We’ll roll out exclusive glimpses into the lives of Zach LaVine, Jewell Loyd, Ben Simmons, Breanna Stewart, and Aaron Gordon over the next 10 weeks, showcasing the work they’ve done to get to this point, as well as the work they will have to do to reach their future goals.
We dive into how their childhood basketball experiences shaped them into the players they are today. We looked at their biggest motivators to see what pushes them to strive for stardom. We asked them about their eating habits, pregame rituals, and training regimens, as well as things like their mental approach to their game, their goals, and their expectations. Stay locked to our social channels (including snapchat!) for more on these rising stars in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, check out a sneak peak of what’s to come. Here’s one of our videos with Minnesota’s Zach LaVine.
Eastbay and Nike teamed up to provide an all-access look into basketball’s brightest young stars. These athletes are tomorrow’s biggest superstars, and we wanted to peel back the layers of some of the hungriest players in the game. Scoop Jackson conducted the interviews. He writes for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine, and he also appears on ESPN Radio and TV Shows. He worked as a copywriter and author for Nike from 2001-2005 and has previously worked for XXL Magazine, Slam Magazine, and other publications.
Jackson sat down with Jewell Loyd, who won the 2015 Rookie of the Year award. Loyd scored nearly 2,000 points at Notre Dame, before getting drafted with the No. 1 pick by Seattle. She played alongside veteran point guard Sue Bird, averaging 10.7 points per game as a rookie and 16.5 points per game this past season in her second year. Check out the Q&A between the two, where they discuss Loyd’s upbringing, competitiveness, methods for improvement, and the hopes she has for her basketball legacy.
Scoop Jackson: You’re from Lincolnwood, Illinois. Everybody claims a spot where they got their skills. Did you have a home court in Lincolnwood or did you come into the city to ball? Where did you throw down your claim?
Jewell Loyd: So I lived on Drake Street, and there was a big park called Drake Park, and I was literally down the block. Everyone would just go there – that was like the main spot. What’s really unique about Lincolnwood – there were a lot of parks. Drake Park – that was probably like the best for a game to like 21 or three-on-three tournaments. Then there was another park about two blocks down from my house called Columbia Park. And that was all one-on-one. If you have the best handles in town and, you know, wanted to play against someone one-on-one, that’s where you went. And then if you had a squad, then there was a big park in Chicago called Proesel Park, and that’s where everyone who was from Chicago used to go out there to play, and it was really some of the best talent I’d ever seen. People would bring the squad – I mean the whole squad – and play out there all day. And it took a lot of people a lot of time to gain respect, because you know people who lived in town really represented Lincolnwood really well. So that’s where I played. Drake Park, Proesel Park, and Columbia Park.
Did you make your name playing on each one of those courts?
For sure. What’s kind of cool is my brother did it first. He’s eight years older than me, and so he played all those parks. I was working to pretty much put my name on the court, but this one kid at Drake Park didn’t want me to play. My brother was there at the park with me, and he was watching me. My brother sees me sitting at the court and he’s like, “Why aren’t you playing?” I’m like, “Well, that kid says I can’t play.” And my brother said “Okay, we’ll challenge him.” So we played two-on-two at the court, and I was probably like six or seven. I mean, I was really young. And we’re playing two-on-two on the court and we’re going at it, first to eleven, and people are starting to watch. I was the only girl playing at the park, you know, lots of pressure, game point, I have the ball, and they tried to double team me and tried to steal the ball from me. And so I see my brother cut the back door, I throw it up and he dunks it. And that’s how I kind of got my name on the court, playing with him and got that respect at an early age.
What’s one aspect of your game that you can actually say is great because of the work you put in?
My jumper. My fade away jumper, for sure. I stayed in the park, in the gym, all day long trying to get a fade away like Kobe. And it’s paid off. That’s my bread and butter for sure.
Explain to me real quick – how do you work on your athletic ability, speed, and explosion?
Plyometrics for sure. You know my brother, he’s my trainer. He’s one of the fastest kids. He’s fast and quick. I think that’s the hardest thing to guard as an athlete, especially as a basketball player to be both of those things. So a lot of plyometrics, and a lot of core – that’s where you get all your strength from – it’s your core. So that’s something that I’m working on a lot – to be more explosive.
Okay. Is there something that you would tell, say a high school player, from a skill set standpoint that would get them to be like the next you?
Well, I would just really encourage them to love the game. You have to love the game to grow as a player – to become great. You can’t just spend half the time trying to be great – you got to really buy into it.
Tell me how competitive you can get.
Really competitive. I mean, I’ll get pissed off pretty easily. Definitely when it comes to me and my brother. My friends almost didn’t want us at the house together because of that competitive nature. I would say early on, I was definitely a hot head, for sure. But as you get older, you realize, ok, you know sportsmanship’s just a better way to lose.
Let me ask you: Where do you think that comes from? That competitiveness – do you think you were born with it or did you develop it?
