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Thread: NOTHING WAS THE SAME: The Return of Derek Baldwin | MyLeague (2023- )

  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by The JZA View Post
    Three big men manning the MVP title. The titans have return to rule the hardwood
    Post game is the truth right now. You gotta bang down low these days.

  2. #12

    The Final Season (2019-2020)

    July 2019

    “That’s the last one, guys,” said our photographer, Stephanie Madsen. “These are going to look great.”

    I met Stephanie the summer after my rookie season when I was vacationing with friends in Las Vegas. She’s done a lot of photography work for me during my career after I moved to Los Angeles. So naturally, she was the only person I could think of to capture the memories of my wedding.

    My wedding.

    The wedding that almost wasn’t.

    Stephanie and her team have been with us all morning getting photos of me and Naya today. She started this morning with each of us getting ready for the ceremony and all throughout. I can’t wait to see how those pictures come out. We had our bachelor and bachelorette parties a few days before because I wanted to be sober on this day, at least for the ceremony. We had the bachelor party on Wednesday night then we had everyone over to the house for a barbecue and fireworks on July 4th. It was a pretty big event. Almost like a small concert. We even had DJ Mick spin for us that day. We decided to just make it a very long weekend with the wedding on Saturday and everybody will get together for a farewell brunch on tomorrow. We actually went the traditional route and spent last night apart from each other. The guys and I kept it low key and just hung out around the house. Video games, beer, and poker. She stayed at her house last night with her sister and her friends. She also wanted to take things a little further and withhold sex an entire month leading to the wedding. I don’t know what that was about, but I cannot wait to get out of this damn tuxedo. We may take a detour before going into the reception….

    “I am so glad you shaved that beard off,” Naya said as she grabbed my face with both of her hands bring my attention back to her.

    “Fortunately, you are the one few things that I love more than my beard.” I gave her a kiss on the forehead as I heard Stephanie’s camera clocking again.

    “Candid photos are the best,” Stephanie says before heading to the reception area to make sure everything was in place.

    “So it had nothing to do with the spread on the Vogue website?” She said with a smirk and a raised eyebrow.

    “What? No way.” The guys were really giving me a hard time about this. Naya and I were featured on the cover of Vogue last month. The photos were pretty dope though. I think my favorite was the shot of me dressed in a tuxedo and my signature all black high top sneakers, playing defense against Naya in a white wedding dress. We did the shoot right after All-Star break since we both had time off. The photo shoot that almost didn’t happen. Two words: strippers and TMZ. The issue was actually released right before Game 3 of the NBA Finals. She made me shave my full beard, but I grew it back in time for the playoffs. Just to shave it again for the wedding.

    Naya and I stand on the beach for a few minutes more and soak everything in. I am a married to one of the hottest women on the planet. Bar none. Don’t act like you didn’t see the four page spread in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition in February. We got the best of both worlds with this wedding. She got married in California with all of her family and friends there this time around and I got married on the beach. We decided to have the wedding in July because it gave me enough time to enjoy the summer in case we won another title (which we did) and time after to enjoy being married before heading to China for the FIBA World Cup.

    “We did it.”

    “We sure did. Even though you seemed to fight me every step of the way.”

    “I know. I know.”

    Naya and I walk toward the ballroom all smiles. We were surrounded by friends and family, close to five hundred people. You know, those who really a hold a special place in our hearts. I couldn’t do two thousand like Michael Jordan did when he remarried. That’s just crazy. My best friend Devin and her brother Mychal were my groomsmen and her sister Nickayla and our friend Carmen were her bridesmaids. All of my current teammates were there, of course, a few of my former teammates as well, D.J. Augustin, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler, and other guys from around the league that I bonded with, Trey Burke, Paul George, LeBron, D. Wade, Carmelo, Kobe. Of course, we had to bring in the industry folks: Diddy. Jay Z and Beyonce. Will and Jada. Her cast mates from Glee and Liar Liar were in attendance, except that bastard Ian. He was not invited. It was a bit of a star studded affair, considering who we are, but it still felt like a family thing.

