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Father & All-Star, Elton Brand, Has Seen It All During His 15-Year Career

It’s impossible not to picture the regal bearing of Elton Brand every time he drops another gem of knowledge on us. Whether it’s about the game, or about life in general, there aren’t many people — let alone professional athletes — who can offer up such poignant moments from their lives. During our conversation with the power forward last month, before he embarked on his 16th season in the NBA, we got a first-hand account of a career that’s spanned decades. He’s seen and done most everything, and entering possibly his final season, the man teammates simply call “OG” is finally taking some time to appreciate how unique an opportunity this whole NBA thing has been. Just don’t embarrass him by asking about his time slinging rhymes.

It’s hard for younger basketball fans to remember, but Elton Brand was, and should be considered, a star. He came into the league as the No. 1 pick in the 1999 Draft, and was co-Rookie of the Year with Steve Francis, averaging 20 and 10 that rookie year. While Stevie isn’t looking so good these days, Brand is still honing his craft on the court, and he’s adapted to all the changes in the game since he came into a vastly different league more than 15 years ago.

“Yeah, you know plodding big men, banging all the time,” Brand says about the NBA he entered in the fall of 1999. “Super, super-star centers. Every team had a serviceable center at least, but these guys were superstars: [from] Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, to Shaq back then, [who] was unstoppable. The list goes on with so many amazing centers, like Rik Smits, Patrick Ewing — guys who were incredible. And I came in kind of right after that era.”

Before Elton played two years with Duke, and then joined the Chicago Bulls, though, he was AAU teammates with Ron Artest as a kid.

There’s a reason Brand’s teammates call him an OG — he really is an original gangsta. Elton actually turned Ron, now Metta World Peace, onto rap. Since then, Metta’s released a few albums under his Tru Warrior label, but in the beginning it was Brand who had to let the feisty kid from Queensbridge know about the music being made right in his own backyard!

“I’ve known Ron since Sony walkman, with the headphones and the fluffy stuff around him,” Brand tells us like he’s pretending to be an old man. “I’ve known Ron that long. Like his first girlfriend. We were probably 13 or 14, you know. I’ve known him forever.

“And he’d listen to Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.” What?

When we tell Elton that Artest sounds like a fun, goofy kid, miles from the human time bomb he was during the earlier portions of his career, Brand says, “No,” Artest had the wild child in him even then:

“…[Artest] punched somebody in the face during an AAU game, he really pushed someone down the steps.”

Still, it’s obvious Elton was tight with the artist formerly known as Ron Artest. Brand thinks Metta is a lot smarter than he was at that age, or his teammates on the AAU circuit.

“That was my boy, though. He was smart; he was always smart. He got a bad rep from the fighting or being upset or the anger. But he’s a really smart guy.

“We’d get per diem for our McDonald’s runs, and he’d just buy baloney and a cooler [laughs] and he’d save his money when we traveled. But he went home with money, I never went home with any [laughs].”

As Brand mentions, Artest grew up in Queensbridge, right across the East River from Manhattan and home to the likes of Nas and MOBB Deep, who were just getting shine at that time. Still, hip hop wasn’t Artest’s thing — he loved the R&B.

“I’d drop him off [in Queensbridge] sometimes after practice, and he didn’t live near there, he grew up IN there. I’d drive up to Westchester after practice and he was into old R&B and not even the new stuff.

“I was into all that different hip hop stuff,” Brand says. “There were a lot of Queens artists then: Mike Geronimo and CNN [Capone-N-Noreaga] and just all these different artists and he’s like, ‘Oh, I know them, but I don’t listen to their music.’”

But none of those emcees from Artest’s rap-rich neighborhood meant much to him at the time. It took a skinny white kid from Detroit to get him hooked on the mic as Brand tells us.

“And then he fell in love with Eminem,” Brand deadpans. “[Artest] would listen to Eminem…talk about his issues and Ron really fell in love with [him].”

