place in Downtown, NYC.
Brandon, who chose to play in Italy after graduating high school in 2008, setting off a lengthy debate about the NBA’s prep-to-pro policy, chatted with GG about his time in Italy, his favorite NBA draftees, his charity work and his shoe, the Micro G Black Ice Mid’s, his signature shoe with Under Armour.
Here’s some of what was said!
GlobalGrind: Can you tell us about yesterday’s event, the Showdown in Chinatown?
Brandon Jennings: Steve Nash’s 4th Annual Showdown in Chinatown? We were there to raise money to help kids with early education and we’re just out there, basically, hanging around a bunch of great guys who put on a great show.
How did you play?
It was OK. Sometimes, it goes just the way it goes, you know. I had a couple of sets and I made some defensive stops.
Do you have any favorites going into the draft tonight?
I know a lot of the kids that are entering the draft, some of them I played in high school. Some of them I played against growing up so, you know, there are a lot of favorites out there. There’s not just one particular one. I just wish them all the best of luck!
If you were to name your top 5 number one draft picks who would they be?
Allen Iverson #1, LeBron James, #2, Yao Ming #3, and Derrick Rose, and Shaq.
Your time in Italy, you said it was the best decision for you and your family. Now that you’re playing in the NBA, do you still stand by that?
Yeah, I still stand by it because everything I went through and everything I experienced, helped me. Once I got to the league everything became, I wouldn’t say easy … but it wasn’t as hard as probably what other rookies went through. Just because I played the first term in it for a year already, I got that experience. I knew what to already expect coming in.
Your story sounds similar to LeBron and Kobe’s. Do you see that happening in tonight’s event as well? Anyone coming straight from high school going into the NBA, or just going to the European League?
I wouldn’t say my story is like those guys. You know, those guys came out of high school. When it was my time, I had to take a different route, which was playing overseas for a year, so that was a good risk. I wouldn’t say my story is like theirs.
Do you miss playing for Roma?
I think I just miss the experience. I miss traveling all over the world, just having team dinners and, you know, experiencing different things in life.
Are you still in touch with your old teammates?
About a month ago I talked to Allan Wright, he was there with me. Premo’s brother, Yea, they play in the League so he was in the NBA with me my rookie year. We always talk.
Did you learn Italian while you were there?
I learned a little bit of Italian. Most of it was all bad words, you know, from players being on the court. I learned bad words! (Laughs).
Can you talk about your contract and your work with Under Armour?
Me and Under Armour started about 3-4 years ago, when I was getting ready to make my decision to go overseas. It’s a company that’s up and coming, very unique, very different. I saw the opportunity to be the first basketball player to be signed with Under Armour and I took it. I thought it was a great opportunity for me. The fact that I would be the main player and would be the main focus. I don’t know too many people that wouldn’t take that opportunity.
What was it like seeing your shoe for the first time?
Aw, man! It was like a dream come true. I mean, we always dream about getting to the NBA, but not a lot of athletes or professional players ever get a chance to bring out their own shoe.
How involved were you in the design process?
I was real involved! The designers asked me a lot of questions: how I liked my shoe, where I want to have my shoe, what do I want to have on my shoe. Everything that was me, was part of the shoe.
Including the name Black Ice?
Black Ice is actually my air freshener.
Your air freshener? What does it smell like?
It smells like the bomb! Wait till you smell it!
You’re super tatted! How many tattoos do you have?
Maybe like 30 or 40.
When was the last one?
My last one was on my hand; I just had to fill it up. I just put clouds around it.
Do you have a sneaker collection?
I used to in high school. I think every kid was a Jordan fan. Every kid wore Jordan’s, that’s all we knew. Back in high school, when I went to Oak Hill, of course, I had to wear Jordan’s so I was just collecting mad shoes.
What did you do with them?
I gave them away, sold them! Now, when I look back at it, I should’ve kept them.
Who do you think was one of the greatest players that didn’t get drafted or make it to the NBA?
Personally, I can’t really say someone is one of the best guys because I don’t know. There were a lot of guys who didn’t make it.
How gutted were you, when you didn’t make the slam dunk contest this year?