    “Thank you for being patient with me and not letting my crazy drive you away. You were almost too good to be true. Still can’t believe it sometimes.”

    “Need me to pinch you?”

    she said as she shook her head and laughed. I needed to be one hundred percent sure. Just like you were. You were confident in us from the very beginning.”

    “I told you that if you fucked with me, you were stuck with me, girl,” I said as I leaned down to kiss her cheek. “I’m still sure that I’m doing the right thing. We fit.”

    I held out my arm and she wrapped hers around mine. The doors opened and we entered the large reception area where tables were set up on either side. The DJ introduced us and everyone stood and applauded. After a minute passed he asked everybody to take a seat. We heard a very familiar tune playing on the piano. It’s a classic, and it describes exactly how I feel about her. I lead her to the dance floor for our first dance as she looks back and forth between me and the man sitting at a piano on stage.

    What would I do without your smart mouth?
    Drawing me in and you kicking me out.
    Got my head spinning, no kidding.
    I can’t pin you down.

    What’s going on in that beautiful mind?
    I’m on your magical mystery ride.
    And I’m so dizzy, don’t know what hit me
    But I’ll be alright…..

    “You didn’t? Really?”

    “I may have called in a few favors. You know he’s trying to get on your next album, especially after you posted that video on You Tube. So I really did him a favor.”

    She looked over to where John Legend was sitting on the piano and he gave us a nod. She turned back to me with a large smile on her face.

    “Best. Wedding. Ever.”

    December 2019

    I’m limping off the court, able to hobble to the bench with a little help. That’s a good sign, right? I look at Coach Clifford, then over to the trainer, Kurt. He says he wants to take me to the back to take a look at my ankle. But looking at his face I know I won’t be back tonight. We currently have an eight point lead over the Wizards in the third quarter. I’m taken to the locker room to a standing ovation.

    I’m sitting on the table in the back while Kurt is looking at my ankle.

    “It’s swollen.”

    “No shit. How bad man,”
    I say through a grimace as he turns my foot in his hands.

    “Worst case scenario, I’d say grade two sprain, but I want to get some x-rays to be sure.”


    “I’d say anywhere between two to four weeks.”

    I lean back on the table and stare at the ceiling. But on the plus side, the injury isn’t career ending. I can take a small vacation. Fortunately, we don’t have a lot of major games coming up.

    January 2020

    “Why aren’t you answering your phone? Dax has been trying to reach you.” Devin asked as he walked into my home gym.

    I was recently cleared by the doctor the day after New Year’s and I have been busting my ass ever since. The team was finishing up a road trip on the East coast and while I wanted to be with them, Coach Clifford decided to hold off since it was only a two game trip. I’ll make my official return when we play the Lakers on Sunday. That was three days away. And while I probably wouldn’t get my forty minutes right off, I wanted to be at my best. The guys were doing well enough in my absence, currently sitting in third place in the Western Conference with a record of 21-10.

    “You know I don’t talk to Dax, man.” My twin brother had been calling my phone all day, but we don’t speak much (read: not at all) after he tried to extort money from me by pinning a baby on me by my ex-girlfriend that he actually got pregnant before I left to play ball overseas (I’ll let you sort that shit out). It’s been about three years since that came to light. I guess you can say I know how to hold a grudge. So I turned the ringer off so i could focus on getting my shots up.

    “Well, it’s kind of important. We need to get to the airport.”

    I looked over his shoulder and noticed two bags on the floor.

    “I packed some clothes for a couple days. I’ve called Coach Clifford. It’s cool. But we need to go. Naya is going to meet us in New Orleans.”

    “Why? What’s going on?”

    “I’ll tell you on the way.”

    “Tell me right now!”

    “Your mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer.”

    Everything around me seemed to fall away in that moment. I don’t remember leaving the house, driving to the airport, getting on the plane, or driving to my mother’s house. I just knew one minute I was in Los Angeles and the next I was in New Orleans crying in my mom’s arms.