My family. My family is very competitive. My mom ran track in college, my dad played football in college. They’re both athletic. They hate to lose. And growing up, we always played family sports and had two-on-two battles – in any sport. We were super competitive. And you can ask anyone, who grew up with us, anyone from our neighborhood they would tell you that we were a very competitive family. We challenged each other to compete and played together, and it made us one.
Cool. Okay, secretly, I heard you’re secretly trying to be a coach. I heard you asked to stay on the bench to see the game from the coach’s perspective. Is that true?
Yeah, I asked to stay on the bench, just to see the game. You know, coming into the league, it’s different than college – the game is faster and the girls are stronger. You can’t go in and think everything’s the same. Every game’s a little different, every team’s a little different. So for me, being on the bench, I get to see it. I get to come in and see where I can be aggressive, where I can get to the line, and feel comfortable. I can see the tendencies of players. I can see anything – what we need on offensive. Do we need to speed the game up? Do we need to get a better shot selection? So it’s easier for me to come in and say, “Okay, I know what we need.” I’m with the coach on the bench, she’s telling me things about the game, and then I’m going to be more prepared coming in. That was really good for me. It was a great decision for me, to take the time I needed to make sure I evolved my game.
Alright, when it’s all said and done, what’s going to be your legacy in the game of basketball?
You know, when I get to that point of my career where it’s over, I want people to just really know that I gave it everything I had and that I literally spent my life on this game, to change the way that people view women’s basketball. You know, to say that I’m a champion. To say that I did everything that I needed to do, not just for the game of basketball, but for myself. And you know that’s something that I really am trying to do. The people around me really have helped, and I had people in my corner to help me try to be the best that I can. I want people to know that I gave it all I can.
This interview has been condensed and edited for content, clarity, and length.
As an eight-year-old, Maya Moore would run sprints through the hallways before shooting on a mini hoop. Even at a young age, Moore knew the importance of training, and integrated it into her game. It’s that kind of dedication that has made her one of the top players in the history of college basketball, a WNBA MVP, and a winner at the college, professional, and international level.
Moore still incorporates conditioning into her shooting drills like she did when she was a little kid. The drills mimic game situations and are designed to cause fatigue, because Moore knows that she’s going to be tired in the fourth quarter and still needs to knock down shots. She’s always looking for an edge, and working on her shot while she’s already tired is one of her strategies for gaining an advantage in late-game situations.
Off the court, Moore’s training routine is all about keeping her on the court. With the WNBA playoffs coming up, she focuses on workouts designed to prevent injuries. She emphasizes high-rep, low-weight workouts that tone her body and maintain her strength. She pays extra attention to her lower body, working on leg strength to avoid common basketball injuries to the knees and ankles. She spends hours in the weight room because she doesn’t want anything to keep her from missing game time.
“I’ve tried to be very intentional about making sure my body is ready to go for every game, so recovery has been a big part of my routine,” she said.
That means frequent ice baths after workouts and a special focus on her diet so that she is refreshed and refueled for every game. She usually eats a pasta dish, salad, or a smoothie a few hours before a game so that she feels light and energized. It’s all part of the process that allows Moore to be at her best. She puts in as much work as possible ahead of time, so game day is simplified.
“Step out on the court, and it’s showtime,” she said.
When the stage is big and the lights are bright, Moore is a player who delivers. The two-time Olympic gold medalist has a stacked résumé that includes three WNBA titles, two NCAA titles, a WNBA scoring title, an MVP season, and four All-Star Game appearances. That doesn’t include her international play, where she’s won three more titles in China. Given her past success, it’s no surprise that Moore is again in the midst of another productive season on a team that’s hoping to make a deep run in the playoffs.
“I just feel so privileged to be on an awesome team with great teammates and great coaches that all come to work every day with a lot of passion and joy for the game,” Moore said.
Moore has also found plenty of off-court success to go along with her on-court accomplishments. She’s becoming one of Jordan Brand’s most popular athletes, and she is the first female Jordan athlete to be on the Eastbay cover, which is special for a sneakerhead like Moore.
“Being on the cover of Eastbay is definitely big for me,” Moore said. “Growing up, I was always one of those kids looking at the Eastbay magazine, looking to see what shoes we are going to get this season, or what kind of gear is new that we can rock for the next upcoming school year. It was a part of my home, so I definitely have special feelings toward being on the cover.”
She’s also proud to be an ambassador for women’s basketball, using her success to inspire young female basketball players to pursue their passions and continue to expand the women’s game. If Moore’s success and popularity are any indication, big things are on the horizon for the WNBA.
“I think being a part of the WNBA, whether that’s as a fan or a player, it’s a better time than ever just because of how good the players have gotten,” Moore said. “We’ve grown in athleticism and the speed of the game – the versatility of the players on the court. The games have really been fun to compete in, so I’m excited about the direction that we’re moving in. I’ve been a fan of the WNBA since I was eight, and I still am to this day.”
Elene Delle Donne plays for the Chicago Sky and is the reigning MVP of the WNBA. After a terrific high school career, she became one of the most sought after prospects in women’s college basketball history. However, Elena opted to stay in-state and play for Delaware (a school not known for basketball) due to the closeness of her family. Her commitment to family, sport, and country, have landed her on the cover of Eastbay. We sat down for an exclusive interview.
