Stick to the Script: Zach LaVine

In basketball, much like life, there are no guarantees. Things change from week to week, day, to day and moment by moment. The game of basketball is simply a mirror to our lives, and when things are great, there are few ways to describe the euphoria. Conversely, when things take uneventful turns, they are sometimes very difficult to bounce back from.

Zach LaVine, has seen the highs as a lottery pick in 2014 and back-to-back Slam Dunk championships, but he’s also experienced the lows from his ACL injury and being traded. Nevertheless, he has endured, and has gotten back on the court as a stronger person both physically and mentally.

Armed with a fresh start and a young team to lead, LaVine remains optimistic about his and the team’s immediate future.

During the Bull’s recent visit to Philadelphia, I had a chance to catch up with Zach once after Chicago’s morning shootaround, and then later that night once the game was decided.

Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

You’re from Washington, can you talk about how that is a [basketball] hotbed in the Pacific Northwest…a lot of people don’t really talk about it.

It might be just because it’s so rainy, people have to stay inside and shoot all the time. So…you know, being from Seattle, we all take pride in it. It’s so many dudes that come from the city and um, I think we’re going to keep producing those big time athletes—either it’s football, or basketball, baseball—you know, we have a lot of athletic genes out there. I think it’s good that everybody comes back to the city to support Jamal [Crawford] and IT’s [Isaiah Thomas] little leagues and it’s a good vibe out there.

You’re right in the middle…Isaiah Thomas is from Tacoma.

Yeah, and ‘Mal’s [Jamal Crawford] from Beach [Rainer Beach]. I’m a Seattle ballplayer, so it’s all integrated. We all see each other as friends and family, and we support each other in our careers.

When did it hit you that you could be a pro?

When did it hit me that I could be a pro…that was my goal from a young age. I really didn’t think about going to college. When it came time to decide what college to go to, I was kinda confused cause my main goal was just to go to the NBA. I never thought about picking a college, so when I really thought I could [play professionally] was my first summer at UCLA. I was playing against the professionals in that summer little circuit.

Before the school year starts?

Before the school year, yeah. [You] have all those pickup games [with] all the pros. It was a good experience [and] that’s when I figured out, you know, that I had a good opportunity.

How did you wind up in UCLA?

I got a lot of family in the San Bernardino [California] area. My godfather lives out there, my sister. It’s like a home away from home and it felt like the right situation, the campus was so beautiful. I got recruited by Ben Howland and I think I was one of the last of his guys to go there and make it to the pros, so when he got fired, I thought about going to U Dub [University of Washington] but, I didn’t want to back out of my commitment. I’m not one of those guys, so I stuck with it.

Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

How’d you get to adidas?

Nike contract was up, and I had a really good time with them my first three years. They showed trust in me coming out, but adidas came in with more of an opportunity to be one of the faces of the brand—one of the guys that, moving forward to help build a brand and I appreciated that, and no hard feelings, you know you don’t want to burn any bridges, but I left everything on the table and the way it was, so I think it was a good smooth transition.

You won the dunk contest twice…could you give me a top 3 in-game dunkers of all-time?

Of all-time…Michael Jordan, Kobe [Bryant] and Vince Carter—my favorite—those are my favorites. You know, obviously Dominique [Wilkins]. I think there’s some dudes out there that are—[Russell] Westbrook, LeBron [James]—but those are my favorite. That’s where I get a lot of [my dunks] from. I think it shows.

Who’d you grow up watching when you were were a kid?

I was a big Kobe guy. That was my generation. That was our Michael Jordan, even though I was a big Michael Jordan fan. That’s the closest thing to him, so that was my guy.