    “I’m quitting. I want to stay here and take care of you.”

    “My sweet boy. No, Derek. That’s one thing you won’t do. We detected it pretty early. Everything is going to be fine.”

    “I’m not leaving you alone to deal with this.”

    “Your father is here and so is your brother.”

    “Come to Los Angeles.”
    The words just fell out of my mouth without me thinking about it.


    “Move to Los Angeles. You and dad can stay in Naya’s old house.”
    I look over to my wife and she nods in agreement. “Or I’ll get you a condo in the same building as Devin. You can do treatment in L.A. I’m not going to be able to relax with you here and me almost two thousand miles away.”

    My mother looked at me for a long time before she answered. “Okay. We’ll move to Los Angeles.”

    March 2020

    “Babe, you have got to take it easy,” Naya said as she followed me around the house.

    My knee had been giving me some problems since the playoffs last season and it flared up a bit more off and on this season. I decided to skip out on the Sprite Slam Dunk contest this year because of it and just participate in the game on Sunday. Jaylen Brown was crowned the new slam dunk champion. I honestly think I could have beaten him with my bum knee. I got through the game on Sunday unscathed before things took a turn for the worse. I came down from a 360 dunk in our win against Oklahoma City two weeks after and I was sidelined the rest of the game.

    I didn’t expect to be out at all, but Coach didn’t want to push me unnecessarily, so that I can be ready to go for the playoffs. I’ve been working with Tim Grover since training camp to make sure that I stay in action.

    “I am taking it easy. I just want to check on Mama.”

    My mother had been in Los Angeles for two months now. Her surgery had gone well and she was starting chemotherapy to make sure everything was gone. She’s no spring chicken, but she isn’t old either and she’s still in good shape, so everything seems to be on the up and up.

    “Why can’t we just talk to Mama B on Skype, Derek?” She asked as I dangled the car keys in front of her face. She snatched them out of my hand and made her way to the garage.

    “Let’s go, but we are not sleeping over tonight.”

    May 2020

    Things had definitely changed in the Western Conference this season. The Suns and the Lakers both found themselves back in the playoffs this year, they were seventh and eighth seeds, but low seeding is better than no seeding. Ask Golden State or Houston. Both teams just kind of faded into the background after the All-Star break due to injuries. We managed to stay near the top and finished with the third seed.

    I didn’t miss much of the second half of the season, with Tim in my corner I was able to keep pushing, making modifications as I progressed depending on which team we played.

    Even though I was ready for the first game of the playoffs, we still struggled a bit against a hungry New Orleans team. We took the series in six games.

    “Good series, Old Man,” said Anthony Davis as we met each other at half court. “Thought that knee was going to slow you down.”

    “Y’all tried to work me over, but it wasn’t going to happen. Enjoy your summer. I’ll see you in Las Vegas.”

    And that was that. The Thunder managed to sweep the Suns so they were next on deck. Hopefully, they were going to be out of sync from their extra days off.


    “Derek, how do you feel about winning Game 6 against a tough San Antonio Spurs team to advance to your fourth NBA Finals?"

    You are reading that correctly. The Los Angeles Clippers are headed to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals. This series was as heated as a series could get. The number four seed San Antonio Spurs had knocked off the number five seed Portland Trailblazers and the number one seed Minnesota Timberwolves, who were playing without Kevin Love for the entire series. I don’t think it would have mattered either way if Kev was in the game or not. San Antonio was still on the hunt for their fifth title and they were taking on all teams that were getting in their way. They picked up steam during the last few games of the season and just carried that into the playoffs. Each game was decided by no more than five points.

    “It was definitely a tough series. Everything you expected of the Western Conference Finals. San Antonio is a great team. Maurice Cheeks is a great coach. They were ready for battle, but so were we. Coach Clifford is no slouch either. The better team won this time.”

    “Do you think it is going to be easier to watch your documentary now that the NBA Finals are secured?”

