With the busiest portion of NBA All-Star weekend out of the way, New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis spent his Saturday afternoon relaxing in New York City. With morning media obligations and an afternoon autograph session out of the way, Davis was tucked away inside the Nike Suite at the Sheraton Hotel, finally able to kick back and take in the whirlwind around him
Despite Davis having to sit out the events of the weekend because of a right shoulder sprain, the 21-year-old was excited to be in the city among his NBA peers and share the experience with his friends and family.
From a hoops-obsessed high-schooler to the MVP candidate he is today, Davis isn’t afraid to admit how surreal it is to be one of the marquee names in the league he dreamed about playing in.
“It feels crazy, you know?” Davis said. “Seeing everybody walking around, legends, greats, guys that want to be legends. It’s a cool thing. Especially for me only in my third year, I get to be around this early on in my career. I’m just trying to soak up all of it.”
Chris Bosh, A 10-time All-Star, reflected upon his first experience as an NBA starter and confirmed Davis’ assessment of the weekend.
“It kind of hits you,” Bosh said. “To be a younger player and to have dreams and aspirations and then actually accomplish them, it’s very cool. To be in the midst of everybody who has earned the same right, it’s very cool.”
With promotional events for Nike, multiple autograph signings, morning show interviews, media availability sessions and an afternoon working with children for an NBA Fit appearance, Davis has been on the move plenty during his stay. Many players prefer using All-Star for a rest-and-recharge break, but Davis said there wasn’t any hesitation over whether he would join the rest of his NBA family in New York. He may have underestimated his own popularity, though.
After making plans to get out and explore the city with his loved ones, Davis admitted that he’d been kept busy going through the All-star circuit while his family has been enjoying the sights without him.
“They’ve been doing everything,” Davis said. “I’ve been having appearances and stuff like that, but they’ve been getting to enjoy New York. It’s a great experience. We’re having fun. I’m trying to enjoy the moment.”
Observing Davis patiently answer questions ranging from astute to absurd, it’s easy to forget he is one of the greatest players in the league. His politeness belies his position as one of the NBA’s best. While he is quick to talk about his desire to win and compete, Davis responds to inquiries about his own name in MVP contention like a person who is still trying to wrap his head around the new reality in front of him.
“It feels great,” Davis said. “I’m only in my third year, and being in the category of some of the guys up there, Steph (Curry), James (Harden), LeBron (James), it’s an honor. They definitely are great talents. It’s a blessing to even be mentioned in that category.”
Averaging 24.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.2 blocks per game, Davis’ name being mentioned as an MVP candidate is undeniable. Using ESPN’s Player Efficiency Rating, there isn’t a player in the league who rates higher than Davis’ 31.86 mark.
What sets Davis apart — aside from the jaw-dropping athleticism and never-ending wingspan— from so many other NBA players is his love of controlling the game on the defensive end of the floor. When asked by a reporter what he checks out on the box score first, there was zero hesitation.
“Rebounds,” Davis said. “For me, I don’t worry about scoring. I want to rebound the ball and defend.”
When Davis came into the league as the Pelicans’ first overall pick in 2012, he was known for his ability to challenge shots and defend the rim. Three short years later, his game has evolved quicker than anyone could have imagined. Although Davis acknowledges that he couldn’t have imagined being voted in as an All-Star starter so soon, he is confident about the amount of time he puts into honing his craft. His success isn’t an accident.
“You know, I work on my game every day,” Davis said. “Every summer, I try to bring something new to the game. I’m going to try to add something new next year as well. So whatever that may be, I’m going to try to bring it.”
Davis starred for Team USA over the summer, helping to lead the team to a gold medal during the FIBA World. He credited his time spent with his USA teammates for helping him learn the ropes of being an NBA superstar off the court as well as on.
“I just watch the way they work,” Davis said. “All the stuff they do on a professional level, how they carry themselves, how they react with fans and the media, stuff like that. They do a great job. I try to take pointers from them.”
Davis’ constantly growing game has earned him fans all over the league.
“He’s everywhere,” Bosh said. “He’s able to play within the team. That’s what makes him really good. He’s an excellent pick-and-roll player. Now he can face you up and you can’t really leave him open. He’s hitting jumpers very consistently. His post game is good. He just has a very, very good all around game.”
In addition to trying to take in as much of what the weekend had to offer as possible — Davis said his best All-Star memories as a kid watching from home were always the dunk contests — he was certain to give his appreciation to the fans who had voted him in as a first-time starter one year after he played All-Star host as a Western Conference reserve in 2014.
“It means a lot,” Davis said. “Being selected has been an honor. Not just being selected as an All-Star but being a starter, that means a lot. A lot of fans were voting for me, and I say thank you.”