Becoming an NBA player is no easy feat. From High School to College and beyond, just about anyone with access to a talented young player will try to beg, borrow and steal their way into some of the prospective fame and fortune. For that reason alone, it’s even more impressive when a guy can make it big without the help of his own father.
While Lavar Ball dominates the headlines as he continues to run his mouth about his sons, the narrative of fathers standing by their basketball playing sons hasn’t always been this way. As a matter of fact, a lot of NBA players have had dads who have flat out left their families. Even worse, a lot of these dads were high profile ballers, and a lot of these sons went on to become some of the biggest names in basketball. As much as these deadbeat dads would love to turn back time, the fact that they ditched their families only to see their sons become great NBA ballers leaves them on the outside looking in.
Get ready for a list of not so grand daddies, 15 NBA Players Whose Fathers Walked Out On Them!
15. Shaquille O’Neil
While Shaq is widely known to be one of the charismatic pundits and most dominantly successful basketball players of all time, there is one topic that still strikes a sour chord in his heart: his missing father. His father, who is still alive and living in Newark, New Jersey, has to be torn up about his decision to leave his son at a young age who would then go on to become one of the most well-paid athletes of all time. Nonetheless, Shaq met up with his biological father recently and decided to take the high road: forgiveness. Nothing can be harder than looking that man in the face and saying “I don’t hate you”, but for Shaq, at the very least, he has his legacy as a player and as a father of up-and-coming talented son Shareef O’Neil to help ease his pain.
14. Jimmy Butler
Aside from pops ditching Mr. Butler before he could raise his own head, to make matters worse his own biological mother kicked Jimmy out of the house as soon as he got into high school. Nobody thought he would have become the perennial All Star he is today. While he was a no name in High School, basically unknown until later on in college, and a late first round pick in the NBA draft, it’s safe to say that his own parents aren’t the only people who have ditched Jimmy Butler on his way to the top. From homeless to NBA superstardom, there isn’t a better rags to riches story in the NBA today.
13. Derrick Rose
Although D Rose has been pretty tight lipped about his noticeably MIA father, the scoop is that his dad skipped out when his mom got pregnant, and his three older brothers banded together to help raise Derrick. Despite the tragic line of injuries that derailed Rose from being one of the greatest of all time, he has persevered both personally and professionally, as he is still a viable rotation player looking at a deep playoff run this season as he recently joined LeBron’s Cavaliers. It would probably give Derrick’s mother and brothers a great deal of satisfaction to see Rose lift the NBA Championship and show his father just what he is missing out on.
12. Markelle Fultz
When now-76er point guard and #1 overall NBA draft lottery pick Markelle Fultz heard his name called, he had a lot of people to thank who supported him on his journey: none of which included his own father. His Father’s Day tweet was indicative of just how he felt about his dad. It was a picture that said: “Hey Dad! I did it without you!” Now that Fultz is facing his first season in the NBA, his dad showing up for a piece of that rookie level contract might be the last thing on his mind. With all the tanking the 76ers did to get this team together, it’s time to win! It would be sweet to see Fultz take Philadelphia to the next level and show his father that he didn’t need his help to make it.
11. Mike Bibby
Most remember Mike Bibby for his elite 3 point shooting with the early 2000s Sacramento Kings teams, but some of those people who were watching hoops way before then may ask, “Is that Henry Bibby’s kid?” Yes, just like Steph and Klay, Mike Bibby’s father made his dent on the association. Despite that, he would have nothing to do with him. Even when Mike got to college, he had to tell his roommate to tell his dad he doesn’t live there if he ever called. Supposedly, Mike Bibby has been embittered to this day, frequently throwing away letters from his dad over the course of his famed career. His dad left the family when Mike was young, and he never forgot how he got to the level he did: without his dad.
10. Wesley Matthews
The Dallas Maverick swingman often gets confused with his father from the showtime Lakers, who won two rings in his nine NBA seasons: mainly because they go by the exact same name. But when his dad took off, Wesley Matthews was too young to even know who his dad was, despite the world around him being a bit more familiar with his father. In Matthews’ senior year of High School, his dad reached out to him, but the relationship has yet to truly heal according to Matthews. Another NBA legacy that will be tarnished by the fact that he did not want to stick around to raise his son.
9. Kenyon Martin
In response to his ex-coach George Karl’s recently bashing Martin, Melo, JR Smith and other then-Nuggets (also known at that time as the Thuggets), K Mart said, “I didn’t have a father growing up. We all know that. What’s George Karl’s excuse for being a terrible person?” Truth be told, Martin has been known for his controversial bad boy ways for decades. Whether it has to do with his father or not didn’t stop him from being one of the most physical and dominant rebounding forwards for almost a decade. At least that chip on his shoulder helped him earn over 100 million dollars for a career of playing roundball.