    Billy Crystal approached me in the middle of my first season with the Clippers to ask about filming a documentary about me. He wanted to start with the NBA Finals if we made it, which we did. I was being followed from Game 3 of the 2018 NBA Finals all the way to our championship win last season. It’s just a compilation of game footage from our two regular season games against the Bulls and the NBA Finals, he has some interviews in there from fans in Chicago and fans in Los Angeles, interviews from some of my former teammates, and of course footage of my teammates and I putting in work during practice and off the court. The Baldwin Effect is what he titled it. It was scheduled to air before Game 1 of this year’s NBA Finals.

    “Yeah, I guess so,” I say with a laugh. “I probably would not have watched if we lost this series. I would have waited to get it on DVD this Christmas or something. I definitely would not have been able to watch it.”

    June 2020 - NBA Finals

    “This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. Nobody thought we were going to make it this year,” I say as I look each one of my teammates in the eyes. “I don’t know about y’all, but this season has been a bitch,” I say with a smirk as everybody laughs. “But this is it. Three wins down, one to go. They got the best of us in Philly, but we are in our house now. The only way to get this trophy is through Los Angeles. They have to come through Lob City. And we don’t fuck around in Lob City. Nobody thinks we can do this a fourth time. Let’s bring it home, fellas.”

    Forty seven minutes and forty seconds later, I found myself standing near the three point line, dribbling the ball and watching the game clock tick down. We were literally seconds away from being crowned NBA Champions for the fourth time in a row. Four times! Holy shit! The NBA hasn’t seen anything like this in a while. I’m sure Commissioner Silver is pleased. I look toward Al Horford and he nods towards the basket, I heave it up and he finishes the alley-oop just as the buzzer sounds and confetti is coming from the ceiling. Not that we needed it, but it was a nice touch. We won Game 6 by a score of 98-110. I quickly congratulate Jahlil Okafor, Tony Wroten and a few other Sixers players before jumping on the score keepers table and holding up for four fingers to the crowd at a sold out Staples Center. I jumped down and was surrounded by teammates. Blake leading the charge.

    “This shit is crazy, Fam,” he shouted. “You the best.”

    “Nah, we the best,”
    I said in my best DJ Khaled impression.

    After our small celebration, I make my way over to my family. I give my mother the biggest bear hug ever. She has been my strength all season.

    “Thank you for not letting me quit.”

    “You’re welcome, baby. You worked so hard for this, I would never ask you to give this up.”

    “But you know I would have in a heartbeat. I love you, Ma.”

    “Love you, too.”

    I turn to my dad and hug him as well. “Do I not always give you the best Father’s Day gifts?”

    “Damn right. Proud of you, son. Your mother and I both are. I think someone else is too,”
    he gestures over his shoulder and I see Naya standing on a chair. That’s become her thing now since she always says she gets lost in the shuffle during these moments.

    I walk over to my wife and wrap my arms around her waist. She kisses the top of my head seeing as she has the height advantage right now. Something about her looks different, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Her smile is bigger than usual. But I could just be high off the championship excitement. Someone hands us two caps and she places one on her head and puts the other on mine.



    She looked like she was about to say something else, but she was interrupted by Doris Burke approaching us.

    “Derek, how does it feel to be a six-time NBA Champion?”

    “It feels amazing.”

    “This is your fifth straight Finals appearance, fourth as a Clipper, and every time you have come away victorious. We know the road to five was not easy.”

    “I can definitely say that I am blessed. I just want to thank my teammates and my family. It’s been a wild ride this season, but they stuck with me.”

    “This is something that hasn’t been done since the Boston Celtics defeated the Lakers in 1962.”

    “It’s amazing. Like I said, I have a great team surrounding me. We really believed in and pushed each other all year.”

    “You better get up there on that podium and celebrate with your teammates.”

    “No doubt. Thanks, Doris.”

    I turn back to my wife and give her a kiss.

    “Thanks, babe. You have been my rock all season. You know that, right?”

    “You know how we do. We ride together,”
    she starts.

    “We die together,” I finish the line. “Bad boys for life.”

    She kisses me again and then she says, “ Happy Father’s Day, Derek.”

