In basketball, much like life, things don’t always go as planned. This week was supposed to be an interview with someone else, but when Devin Booker became an NBA trending topic, I had to change direction.
I attended the Phoenix Suns morning shootaround and media availability. Booker was personable as always and very generous with his time, speaking about having a shooter’s mentality, his favorite NBA team and player growing up and how he made his way to the NBA. A few hours later, Booker would erupt against the 76ers to the tune of a season-high 46-points. 32-of those came in the second half, as the Suns surprised the Philadelphia crowd with a 115-101 victory.
People always say that “shooters shoot.” What does that phrase mean to you?
I say it’s just a mentality. It means don’t get too high, don’t get too low. If you miss three in a row, don’t get too down on yourself, you make three in a row, don’t be too happy…all shooters go through slumps. You have to learn that. You just have to stay to your fundamentals.
People made a lot of fuss about you getting a career-high scoring game in a losing effort [last season’s 70-point game], but it’s part of the game, it’s part of growth.
Right. I mean obviously if you get a career high like that, you’re trying to win. It’s not like you’re not trying to win. I was out there giving my all, and people see that. People say what they want, but at the end of the day, I’m living my life and I try to get better everyday.
What did your father say about that game? He must have been really proud of you.
He was. He was on the pregame show actually that day. That was his first time ever doing it, so after the game I was able to talk to him. He was really excited, my whole family was really proud of me…my brother, sister—that’s what it’s all about. I see them happy, that’s what keeps me driven.
You went to Kentucky, came out after your first year…but when did it dawn on you that you would be a pro player in this League?
I always had dreams to be an NBA player since I was a little kid. You know I was always bigger than everybody, more advanced. I used to hang out with my older brother, so once I got to middle school, I used to play with the high-schoolers. In high school I played with the college kids, so I just always knew that this is what I always wanted to do, so I did everything in my power to get here.
Do you remember the first NBA game you ever attended?
Yeah, I went to a Detroit Pistons vs. Orlando Magic game when I was living in Michigan. I was really young. I think my back was against the wall. It was the furthest seat possible. All I want to do was see a dunk then. I was probably 6 or 7 years old, and that was my thing: I wanted to see people dunk. Now, I realize, I’ve learned the game. I like shooters. Rip Hamilton ended up being my favorite player.
Growing up in Michigan, I was a fan of that whole team. Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace, but it was something about Rip, I don’t know if it’s the face mask that he put on before the game. But now, the position I’m in, I can study his game—move without the ball, how he brought it every night, the condition he was in—there were so many things to like about it.
What was it like having a father [Melvin Booker, who played two NBA seasons] that was a pro? I hear a lot of guys talk about how that helped their development.
Yeah, it’s a big help. He had all the answers for me. Him being competitive, me being competitive…we used to always play against each other and with each other in open gyms. He used to push me to my limits and that’s everything I ever wanted. I used to go to him for any type of advice, and I still do today. He was like the blueprint of success for me.
On the other side of that, on Twitter you talk about your mom a lot.
Yeah. I mean that’s my rock. That’s who I do it for. She’s made so many sacrifices for me in my life. Allowing me to go live with my dad in high school. I was raised with her until high school, and she let me go live with my dad cause she wanted to see me reach my dream. She’s always wanted the best for me and everything I do…so like I said, this is why I do it. For my family.