Suns JaVale McGee sees Basketball in Family Past, Present, and Future

Phoenix Suns, JaVale McGee (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, JaVale McGee (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

It took only four seconds during the second quarter last night for Phoenix Suns big man JaVale McGee to throw yet another swift punch at the already staggering Washington Wizards.

Slipping past two defenders after handing the ball off to Cameron Payne, McGee soared toward the rim, and flushed home an alley-oop dunk that pushed his team’s lead into double digits. He kept up his onslaught all night, finishing with 17 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and two steals.

Those contributions, paired with another double-double effort from frontcourt teammate Deandre Ayton, propelled Phoenix to a thunderous 118-98 victory.

For the Suns, the game allowed them to keep stride with the Golden State Warriors. Both teams now boast 23-5 records, sharing the Western Conference’s throne roughly a third of the way through this 2021-22 season.

But for McGee, the game simply granted him another opportunity to support and raise his daughter through basketball, just like his mother did so with him beforehand.

In sitting down with Whistle earlier this week to partake in their “Double Duty” series, which focuses on the balance between parenting and athletics, McGee reflected on how his mother, a former WNBA player, brought him up around the game. He also noted how he continues to do the same with his daughter Genevieve.

“I didn’t look at basketball as much as a game as other people did,” McGee recalled. “I looked at basketball as a way out obviously, but also as a means to support a family, just cause I’ve seen a single mother do it.”

McGee’s mother, Pamela McGee, played professional basketball for 14 years, including seasons with the Dallas Diamonds, Sacramento Monarchs, and Los Angeles Sparks. She even gave birth to JaVale during one of her seasons overseas, essentially bringing him into the world at large, and the world of basketball at the same time.

“She had a stroller on the end of the bench when she would play games, and every contract she had, they would have to hire her nanny, and make sure I could be in that stroller at the end of the bench,” said McGee.

McGee’s mother went on to make the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, win a WNBA Championship, and an Olympic Gold Medal. McGee won one for himself this past summer, allowing him and his mother to become the first mother/son duo to earn gold in the same sport.

But despite basketball being a game in itself, McGee noted that it more than anything helped his mother support their family across all fronts. Even while his mother made the “same salary as a school teacher,” McGee acknowledged that her involvement in the game made his childhood enjoyable and helped him grow up.

“The fact that she had me around basketball my whole life was extremely important in how my life ended up,” said McGee. He later went on:

"“It was a lot of fun just being around the game, just seeing how strong my mother was and seeing her hustle and grind. I’m not one of those people who say they had a bad childhood. I grew up in poverty, but I didn’t have a bad childhood at all. She definitely led me the right way.”"

As McGee grew into a solid basketball product himself, his mother remained by his side, always sending him to the right schools or programs that best complimented his level of play. She later attended all his college visits with him, making sure to speak with coaches and “feel out” everybody, helping position her son to succeed.

By now, we know it all worked out ideally for them both. To go with McGee’s Olympic gold, he also has three NBA championships under his belt, and finds himself with a solid chance to earn a fourth one this year with Phoenix already playing so well.

But all the while, he makes sure to provide and support his daughter—to carry on that family legacy.

“When the child comes into the picture, you’re like, okay now I gotta take care of a family, and then the family that comes from this family,” McGee said. He then went on:

"“It’s cool just seeing how great a child could be in the future and I understand what my mother was doing when she saw me as a child. It’s pretty cool to see that in my daughter, and just see how skilled she is in every sport that she plays. It’s just a lot that goes into it where you’re like, this is just a building block, and it’s gonna be a whole building one day.”"

At just four years old, McGee’s daughter has a long way to go, but she already looks capable of writing the next chapter in the McGee family’s book of basketball. McGee called it “crazy” to see her high skill, athleticism, and work ethic at her age.

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Without a doubt, he remains fully-committed to building a life for her. In doing so, he follows in his mother’s footsteps, so that his daughter can possibly follow in his.