    “Yeah, Happy—wait. What are you talking about?”

    She places her hands on her stomach and looks in my eyes. The realization finally sets in and I feel as though someone has just sucked all of the air out of the arena.

    “No way! How? Wait. No, I know how. When?”

    “I suspected for a while, but I found out on Wednesday. I wanted to save it for today. Good news if you lost or even better news if you won.”

    I can’t stop staring at her as my smile gets so big, it threatens to split my damn face in half. I finally place my forehead on her stomach and just take a really deep breath.

    Best. Finals. Ever.

    August 2020 – Summer Olympics (Tokyo)

    We were talking with the reporters after our win against Italy in the Gold Medal games of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. They were asking about the tournament and compared it to the 2016 Olympics. They talked to some of the guys who played for the first time, Damian Lillard and Jahlil Okafor; they asked LeBron, now thirty-five years old, if he thought about coming back for 2024 in Paris. He laughed off the question and said he planned to be retired or close to retirement by then.

    Then one of the reporters turned to me.

    “Derek, you seem really quiet up there. Coming off the season you had, to cap it off by winning a gold medal, what’s next for the Dark Horse?”

    “Um, retirement.”

    Everyone chuckled a bit at my response, but when they noticed that I wasn’t laughing the reporter spoke up again.

    “Wait. Retirement? As in, we won’t see you in an NBA uniform this season?”

    “Yeah. That, uh, that was my last game. Basketball isn’t going to be my life. I want to go out while I’m on top. Seven seasons, six rings. That’s not a bad career. Last year was crazy for me on and off the court. The injuries, my mom’s health, and now my wife is expecting. I just want to focus on family right now. That’s what’s important to me. I want to walk away while I can still walk, you know?”
    I said with a smile.

    Blake pats me on the shoulder and the rest of the guys offer their congratulations. I had talked to the owners, Coach Clifford, Chris, and Blake about it before heading for Tokyo. I wanted to keep it between us just in case I changed my mind.

    “Besides, now the rest of these guys will have a real chance at winning the title.”

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  4. #13
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  6. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by djp73 View Post

  7. #15

    SB Nation

    A fter a short, but storied career, Derek Baldwin shocked the world by announcing his retirement from the NBA after winning gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It’s been three years since he last set foot on an NBA court and 10 years since he heard his name being called by Commissioner David Stern.

    While we’re sure his phone has been ringing non-stop since his retirement, from teams trying to add him to their rosters or coaching staff, for the first time since he announced his retirement, Baldwin actually answered.

    “From the time Derek said he wouldn’t return to the NBA because he wanted to focus on his family, every season, the phone rings,” commented his agent Oliver Tate of OT Sports Management. Oliver has been with Baldwin since he first left Nicholls State in Thibodaux, Louisiana to play basketball in Spain in 2010. “He gets calls in the summer, he gets calls during training camp and he gets calls around All-Star break. He’s been called by almost every team in the league at some point. Not to mention offers to play from clubs in Spain and Italy.”

    While he hasn’t been on an NBA court, he has still been pretty active off the court. From charity events and appearances to commercials and modeling to movie premieres and music videos with his wife Naya Rivera, to taking care of their son Jordan, Derek has remained as active as one could be.

    “He’s been focused on his family and his businesses,” said his manager and cousin, Devin Carr. “He’s not sitting around playing golf all day.” Carr is the president of Dark Horse Management. He’s been handling all of Derek’s off the court deals alongside Tate since Baldwin first entered the NBA before completely taking over during his second year in the league.

    “Derek has always been focused on life after basketball. Making sure that he can provide for his family once it was all said in done. He’s done extraordinary things during his career. He is an international superstar. He has been focusing on expanding his brand beyond the court.”