Brand himself downplays his own lyrical skills, but he had a studio in New York where Lamar Odom — another AAU crony — and former NFL quarterback, Donovan McNabb, used to grab the mic for impromptu cyphers and freestyle sessions. McNabb even recorded a song that never saw the light of day calling out other QB’s:

“Donovan McNabb came by and wrote a diss track about all the other quarterbacks that we never released. Nas in his hey-day, and Donovan dissing other top tier quarterbacks,” Brand tells us with a laugh. It’s obvious Elton was heavily involved in hip hop early on in his NBA career.

“My stuff is totally underground, like so far underground it won’t ever be dug up,” Brand said while trying not to laugh too hard. “I did have one, I did make the Cornerstone mixtape, it’s like a big DJ kind with the guys from Fader magazine. I don’t even know if they have it because it was a CD,”

Don’t let Brand’s humble words about his rapping fool you, though. We had heard through the grapevine — we can’t remember if it was an agent, or a media member who told us — Brand and Shaq squared off on stage for a rap battle and Brand actually got the better of him. When we posed the rumor to Elton, he admitted, “It is true.”

“On a stage. In front of hundreds of people. This was pre-camera phone. There’s no footage. This is like 2000 or something and we were there on the mic and Shaq just wanted to battle. He won his rings and he was the champ and he went at me. But Shaq’s a true artist. I’d give him the nod, I don’t want no problem…We did like eight bars each.” This elicited a pretty long laugh from us, but he really doesn’t see himself as that guy anymore. He’s a dad, not a rapper, and Shaq is the only NBA player we know who has gone platinum.

“I was on stage, and it’s embarrassing to think about,” Brand continues. “Kevin Garnett was there, but he didn’t rhyme, though he was on the stage. It was a pretty ridiculous thing.”

Please take a moment to picture Elton Brand battle rapping Shaq sometime in the early 2000s with Kevin Garnett also onstage (possibly as a hype man?).

A lot has happened to Brand before and after his secret rap battle, but he’s always handled every hurdle, every twist in his career and life path, with grace and aplomb. Plus, talking to him is like taking a time machine back to the turn of the 21st century when the NBA was a very different place.

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Brand starred for Duke in the late 1990s, and became one of the first Blue Devils to declare for the NBA draft so early — coming out after being named the consensus Player of the Year in his sophomore season.

Except, Brand — unlike the “silver spoon” Duke players Jalen Rose naively referred to in his Fab Five documentary — wanted to come out even sooner because of financial difficulties at home.

“Actually, my freshman year I was thinking about leaving,” Brand admits when we ask him if it was hard to leave after just two seasons of college ball. “Financially, it was tough on my family. My mother, I’m from a single-parent home, I was thinking about leaving freshman year.”

That’s when Brand and his coach, Mike Krzyzewski, had a little convo, a year earlier then we originally thought. It seems the current USA Basketball coach and one of the all-time leaders in NCAA wins proved prophetic when convincing Brand he should come back after his freshman year:

“Coach K was like, ‘listen, we’re gonna make it to the Final Four, you’re gonna be on the cover of these magazines, and you’re gonna work your ass off and develop your game. And you’re gonna be a top 5 pick.’”

The Duke sideline general knew where his prized player fell on draft boards and he knew another year of school would go a long way towards moving him up:

“‘Right now, you’ll be top 20, but that’s a big difference in the trajectory of your potential career,’” The Duke lifer told a young Elton.

“And I believed him and it all worked out — everything he said happened: Player of the year, cover of magazines, we made it to the Final Four, actually made it to the championship game, and I was a top-5 pick — No. 1. I spoke to him my freshman year, though, about potentially leaving. It was a tough choice, but yeah, we made the right decision for sure.”

After that you might think Brand would be in favor of the NBA’s new age minimum. But while he understands the complexities on both sides, he’s of the opinion any player should be able to declare since nobody’s forcing NBA general managers to scoop up teenagers.

“I don’t like [the age minimum],’ Brand says when he ask him about Adam Silver possibly increasing it from 19 to 20 in the next round of collective bargaining discussions. “I feel it’s kind of protecting the general managers from themselves. If you don’t like a kid at 18, don’t draft him. You don’t have to draft him. He should be able to enter his name into the draft to earn a living, and you just say ‘he’s too young, he’s not ready yet.’ But they know, potentially, he will be a talent,” Elton continues with a chuckle. “That’s a risk they have to take.”

But it bares mentioning that Brand also sees the other side of the issue.

“There will be less jobs, since you’ll have a lot younger guys coming in with talent. But I’m OK with that. So I don’t like that two-year requirement. I think they should be able to enter the league at 18, for sure.”

And while Brand understands that guys just aren’t ready at such a young age, ultimately, it’s their decision. Even if — like a lot of guys around his draft class, when high school players were starting to jump right to the Association — many young talents fell by the wayside:

“I know at 18 guys aren’t ready,” Brand says. “Their moms are probably still making their bed at 18, but still they come out; they choose to come out to enter the workforce. If they have the potential, I don’t think they should be stopped.

“A lot of guys came out, I remember, like in the late second round and only spent two or there years or maybe a year in the NBA. I remember a lot of guys were coming out of high school. Coming out young, a lot of talented players from that era, and they didn’t have great NBA careers. Now if they went to college, and there’s a minimum, and they develop more, maybe they would have, but you know there’s position to take on both sides.

“It’s tough, I know some guys, when you picked them out of high school, they didn’t care of they were in the second round or the last pick, they just wanted to be drafted.”

It’s that sort of nuanced thinking that makes Brand such a treat to chat with, and it’s probably why he’s been able to overcome so much bad injury luck to continue playing at the NBA level.

*** ***

The man who would later become the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, wasn’t prepared for Duke’s rivalry with North Carolina, since he grew up in the northeast, playing at Peekshill High School in Westchester, just outside New York City.

“Going to Duke and growing up in the Northeast, I didn’t know much about the rivalry until I got down there,” Brand tells us when we tell him we’re reading The Blue Divide by Johnny Moore and Art Chansky.

“First of all I liked Carolina, going in to my senior year, but they stopped recruiting me because of a guy named Brian Bersticker.” This elicited a huge laugh from us because, um, who is Brian Bersticker?

Turns out, he was a four-year player for the Tar Heels, but Brand “enjoyed tearing him up every year.

“Not to say I’d have picked them [UNC] over Duke anyway, but still I enjoyed tearing him up after they told me on the call they weren’t recruiting me anymore because they had a guy.”

But when Brand did get down to Tobacco Road, he was quickly indoctrinated to the blood battle between Duke and UNC.

“I didn’t know much about the rivalry until I got down there and I think they [Carolina fans] trashed Coach K’s office after breaking in there in like ’97.” In response, Brand tells us, a Duke fan then stole a jersey from the Dean Smith Center rafters.

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After going No. 1 to the Bulls and adding a Rookie of the Year award to his growing hardware in 1999-2000, Brand was faced with his first major NBA problem in the summer of 2001 when it became clear the Bulls were shopping him in order to acquire more heralded high school players.

“My agent, David Falk…was like ‘They’ve got the No. 1 or No. 2 pick, and they’re trying to trade for the high school [guys],” Brand says. “That’s when all the guys were coming right out of high school — and he was like, ‘you know I can make it happen, or I can block it.’

“And I’m like ‘uh, you [Chicago] didn’t want me, so I understand. Let’s go.’ And [Falk] was like ‘the Wizards and MJ [Michael Jordan] or the Clippers?’

“I looked at the Clippers and they were a nice, young, fun nucleus of guys, with Darius Miles, Lamar Odom — who I played against in New York City — and Andre Miller. They actually had a nationally-televised game that I saw around that time. I was just thinking to myself, before I even had a chance to be traded there, I was just like that would a good place; they’re young and exciting.”

So the Bulls, who had their sites on Tyson Chandler AND Eddy Curry, made it happen:

“The Clippers were gonna take Curry at the 2. And then the Bulls, I guess would pick Chandler,” Brand explains with remarkable clarity for something that happened over 13 years ago. “Jerry Krause [Bulls GM at the time] wanted them both. So they did a swap. They said take Chandler at 2, and you’re gonna trade us Brand and then we’ll take take Curry at 5.”

But it didn’t put him a funk, at least looking back on the trade all these years later. In fact, the only thing he seems to regret is that he wasn’t able to team with Chandler and bring the Bulls back into contention.

“I’m a realist, especially when I analyze the game. If those guys develop, Tyson developed — it took him a little while longer — but if that guy develops early, you have a big defensive center, [who] can anchor your team, and then you have a 6-10 bruiser, 290 pounds, and I can do backflips. That could have been a beast of a frontcourt.

“I peaked, with the 20 and 10 and I peaked early, and these guys had potential, which they did. But then I got to the all-star game in Clipper land after that, so it was something to get traded and you feel like you won a trade.

“Yeah, you can check the box scores [we did, though he didn’t get to play them that often]…but for the next three or four years, I lit [Chicago] up.”

Still, like all of Brand’s NBA stops, he’s got fond memories of Chicago.

“At the same time, that’s where I broke into the league…Chicago’s a great city.

“When you get drafted, you think you’re going to stay in that city forever, but there are only a handful of guys who stay in the league for 10 years with the same team.”

True, and Brand wasn’t settling down for the long haul in LA, either; although, he almost did.

*** ***

The seven years Brand spent with the Clippers were probably his most productive as an individual player. He made two all-star teams (2002, 2006) and he was named to the All-NBA Second Team in 2006 when he averaged 24.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.0 steals in 39.2 minutes a game while shooting 52.7 percent from the floor and posting a career high 26.5 player efficiency rating.

During the 2005-06 season, Brand was near the top of the NBA hierarchy. He was one of the toughest guards in the league at the four spot, and he led the Clippers — the team he elected to join in the summer of 2001 because of their potential — to their first playoff series win in franchise history.

But the next season, with Brand again averaging nearly 20 and 10 (20.5 and 9.3), the Clippers missed out on the playoffs by two games.

Still, missing the postseason would be a piece of cake beside the left Achilles’ tendon tear he suffered the following season, which knocked him out of all but eight games on the year and effectively ended any momentum for the historically woeful franchise. It was that summer where things came to a head in LA.

A lot of observers look back on that summer as a time when Brand spurned a young Clippers team by opting out, thus leaving the team in he lurch after they’d just acquired playmaking guard, Baron Davis.

The decision to sign a new deal with Philadelphia and not re-sign with the Clippers, wasn’t made lightly, though. When we bring it up with Brand, all was not as it seemed, or was reported at the time.

As usual, he is gracious, even when it’s obvious he was hurt by how negotiations went that summer. With a new son on the way that summer, his decision actually proved prescient after what went down in the 2008-09 season.

“In 2007 [actually 2007-08], I was coming off working with the trainers and working with the Clippers staff,” Brand says. “They were great about getting me healthy and getting me back. I was looking at the landscape and there were a few teams who had money that I could get a deal with. I wanted to get a long-term deal in place, so I decided to opt out. When I was negotiating with the Clippers, everything turned into injury clauses.

“They had me with my back against the wall, like ‘this the only place you can go. And you’re going to be here, so we want this injury clause, you won’t get paid.”

Obviously Brand’s agent knew this was a de facto no-no in NBA circles.

“You know NBA contracts are guaranteed,” Brand continues. “But they wanted me to add stuff to it, and it felt like, ‘really? I helped turn this thing around and you’re coming at me like that?’ It was just ego. It felt like all right, well there’s other options. That’s when Philly came in. In the first year, I tore my labrum and get hurt. So I’m glad I didn’t have any injury clauses.”

But Brand did get another interesting offer that offseason, coincidentally from the same team who Davis spurned to head to the Clippers.

“I was looking at LA, we were trying to make that happen. And Golden State, when Baron opted out, they made a HUGE offer to me. And I’m like I’m not gonna do that, what Baron opted out of. But they made a huge offer [laughs], but yeah.”

So, just to reiterate the point, Brand probably could have gone to the Bay for more money, but didn’t want to leave Baron in the lurch simply to go to his old team.

Plus, Brand’s pregnant wife might need convincing to leave sunny southern California for blue collar Philadelphia. Turns out she was game, too.

“My wife, we’re sitting in Santa Monica looking at the beach, and she’s pregnant at the time. I’m like, ‘honey, we’ve got this opportunity [in Philadelphia],’ and I know she’s gonna say, ‘No, no way, we’re staying in LA.’ and she’s like ‘All right, lets do it.’ I was like, ‘really,’ no doubt, and that’s how the whole Philly thing came in.

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Still, the torn labrum, so soon after the Achilles’ tendon tear, forced Brand to change his game. He couldn’t jump off his left foot as much after the ruptured Achilles, and the labrum was on his shooting shoulder. He’d effectively suffered two career-threatening injuries within the span of two years.

He never wallowed in misery, though, and he worked his butt off to get back on the court. Perhaps that’s why the notoriously fickle Philly fans almost always had his back.

We mention to Brand the time Eagles fans threw batteries at Santa Clause — and for a more contemporary example, Andrew Bynum‘s afro’d year on the bench — and asked why he never experienced that sort of venom from the Sixers crowds:

“They’re tough [Philly fans]. But they love their sports teams. They pay their hard-earned money to come to the games and they want to be entertained and have some fun. It wasn’t without trouble. There were definitely some fans like, ‘you make the max, let’s go’ — well I didn’t make the max, but they were like, ‘you make a lot of money, lets go, we need some wins,’ but they also saw the hustle and the heart, and that’s what Philly’s about. I always hustle.

“Even though I hurt my Achilles, and can’t jump as high off my left leg, and I hurt my shoulder, which is my shooting arm, and so I had to give a lot of effort and that’s what that town’s about. That town’s about Rocky; that town’s about the underdog right there and lots of heart like Rocky and giving it your all. Body language-wise, no matter what happened, I gave my all. And we did turn it around.”

And they did. After a first-round loss to the Heat in the 2011 playoffs, Brand wasn’t averaging over 39 minutes a game like he had earlier in his career, but he was still putting up 11 points and seven boards in 28 minutes of action a night. In the 2012 playoffs, his Sixers beat Chicago after Derrick Rose went down, and took the Celtics to a game seven where they almost advanced to the Conference Finals.

“Game 7, Paul Pierce fouls out and we were a few shots away from going to the Conference Finals,” Brand tells us with some excitement in his voice. “I think [the Philly fans] enjoyed that run there.”

Especially in lieu of what’s currently happening with the franchise.

While Brand tell us he’s surprised Sixers management broke up that 2012 playoff team so fast, he does have an astute observation about the current Sixers team that’s knocking everything down to build it back up:

“Yeah, I think it’s Josh [Harris], the owner. I think it’s based on his background.

“It’s like leveraged buyouts, they take assets and strip ‘em down. Buy companies and strip ‘em down, and make ‘em work. But the assets, it’s what their company and their business does. They’re billionaires because of it. I think it’ll work out. They’re definitely stockpiling the assets and getting rid of the rest. I think, eventually, it might work.

“…I like it. I still follow the Sixers. I still have a home in the Philadelphia area; I root from them. Thaddeus Young was the last player from my era, but I still root for them.”

After signing with Dallas for a year, and missing the playoffs with that banged up Mavs squad in a hyper competitive Western Conference, Brand returned to the East Coast with the Hawks for the 2013-14 season.

