DeMar DeRozan: See Me Now

*DeMar DeRozan got a taste of fame at an early age – it just wasn’t his own. A childhood friend and AAU teammate of Romeo Miller, better known as Lil’ Romeo, the Compton kid was exposed to the celebrity lifestyle before he even reached high school. But now in his third season with the Raptors, DeRozan has made it on his own.

This feature was originally published in Dime #68, on newsstands now.*

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It happened nearly 10 years ago, but DeMar DeRozan still remembers. It was sixth grade P.E., and DeMar was trying to show off in front of a group of eighth graders that had assembled at the gym. He wasn’t sure that he could dunk, but never one to turn down a challenge, he gave it a try. Seconds later, DeMar had the gym jumping in excitement.

“I think I got popular in school because of that,” says DeRozan, now 22, of his first dunk with a laugh.

As a child, DeRozan wasn’t one to sidestep a challenge. At 10, after his father Frank’s rec league games, he liked to issue one-on-one challenges to the adults – even when they were former NBA players. One time, he called out former New Orleans Jazz guard Louie Nelson.

“Louie said, ‘Man, you know I played in the NBA?'” recalls Frank DeRozan. “DeMar said, ‘Hey, you on the basketball court, aren’t you?'”

According to Frank, DeMar came away with the win minutes later. That was the moment when Frank realized his son had special talents. Twelve years later, the rest of the country is starting to realize it too.