    In addition to his deals with American Express, State Farm, Pizza Hut, and PepsiCo, Baldwin has been working on his Dark Horse brand with Nike, similar to Michael Jordan’s Team Jordan brand, who has athletes such as Blake Griffin, Jabari Parker, and Russell Westbrook on the roster. Derek Baldwin’s name will forever be in the game of basketball. He has an impressive lineup of players as well that includes NFL players Odell Beckham, Jr., Mychal Rivera, and Jaelen Strong along with NBA players Montrezl Harrell, Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons and Mario Hezonja.

    He also runs the Derek Baldwin Diamond Academy in July where some of the top high school, international, and college players gather for the summer. In similar fashion to the Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Chris Paul summer camps.

    “The twist with this camp is, we focus on the best players at much smaller schools,” said Carr. “Coming from being relatively unknown and clawing his way to the top, Derek wanted to kind of make room for some other players in a similar position. You never know how good these kids are because they aren’t on a national stage like some of these other kids are in high school. Derek didn’t go to a large high school. He went to a community college and transferred to a small university for two years before playing in Spain. Who knows how many other diamonds in the rough are out there? That was his thought process when he put this together.”

    Quite a few players from Baldwin’s camps have seen stints in the NBA and overseas.

    Baldwin has also done some broadcasting during the NBA Finals alongside former teammate Chris Paul, Shaquille O’Neal, and Grant Hill. He has also remained active with the league through NBA Cares. One thing is for certain the league has not forgotten about Derek Baldwin.

    “He’s still as popular as he was when he played,” said one assistant coach.

    The league isn’t quite the same as it used to be when Baldwin had the NBA in a chokehold, bringing two championship trophies back to Chicago in three seasons before getting the Los Angeles Clippers their first championship in the history of the franchise and winning the following three seasons. Since his retirement, teams have risen and fallen in the NBA hierarchy. A different team has been crowned champion every year since. Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans finally got their first title in 2021 and the Los Angeles Lakers’ rebuilding process appears to be complete and they have begun to put their mark on the Western Conference again, winning their 17th title in 2022, tying Boston’s record for most championships won. The current champions are the Philadelphia 76ers, who after having gone to the Finals for two of the last four years, finally cashed in winning it all in six games over the Lakers.

    “Things have definitely changed since he had the league on lock,” commented Paul George. George and Baldwin have gone head to head numerous times over the years. The last time these two shared a court was during the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. “It was fun. He always took me to the next level. Even when we were playing on the same side, you knew he was going to bring his A game so you had to bring yours. It just made the game a lot more fun. It’ll be good to see him out there again.”

    Gone are the days of Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony. LeBron James is on his way out at age 38. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, and Steph Curry are in their mid-thirties and are having to make way for new stars are starting to emerge in Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor, Phoenix’s Aaron Wennington, Atlanta’s Stanley Henderson, Los Angeles’ D’Angelo Russell and Miami’s Richie Fortson, among others.

    There aren’t very many teams on Baldwin’s shortlist, but from what we understand Cleveland, Miami, and Minnesota have definitely been in talks with Baldwin’s camp. Let’s take a closer look at some of his options:

    LeBron James attempted to fulfill his promise to the city of Cleveland and returned to the Cavaliers in 2019 to team up with Kyrie Irving and eventually Kevin Love. Although they went to the NBA Finals twice, that dream unfortunately remains a dream for Dan Gilbert and the city of Cleveland as James decided last season to take his talents to Houston with the hopes of winning a championship alongside James Harden. While Love and Irving remain, the fans are losing hope and, most importantly, patience. Irving tried courting Baldwin during free agency after finishing his rookie contract in Chicago; maybe this time he can convince him to breathe some life back into the Cavs from the sidelines.

    With the retirement of Chris Bosh, who gave a valiant effort to keep the Heat afloat after Dwayne Wade was traded and LeBron James’ departure, Miami is looking to be a bit understaffed at the moment. Led by Justise Winslow and the first overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and Rookie of the Year Richie Fortson, their playoff days are not completely out of reach. One or two key pieces could see the Heat back in the thick of things come playoff time. Baldwin would definitely be a welcome injection of energy in South Beach during this rebuilding phase.

