San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan, once one of the nation’s top basketball recruits out of Compton High, joined Taylor Rooks for her new Bleacher Report series, “Take It There With Taylor Rooks: Defined,” to discuss being a Black man in America.
DeRozan, who played a season at USC before he was drafted by the Toronto Raptors in 2009 as the ninth overall selection, recalled in the opening minutes of the YouTube show when he realized white people often lead vastly different lives than his.
“Playing basketball always gave me the opportunity to see different places, be around different places,” DeRozan explained. “First time, I think it was ninth grade, and we drove like two hours away to this school in this white community. Now I’ve seen for the first time how different their schools were, facilities … just everything about that culture was like night and day from us.
“From then on, it used to make me question like, ‘Why, why they have this better, why they talk better?’ … So many questions came about, and as I continued to get older and older I saw the separation from [white] privilege to where we came from. That’s when I first started noticing it.”
DeRozan, 30, also spoke about how he was taught to deal with police (“if you see the police, let them pass by and go about your business … growing up it was so normal to think and fear the police”) to living at home to start college (“campus … was too much of a culture shock”) to what America means for him as a Black man (“to make life better for anyone that comes after you”).
He talked about his admiration for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, an outspoken critic of President Trump and his administration.
“To see a white man of his stature, he’d be the first one to jump out there, and he don’t care about what no one else thinks,” DeRozan said. “He speaks the truth … you got to love and respect an individual like that.”
DeRozan and the Spurs will be part of the NBA’s resumption of the season next month in Orlando, Fla. They have an outside shot to make the playoffs. He was averaging 22.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists a game when the season was suspended March 11 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Future guests on Rooks’ new series will include NFL star Malcolm Jenkins as well as basketball stars and former Clippers Matt Barnes, JJ Redick and Tobias Harris.