8. Kendrick Perkins
In his 13 years in the NBA, Perkins became the staple championship caliber centre that brings focus and leadership to a locker room. But what many don’t know is his upbringing is a far cry from inspirational; in fact it was downright tragic. Perkins’ father, Kenneth, was a big time college baller who left the family when Kendrick was just 18 months old. Not long after, his mom was tragically killed in a beauty salon. Raised by his grandparents, Kendrick didn’t let adversity stop him from growing into a key part of the Celtics ‘08 championship run. As the saying goes, anything is possible. It is great to see an athlete overcome so much adversity.
7. Caron Butler
In his illustrious two time All Star career, Caron Butler showed character and heart. These are traits his father didn’t seem to possess. Despite growing up fatherless and with all the wrong temptations at every turn, he is truly a success story as he embodied what an NBA player should be both on and off the court. Caron to this day runs campaigns celebrating fatherhood, as he has vowed to continue to be the very best father he could be to his son. This is a perfect example of an athlete using his fame to better the world he lives in and try to right the wrongs he suffered for others.
6. Eddie Johnson
Most known during his 17 year NBA career for his lethal sharpshooting with the ‘90s Phoenix Suns, Eddie Johnson would go on to become a prominent NBA analyst for the Suns as well as on NBA Radio on Sirius XM. The sharpshooter’s father walking out on him at a young age proved to be a huge mistake, as Johnson not only proved to the world how great he could be, but he has consistently worked as a community leader to help single mothers tackle the tireless task of parenthood all alone. It just goes to show that even through hardship, some people can emerge wanting to help others in a similar situation.
5. Brent Barry
Brent Barry was a sharp shooter who was a key contributor to two Spurs championships, and although his dad Rick is widely known for being one of the greatest basketball players of all time, he was one of the most infamously absent daddies in the history of hoops. It’s kind of tough to give “the man who could shoot” a pass for this, especially when he left a legacy of four pro baller sons in his image. Same look, same game, and worst of all- same name. While the historic scorer has earned his accolades, the one thing he will never earn is the respect of his sons. Tisk, tisk.
4. Jalen Rose
Perhaps one of the most disheartening stories here is that of the all time leading father/son scoring duo in NCAA history: Jalen Rose and his dad Jimmy Walker. While Jalen rose (pun intended!) to fame as a member of Michigan’s Famed Fab Four in the 90s, even his continued success didn’t earn him a meeting with his father Jimmy, who is well known in Kansas City as a two time NBA All Star. Walker never even met his son Jalen, one of the league’s most memorable combo guards. Rose spoke with respect and diplomacy after his father’s funeral, showing that he learned from his father’s mistakes as he has become a well-respected character as both a player and seasoned broadcaster.
3. Jayson Tatum
Okay, so maybe “walked out” is a little strong, as the Duke standout turned Celtic lottery pick clearly has his father Justin in the picture currently. However, it is widely known that Jayson grew up without his father who was playing professionally overseas. While Jayson clearly has a great relationship with his dad, he blatantly identifies his upbringing as the product of a single mother, and even went as far to charitably donate to and support single mother foundations. We can give his father a pass on this one because he was earning a living for his family overseas, we’re also happy to see that Tatum has tried to help people avoid going through what he went through.
2. Kevin Durant
Anyone who watched last year’s NBA Finals remembers the image of KD hugging “Mama Durant” on the court. Yes, the woman is truly magnificent. Conversely, after being left to raise Kevin early on by his biological father, Wayne Pratt has become one of the most noted absent fathers in the limelight of the league. Kevin has shown his class by accepting his father back into his life in his teenage years, but never forgot the decade-long ditch that his father served his sons. Now as one of the best (if not the best) players in the NBA, Kevin Durant has shown through emotionally telling moments that no amount of success, fame or money can make up for the absence of a father.
1. LeBron James
Anthony McClelland. A man who was a convicted felon for arson and theft, casually impregnated Gloria James when she was just 16, only to produce arguably the greatest athlete and basketball player of all time. While many men wanted credit for being LeBron’s father when he rose to fame, only one could don the title of shame after being clearly identified. LeBron has delivered many public burns to McClelland, and demonstrated through his greatness as a father and a basketball player that no missing father could hold him back in his pursuit to become the greatest of all time.
It’s a sad, sad truth that fathers leave their partners all too often. While single-mothers have their fair share of troubles in paying bills and instilling morals into their children, the biggest victim in child abandonment is clearly the child. However, these successful ballers proved everyone wrong, and they serve as the inspirational characters that motivate kids of single parents all around the nation, and that is the ultimate success.
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