    Minnesota could also use a guy like Baldwin. With Kevin Love choosing to team up with Bron Bron in a trade that sent Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota, Baldwin would be a great guy to help mold the trifecta of Wiggins, French superstar Stephan Cisse, and 2021 MVP Karl-Anthony Towns, helping the T’Wolves get over the hump and bring a championship to Minneapolis. Minnesota went on a miracle run in 2022 as they managed to make it to the Western Conference Finals, falling to the eventual champion Lakers.

    All of these deals so far sound pretty enticing. Are any of them good enough to actually lure him out of retirement? Or will Baldwin head in a completely different direction?

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  9. #16

    Scratch the Itch

    I’m sitting on the deck enjoying a great Los Angeles morning, having breakfast with my two year old son, Jordan, and my wife, Naya. She just finished a world tour for her fifth album and we were trying to get in as much family time as possible before I started my summer camps in a few weeks. This was her first tour in four years and her first world tour so it was a pretty big deal. Jordan and I decided to join her for the European leg of the tour. England, Scotland, Italy, France. My son is officially a world traveler. We even surprised her in New Orleans and in Vancouver. But now, it’s time to settle back into our home lives. She’s got a few guest appearances for shows this fall and she has been going over a few movie scripts. After three years, we seem to be settling into a routine, but our lives may be changing again.

    “So what are you thinking, babe,” she asks as she takes an orange slice that Jordan is offering her.

    “I was thinking we should go to the beach today. It’s gorgeous out here. Maybe a pool party. What do you say, Jordan? Maybe we can see if Blake and Leah will bring over Lindsey?”

    Blake finally got over Brynn Cameron and started dating Miss California 2012, Leah Cecil. They have a two year old daughter. Despite me retiring three years ago, Blake, Chris and I have remained close.

    My son turns and smiles before saying “pool” and nodding his head. I hold my palm out to him and he slaps it with his.

    “You know what I’m talking about,” she says as she lefts my aviator sunglasses off my nose.

    “You tired of taking care of me and Jordan?”

    No lie, my wife has been pretty busy since she had the baby. She got back in the studio that summer and dropped an album before filming eight episodes on this new comedy on Fox called The In-Crowd. She even had guest spots on the last season of Devious Maids and Orange is the New Black. Then she released another album this January and since she didn’t go on a tour for the last album she did a world tour with this one. She brought in some serious coin with that. I really can stay home and do nothing.

    She smirks at me before answering.

    “Never. They want you back though. I mean not all of us can stay home and have our money work for us. But the league wants you back.”

    She was right. I had endorsement deals out the ass. My biggest being my contract was with Nike. I have to say that my cousin and manager, Devin, has kept my pockets fat and my portfolio diverse. McDonald’s, American Express, Nutella, Pepsi, Buick, Audemars Piguet, you name it I have a piece of it. We even have even set up Dark Horse, Inc. to invest in different businesses. We’re talking Michael Jordan money here. I don’t ever have to do any real work again.

    “And I want to stay with my family.”

    “Derek, you have us. Your mom is doing great. She’s been cancer free for almost two years. You know she and your dad are ready to move back to New Orleans.”

    My parents’ relationship seemed to greatly improve after I had gotten drafted and they have definitely gotten closer since she’s been in Los Angeles. They divorced when my brother and I were 16 years old. My dad thought the grass was greener on the other side and he had been working his ass off to make it up to my mom for the past 10 years. Even though he didn’t live with us, she made sure he was still part of our lives. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2020, he was there every step of the way and hadn’t left her side since. There have been talks of him selling his house and moving in with my mom once they get back to New Orleans. Maybe the second time is a charm.

    “Our son is here. He’s happy and he’s healthy. It’s been three years and I still can’t believe you just announced your retirement after the Olympics like that.”

    “I only finished that last season because Mama wanted me to finish. I would have quit on the spot, but she agreed to move and get treatment here so I wouldn’t miss anything.”

    She nods her head, but doesn’t say anything further.

    “And some of these jobs are clear across the country,” I add.

    “And your point?”

    “What about your career? Your family?”