EASTBAY: When did you realize you were going to be an athlete? ELENA: I would say just in the backyard playing — whether it would be football, soccer, or basketball with my brother and his friends. The first time I got one of his friends on a move or a shift, that’s when I was like, “Hey, this is pretty fun and I might be pretty good at this when I’m beating up on boys that are older than me.”
EASTBAY: How do you think those sports contributed to you becoming the athlete that you are today? ELENA: I think those sports just made me a more versatile athlete. It just helped me grow in so many ways. My dad teaches me how to shoot and he’ll compare my shot to golf. So, really, any sport can carry over.
EASTBAY: You mentioned your dad taught you to play basketball. Was that how you were first introduced to the game? ELENA: I was first introduced to basketball just because my brother was older than me. He was playing, and then my dad played college basketball, so he always had a love for the game. The second he saw I had interest in the sport he said, “Oh, let’s get outside. I’ll teach you how to shoot, I’ll teach you how to dribble.”
EASTBAY: Do you remember any specific things he was teaching you as you were growing up? ELENA: My dad never let me shoot on a 10-foot rim until I was ready because he said, “I don’t want you shooting with bad form and you’re too small to get it to the rim at this point.” So, I was that kid always shooting on the 8-foot rim or even the 7-foot rim, and I was like, “Dad, can I please get on the 10-foot rim,” but I owe him the world for it because he taught me really good mechanics and form from day one.
EASTBAY: Were there specific steps he was teaching you? ELENA: He was always was teaching me to get my arm to a 90-degree angle, and from there, all he wanted me to do was lift and flick my wrist. So, lift the arm, flick the wrist, and he was like, “It’s a science. You can perfect this.”
EASTBAY: Do you remember falling in love with the sport? Knowing that this was what you wanted to do? ELENA: It’s like I fell in love with basketball right from day one and I immediately was begging my parents like, “Hey, can I just play basketball? I just want to only focus on this sport.” Basketball was by far my favorite and it was always my passion and it was the always the sport I decided to go outside and work on after school.
EASTBAY: Was there a specific moment that you can remember where you knew you could be really great at it? ELENA: When I was 10 years old, I went to Nationals, and that was the first time I was able to see what other girls my age were like all across the country, and I stacked up pretty well. That was exciting for me to know.
EASTBAY: In terms of the special moments and special games, can you talk about some of those? ELENA: The most special game in college was beating North Carolina on our home floor in Delaware to get to the Sweet 16 and finally proving the naysayers wrong, and proving that taking my own path and doing it my own way worked. It was such a special moment, and I think the whole state of Delaware erupted with that win.
EASTBAY: If you look at yourself prior to that game and after, what would you say was the biggest challenge? ELENA: I think it’s just being able to kind of continue to prove other people, and even sometimes yourself wrong. When you feel like you’re completely against the ropes and you’re the underdog and you shouldn’t win and all the odds are against you, and you can somehow find a way to win. That game showed me it’s possible.
EASTBAY: Can you talk a little bit about what the hardest moment has been in your career and what did you do to overcome it? ELENA: The hardest moment of my career so far was just having another relapse with Lyme disease. Unfortunately, the disease is pretty far behind on research and doctors aren’t really sure how to even treat it at this point. So it’s just a really scary point in time where the game was taken away from me and my health was taken away from me and I had no idea if I was going to get better and healthy again. Every time I touch the court it’s a blessing and really just take every single moment and play like it’s like my last moment.
EASTBAY: What do you want your legacy in sports to be?
ELENA: I would want my legacy to be that I was somebody who used the spotlight for something far more than myself and I made an impact on young girls, young boys, and inspired them to follow their dreams and their passion — whatever that may be. Also, I want people to remember me for excellence; remember that I was a phenomenal player, and never satisfied, and always trying to improve her game.
EASTBAY: If you had one piece of advice that you would have given yourself when you were a young athlete, what would it be? ELENA: I would tell my young self to continue to follow your heart. My heart has always seemed to lead me in the right direction, and I think the heart and the gut are tied to each other — you just have to follow that and know what’s right at the time.
After not winning a playoff game for 12 seasons and missing the postseason for the past 6, the Minnesota Lynx made the ultimate one-year leap by claiming their first WNBA Championship this past Friday. The league’s best team during the regular season, the Lynx continued their dominance in the Finals, completing a 3-0 sweep of the Atlanta Dream.
Minnesota once again used a well-balanced attack in Game 3 to seal the deal on ring number one. Seimone Augustus led the way with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Rebekkah Brunson added 13 points and 9 rebounds; Maya Moore scored 15 and pulled down 7 rebounds and Candice Wiggins contributed with 10 points herself. The Dream outscored Minnesota in three of the quarters played, but a defensively stifling 19-8 advantage in the third quarter proved to be the championship difference.
Seimone Augustus, who has spent her entire career with the Lynx, was named Finals MVP. She averaged 24.9 points per game in the finals with 6.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists.