Denver Nuggets rookie R.J. Hampton entered the NBA with considerable talent. While he hasn’t been able to showcase his skills frequently at the highest levels just yet, that comes as no surprise, simply because Hampton was drafted by a ready-made team and placed in a position to develop his skills in a future-facing manner. To that end, Hampton hasn’t been making a ton of news in the early going, appearing for only 36 minutes in the first month-plus of his NBA career, but he offered a surprising and amusing reveal in an interview this week.
Hampton’s godfather is Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back and Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders. For any child, it might be pretty cool to have a certified legend as a close family friend but, well, Hampton had no idea until later than you may think.
“For the first eight or nine years of my life, I never knew why I called him Uncle Prime,” Hampton told Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated. “And then one day, my dad was out of town. I think my mom was at work. And [Sanders] comes to pick me up from school. He’s in the carpool line, and my teachers are going crazy. I’m nine years old like, what are they talking about?”
In addition to the confusion in his early life, Hampton said that it didn’t really hit home until he was “12 or 13” years old and his recognition of Sanders’ fame came via a television reveal.
“I was about 12 or 13, and I was at my friend’s house and we’re watching NFL Network,” Hampton said. “They were counting down the 100 greatest players, and they had [Sanders] at like number eight. I was like, ‘Whoa, I did not know this.’ I had no idea the first 12 years of my life this is one of the greatest football players to step on the field.”
This is actually refreshing in some ways, simply because Hampton was able to simply have a mentor in Sanders and it didn’t matter to him whether his godfather was one of the most famous athletes in the country. At the same time, it is admittedly funny to think about everyone around Hampton knowing Sanders’ gravity, all while he just didn’t put it all together.