    “You are my family. I’m thirty-six years old, I’m sure my parents will be okay. And Mychal is playing for the Giants now. So I’ll have him on the East Coast. My parents are always there for his home games, so I will still see them then. Nickayla is always travelling so it’ll be like nothing has changed with her. If I get a role on a show in Los Angeles, I’ll film and come home when I’m done. All the movies that I’m in aren’t always in Los Angeles and I can record music anywhere. If we go to New York, I may even get into some Broadway before it’s too late.”

    “Trying to add a Tony Award to the Grammys and the Emmy? Sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into where you want me to coach,”
    I say and that earns me a slap on the arm. “Ow!”

    “Don’t hit, Mami.”
    Jordan says to Naya as he looks up from his bowl of orange slices and pile of blocks.

    “Your daddy is being bad.”

    “Bad Daddy?”

    “That’s right. Bad Daddy.”
    She kisses him on the head and turns her attention back to me.

    “You think you can stand the New York winters?” I ask her.

    “Well, Miami wouldn’t be a bad option either,” she says while smiling at me. “Sand and sun. Me in a bikini,” she says with a wink. “Teaching Jordan how to surf while Daddy is rebuilding the house that LeBron ripped apart. I think you would have fun with that task ahead of you.”

    I start, but she cuts me off.

    “No buts. I know you want to do this. And I think you should. I know you would be just as great at this as you were when you were playing. Hell, I think you can still play.”

    “Who do I look like? John Sally? I’m not getting out there with those young boys. I’m thirty-five years old with a bum knee. I get out there during camp, but that’s only for a few days a year. I couldn’t handle a full 82 game season with practice and everything.”

    After seven years, six championship rings, and two Olympic gold medals, I was ready to call it quits. It was during the gold medal game against Italy, when I looked in the stands during a timeout and saw my pregnant wife cradling her barely there baby bump with a huge smile on her face, as she sat between our parents wearing their Team USA garb, holding a huge American flag in their laps, that I knew that I never had to play ball for another day in my life. Everything that I could possibly want was right in front of me. That’s when I made the decision to retire.

    “Derek,” Naya’s voice snaps me out of my daydream. “I know you want to get back out there. I know there are teams waiting for your response. I think the league would like to have you back as well. You were one of the NBA’s more popular players of that era. And that’s saying something with LeBron James being at the height of his career at that time. I know that you’re scared that you might miss something, but life happens, babe. Whether you sit here at home or if you’re in an arena in front of thousands of people, life happens.”

    “What if I suck at coaching?”

    She looks at me as if she doesn’t recognize me.

    “Who are you and what have you done with my husband? The man who turned the NBA on its ear, snatching accolades from some of the most accomplished superstars in the game. Where is that man?”

    “That was a lot of pressure, babe. Every season. Every night. To be the best of the best.”

    “That’s when you were at your best, baby.”

    “I like just being a dad.”

    “Oh, honey, sometimes I can’t tell which one of us carried this baby,”
    she laughs causing Jordan to laugh even though he has no clue what’s going on. “Jordan has made you soft. You have given me more excuses than a man going to jail. Which only means one thing, you want to do it, but you want someone to talk you out of it. You have to be part of the game, Derek Baldwin. And we are going to be behind you no matter what you choose to do.”

    “I think you’re just after more courtside seats and status.”

    “Maybe I am,”
    she says as she winks at me. “And you know how much I love to see you in a suit. Coming home all sweaty after practice.” She gives me a kiss that she almost gets heated but she pulls away and makes her way into the house leaving Jordan and I to our orange slices. I pick up my son and sit him on my lap. He turns and offers me one. I chew in silence before I kiss the top of his head.

    “This is why I love your mami,” I say to him.

    “I love Mami too,” he says.

    “Yes. Lots and lots.”

    She gets it. She gets me, even when I don’t get myself. Maybe I will get back on the hardwood.

    My phone buzzes on the table indicating that I have a new text message. I smile as I read the words on the screen:

    Time for the next phase. They (You) have waited long enough.

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