Actually I wasn’t mad at all. You know I couldn’t really do anything about it because of my foot. I had the surgery on my foot. There’s always next year! We’ll see what happens. Blake Griffin dunking over the car was crazy, so I don’t think anyone can top that.
What was it like playing at Rucker for the first time?
The first time playing at Ruckers, I was really nervous. I heard a lot stories, a lot of great players came out of Rucker Park and when you get your opportunity like that, you always want to do good or they won’t let you back in, especially for me being a West Coast guy. I always had to go in there and prove myself.
How many times have you played there so far?
I’ve been playing there since I was a junior in high school.
So that’s your second home?
We did a post recently on GlobalGrind on the Gumby hairstyle and there’s a couple pictures of you with it. What’s up with that hairstyle? Is it a thing of yours?
The Gumby actually, I brought that out my senior year in high school at the Jordan Classic game. Before that, I had the high top fade at the McDonald’s All-American game. Then I decided I just wanted to do something different and bring out the Gumby. Ever since then, I been rolling with it. I had it my rookie year and I had the high top also my rookie year, so I just been rolling with it. It’s something I am known for.
What other things do you like in terms of personal style and lifestyle?
I like a lot of fashion. I’m really into fashion.
D-Wade was in Italy, still is in Italy, looking at the menswear shows. Are you into high fashion like that?
I don’t really look into the shows, I’m more internet, trying to see what’s the new thing out. I got like 12 pairs of Christian Louboutins, some YSL’s. I just got Alexander McQueen. I have a lot of stuff in my closet right now so, I’m up to date.
What do you like about McQueen? McQueen is pretty out there.
It’s different. The art, the design, it’s just very unique. You don’t see a lot of people wearing it. If I don’t see a lot of people wearing it, I’m gonna wear it.
When you’re not balling how do you like to relax?
Man, somewhere on a beach with a lady, just chilling! Whenever I’m not playing, that’s my time when I can just be away from everything. I just chill and kick it with my fans because once the season gets going, I’m just real busy.
What about music, who are you listening to?
Right now I’m listening to a lot of R&B.
Like Frank Ocean, Chris Brown, stuff like that ?
Everybody likes Frank Ocean; I’m not really feeling him too much. I like the Weeknd from Toronto. I like Drake; he’s always popping up, Trey Songz, of course, J- Cole. The only rappers I listen to are J. Cole, Drake and the Weeknd.
Besides working with Nash and his charity, do you have any other charities you’re involved with?
I was involved with Yao Ming’s charity last month in China. We went out to Beijing and Taiwan last year to play in his charity event, which was awesome. Hopefully I can have my own charity event.
This past All Star Weekend I made it back to my old neighborhood, me and Under Armour, and published a basketball court, an out door basketball court in the neighborhood I am from. I also gave back to my old pre-school, the place where I saw my first basketball court. We went there and rebuilt some things for the school , made it a better learning environment for the kids. That was really big for me because of the injury this season. That put a smile on my face!
In Milwaukee, I have my showcase basketball shoot out, The Brandon Jennings Invitational. It was a one day thing. We had Austin Rivers there. That was also an Under Armour event. We had kids from all over: New York, Crenshaw; Chicago, Baltimore; boys and girls. It was a great one day event that brought the fun back to Milwaukee. I also raised over five thousand toys for the Boys and Girls Club in Greater Milwaukee. Hopefully, in the future, I’ll be able to have a foundation for single mothers.
Are you a father?
How many kids do you have?
You’re also known as Young Buck.
I didn’t give myself that name; I got that name after I scored 55 points in a game. After that, everybody in Milwaukee started calling me Young Buck.
You’re like a hometown hero of Milwaukee.
I hope! Hopefully, after this year, I can come back strong, take care of business, make the playoffs and make some noise!
What was it like being in China? Was that your first time there?
It was crazy, especially with Yao. He’s like the president over there. Every time he goes out, they clear the streets for him. He can’t go anywhere, so he’s like the president!
You guys are buddies, good friends?
I wouldn’t say we’re like good friends, but we got to know each other a little bit.
Is his English better?
Actually he’s really funny; a lot of people don’t know that. He has a great sense of humor.
So who’s your NBA buddy, who do you chill with?
Probably Demar Rozen because we grew up a lot together but other than that, nobody really.