The Hawks overachieved last season, even with center Al Horford out for most of the latter portion of the season with a pectoral tear. They made the playoffs, and had a 3-2 series lead before losing the final two — including a big elimination Game 6 in Atlanta — to the No. 1 seed Pacers. When we asked Brand what prompted him to return to the Hawks for what is now his 16th year in the Association, it was obvious the sting of that defeat still lingered.

“I was mad about losing in the playoffs,” Elton tells us matter-of-factly. “Now I’m mad we had them at the end. We gave ‘em all we wanted. We had them right there with the lead at home and we couldn’t finish them off. I’m thinking about that; I’m thinking about my teammates, and if I have the opportunity to come back, I think I’m gonna do that.”

Plus, Brand knows Father Time is still undefeated and — with the blessing of his blossoming family, and his teammates’ constant text messaging — Brand decided to return because he tells us, “I won’t have a chance to play at this level ever again.”

*** ***

Still, things are different now with the end so near. All the little moments as a day-to-day NBA player have crystalized into an ongoing theme this season: Brand is finally enjoying things he used to miss when he was making all-star teams and the All-NBA squad.

“I never enjoyed practice when I was like an all-star All-NBA,” Brand confesses. “I was like [mimicking Allen Iverson] ‘Practice?‘ Not as bad as Iverson, but I was like ‘Practice? No, I need to play a game.’ But I’m enjoying practice; I’m enjoying shootarounds, I’m enjoying bus rides; I’m enjoying the plane rides. Just soaking it all in because I’m coming to an end soon. Because I’m gonna miss that when I’m done playing.”

Plus, Brand’s son, the one his wife was pregnant with when they looked out at the Pacific Ocean in 2008 and agreed together to sign with Philly, is now six and he’s starting to pick up on who his father really is within the game:

“You know my son, my oldest son is 6. I blocked LeBron James‘ shot, and he was at the game and he talked about it for about a month,” Brand tells us while we both chuckle. “They [my family] definitely support me playing and still living this dream. They support it immensely and they want me to keep playing as long as I can.

“I had a few other offers, but the way I wanted to be back, I think I’m gonna go back [to Atlanta]. I don’t wanna make new friends, get new teammates, learn a new system. Didn’t want to change it up right now like that. That’s why I came back.”

*** ***

Once back, though, Brand — as a former Blue Devil — saw himself on both sides of an ugly incident involving Hawks general manager and former Duke standout, Danny Ferry, and former Duke player Luol Deng. Ferry negatively referred to Deng as “just an African” on a conference call with team owners during a scouting report this past summer. When the conference call leaked along with the resignation of majority owner Bruce Levenson, Brand caught up with Ferry and Deng to play peacemaker and get to the bottom of what happened:

“I was disappointed in the word usage at a high level. That Danny would even repeat something like that in a conference call I’m thinking to myself, ‘is that how you guys talk all the time?’ I spoke to him and he was like, ‘No, it was a mistake. I was just reading from the report.’ And I called Luol and I asked him, ‘Are you taking a stand, like, what’s going on?’ He’s just like, ‘Nah. I’m cool.’ But he was just like, ‘I don’t understand how where I’m from comes into my basketball report.’ And I’m like, ‘I agree.’

“But [Deng] was ready to move on, and that definitely helped me be able to move on. For Danny, I truly feel that he made a mistake. It’s terrible. I don’t know what’s going to happen, if he’s coming back or what not, but — it may cost him his job and his career. But it was a grave mistake. I think that’s a high standard to hold anyone too, just on one public mistake you lose your job, but it happened and it wasn’t smart at all.

“He apologized, and I believe him, but —

“You can’t have Duke on Duke crime..”

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The team Brand came back to re-join is a long way from the system he’s accustomed to when he first game into the league as the Rookie of the Year and the No. 1 overall pick.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer runs a wide open offense where the paint is clear and set plays end in corner three-pointers. But Brand, despite his spot on the team as the OG veteran, is adapting, and he finds the game — sans the hand checking rules in place when he first came into the league, and the paucity of big men — is actually more pleasing to the eye, even if it means less touches for him in the mid-range.

