LOS ANGELES — Anthony Davis shook his head and shivered.
The Lakers’ forward got chills when asked how he would handle the frigid climate in Chicago for NBA All-Star weekend. He also wondered how he would manage an extended homecoming trip.
“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be crazy going back home. I’ll have a lot going on,” Davis told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s going to be insane. It’s going to be cold. And it’s going to be fun. I’m excited to come back home to see fans, friends and family.”
Not to mention the jam-packed itinerary, which starts Thursday and doesn’t stop until after the buzzer of Sunday’s All-Star Game at the United Center, where Davis’ idol Michael Jordan helped bring six NBA titles to the Windy City.
There are no Chicago Bulls players participating in Sunday’s game. Detroit Pistons guard Derrick Rose, a Chicago native, dropped out of Saturday’s skills competition after reporting an abductor strain. So that leaves Davis as the unofficial host in his seventh appearance in the NBA’s biggest weekend.
The reasons? Davis grew up in Englewood, on Chicago’s South Side, where he avoided the area’s rampant drug use and gang violence. Davis attended Perspectives Charter School from sixth to 12th grade, where he won all-conference honors for three consecutive years despite the school lacking a basketball court. Davis had his No. 23 jersey, which he wore to honor Jordan, retired in 2013. Davis considers this city the mecca of basketball because of the other NBA stars who grew up here, including Rose, Dwyane Wade, Isiah Thomas, and Tim Hardaway.
So, Davis has an extensive schedule to try to see as many people as he can.
“It’s usually very tough because it’s such a short period of time,” said Tiray Jackson, Perspectives Charter School athletic director. “We understand everybody wants to see him. But he likes to use that time to connect with his family while he has the opportunity.”
Davis usually does not have much of an opportunity to enjoy his hometown visits. He missed games in Chicago during his first two NBA seasons as well as his final year in New Orleans last season because of injuries. He played in Chicago on the second night of a back-to-back in three other seasons (2014-15, 2015-16, 2017-18). Davis spent two days in Chicago two years ago, and again this season with the Lakers. So when he wasn’t busy practicing or playing in a game, he spent most of that time with his father Anthony Sr., mother Erainer, twin sister Antoinette and older sister Iesha.
“I see my family and that’s it,” Davis, 26, told reporters earlier this season. “Usually when I go back, we always have a day to relax. My family usually tries to throw something at the house or they usually come down to the hotel and we go to dinner or lunch.”
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‘He gives our kids that beacon of hope’
Thankfully for Davis, he has more time during NBA All-Star weekend.
On Thursday, Davis plans to host a Nike event at an undisclosed area where about 60 students from Perspectives Charter School’s boys and girls basketball teams are expected to attend. On Friday, Davis will make appearances at the NBA Celebrity All-Star game as part of a partnership with Ruffles.
On Saturday, Jackson hopes Davis accepts his invitation to attend Perspectives Charter School’s showcase all-day tournament, which features its 16 boys and girls basketball teams from its five schools. Later that night, Davis will watch Lakers teammate Dwight Howard participate in his fourth Dunk Contest. On Sunday, Davis and LeBron James will start together for “Team LeBron” in the All-Star Game. In between, Davis also is expected to make other appearances with Nike and Ruffles.
Through all of those stops, Perspectives Charter School officials will maximize the chances for its students to see Davis.
“He gives our kids that beacon of hope,” Jackson said. “Our program has improved greatly since the days he played. Our basketball players are really good, knowing that Davis is a top-10 or top-five player in the world.”
Davis has tried to give those students more resources to increase their odds of following his path.
In 2013, Davis partnered with Boost Mobile to dedicate a basketball court to his alma mater so that its students no longer had to shoot on a roll-away rim as he once did. In recent years, Davis has donated warm-up suits and basketball shoes for all of the Perspectives Charter School’s boys and girls high school teams and coaches. And he distributed 30 tickets to the school for the Lakers’ game in Chicago in early November.
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During those interactions, Davis could have shared countless stories about his time at Perspectives Charter School. Despite spending plenty of weekends at showcase tournaments, Davis impressed school officials with his attendance and grades. His coaches marveled at his competitiveness in games, in drills and even when he played chess or checkers. A growth spurt that started before his junior year and continued through the season saw him go from 6-foot-3 to 6-10, allowing him to dominate against almost every opponent.
Instead of regaling students with those tales, Davis often outlined various life lessons.
“His message was he always knew he was blessed with great talent. But he wanted to use that talent to give back to his family and to his community,” said Jonathan Daniels, Davis’ college counselor.
“He talks about how you can make it out through tough circumstances. We have a lot of challenges working with under-served kids and under-served families. But it’s not an excuse. He never used it as an excuse. He only used (it) to go harder and make him stronger.”
Davis, who led Kentucky to the 2012 NCAA title before becoming the No. 1 draft pick that summer, has reinforced those lessons by hosting a free summer camp the past two years, at Truman College (2018) and Kenwood Academy High (2019). Not only did Davis hand out free Nike gear to Perspectives Charter School players, he taught them proper shooting technique. He watched their scrimmages. He even competed in a game of knockout. Davis won one game after whispering “don’t miss” to a camper before he took his foul shot.
“There was so much excitement and joy that Anthony had with being around the kids,” said Cortez Hale, Davis’ high school coach. “You don’t usually expect the person of the camp to be there and working with you. For him to be actually doing that and walking around throughout the camp? That was a great thing to see.”
More bantering emerged before the Lakers-Bulls game this season when he invited members of the Perspectives Charter School’s boys and girls basketball teams to “Lulu’s Hot Dogs” for a Nike-sponsored Q&A. Davis was asked whether he would ever play for the Bulls. After calling it a “possibility,” Davis later reiterated he “would consider anything” and that he “remains focused on winning a championship with the Lakers.”
Though Davis declined the Lakers’ extension offer in January, he is expected to re-sign with them this summer, when he can earn a five-year, max deal.
“If he comes back, that would be great,” Hale said. “But he will always give back to Chicago, no matter where he’s at.”
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