“Aesthetically [the game] looks a lot better, movement and creativity, for the fans and just for TV. Instead of just throwing to a guy and pounding each other, either get to the foul line or make the shot. I like the way this game’s changed. I like the way it’s going and I like playing in this system.

“I don’t get as many shots as I used to. We’ve been working on the corner three and stuff like that, but it’s fun, you know. Looking for that open guy, guys are getting wide-open shots, which are good to have. So it’s been fun learning the system and playing in it.”

When Brand came into the league, the mid-range jumper was a part of any power forward’s arsenal, but now it’s all about the three-pointer and shots at the rim. That’s why Brand is learning to shoot that corner three. He’s adapting a lot better then other big men who have come and gone.

The game has changed and so has the perception of what an NBA power forward is asked to do:

“If you’re a big man and you shot corner three’s, you were soft,” Brand tells us. “Rasheed Wallace, he isn’t soft, and he did. And Dirk, Dirk became a superstar.

“But if you’re a big man and not getting offensive rebounds and plodding in the paint, it’s like, ‘you’re soft, you don’t want to be hit; you’re soft down there.’

“It changed. A lot.”

It did. It certainly did. Now Brand is a father to a two-year-old daughter and six-year-old son. He’s no longer wasting his per diem at McDonald’s or trying to navigate the dangers of NBA teams offering contracts with an injury clause. He’s part peacemaker, as you saw with the Ferry situation, and full-time dad.

“I never met my father,” Brand says. “I kind of overcompensate with the daddy duties when I’m off. Because I have some friends, they’re not athletes, they’re just guys, guys I met at the park or whatever. They’re just like, ‘Dude, you tryin’ to get Daddy of the Year or something? I never saw my dad unless it was dinner or the weekends. You can’t be here at the park with your son all day. Plus, you’re Elton Brand.’”

Brand laughs, but it makes total sense. He wants to be a dad, but he’s still an NBA player, and he wants to squeeze as much out of that dwindling life while he still can.

“It’s just I don’t want to miss anything,” Brand says of being a dad. “The season, traveling, it’s definitely hard not being around them. Being a father that’s one of the most important — that’s the most important — role in my life. I love it. It’s great responsibility, but I definitely enjoy it.

As for his son, it seems he’s a chip off the ol’ block, comprehending the details of NBA a lot more than Brand did when he was his son’s age.

“He’s a ball hawk. Like he knows Isaiah Thomas doesn’t play for Sacramento anymore…I never knew anything like that. I knew stars; I knew Michael Jordan and people like that, but I didn’t know the next tier of players; he knows jersey numbers, he knows all of that.”

Plus, Brand tells us his son won his first award at camp this summer. But Elton isn’t an overbearing dad. He won’t pressure him if he doesn’t want to hoop like his Old Man.

“I’m not sure if he’s going to love [basketball], but he’s into it now. Whatever he’s into, I’m definitely gonna follow him. He’s into — you know his dad’s a rapper too [laughs], and he’s into music, plays the drums. He does a whole bunch of other stuff.”

His daughter might be a better bet to carry on the Brand name on the hardwood.

“My daughter, she’s an athlete. She’s about to turn two, but she’s climbing and moving around hanging right with him; her jumping and her coordination is off the charts right now. I definitely want to watch them grow and develop…but it’s tough.

“My mom, she passed away this year from Gastric Cancer and she was my No. 1 fan. She was at 90 percent of my NBA games, even on the road. It’s tough, I don’t see how she did it.”

Pretty soon Elton Brand’s career in the NBA will be over. He’s coming up on almost two decades as a nationally known name, and for some athletes the ability to say goodbye is hard.

For Elton, we think he’s secretly looking forward to the extended time off; he’ll be able to hang with his kids in the park even more, and we’re already getting ready to vote for him as Daddy of the Year.

What do you think?

Follow Spencer on Twitter at @SpencerTyrel.

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