The And 1 Born Ready Elite sounded a bit intimidating, so when I saw the opposing team on my son's basketball schedule, I figured we might be in for a show. Like a few other local NBA players, I figured Lance Stephenson was funding an AAU program (George Hill's G3 Rising Stars are lethal) for several age groups.
As it turns out, Lance is funding an AAU team for his brother Lantz, coached by his father Lance, with mom Bernadette working the scoreboard when needed. I'd heard stories about Lance, Sr.'s antics during the developmental years of Born Ready on the AAU circuit, so I was bracing for about anything as I shared the scorer's table with Bernadette.
Fortunately, I can confirm what Mark Montieth reported in his fantastic profile of the Stephenson family for Pacers.com.
They have planted roots, for sure. Dad, for example, is coaching two AAU teams, which Lance finances and Lantz plays for. It's full circle for him, in a way. When Lance was playing on the AAU circuit in New York, for national powerhouses, Dad had a reputation for being an overly-involved parent. He was never a head coach for his son's teams, but was plugged into all that was happening and was criticized in some quarters for it. He says he always supported the coach, although admits he crossed the line one time when he shouted a play call from the stands. But now he's on the other side of the equation.
Now he's a mentor to parents in the role he once filled.
Lance, Sr. was coaching the kids like crazy but there was nothing crazy about the way he was coaching. Lil' Lantz is in second grade and already has size, but he didn't stand out on the court compared to the other players. He had a fabulous, happy-go-lucky demeanor you'd expect from a kid just playing the game for fun.
After a couple of turnovers, Lantz was subbed out, so I thought maybe the sequence of mistakes would bring the ol' Lance, Sr. closer to the surface. Instead, Pops met him with a, "OK, good job, Tookie. You havin' fun?"
Yep, these are good times in the Stephenson family. Mom told me how much they loooove Indiana, and the fact Lil' Lantz can play in such a great league for second grade since Lance had to wait until fourth grade to begin playing games.
When the Pacers are in town and not playing, Lance shows up at the Fieldhouse to support his brother and in the process has developed a huge following among the hundreds of kids and parents that go through the Fieldhouse each weekend. Several parents have made a point to tell me about their encounters with Lance and how much they love him.
"Did you see Lance Stephenson?" I'll be asked. "Oh, he was great! He..." Then I hear about the ball, jersey or shoe or whatever Lance signed and
I can only imagine the value of Lance's autograph in plunging base on how much he signs while in public. As one dad told me last week, Lance probably did $1 million worth of PR with the way he took care of all of the autographs and engaged with the kids.
So, Montieth's piece reads spot-on based on my limited observations and the stuff about Lance, Sr.'s love of Larry Bird is so fun. It also makes it hard to believe the Pacers won't find a way to keep such a good thing going for both the Stephenson's and the Pacers.
- Pacers Links: Pacers return home on a winning note
- Pacers final score: Pacers get back to basics in 104-92 win over Lakers
- Pacers vs. Lakers: Game coverage
- Pacers Links: Pacers prep for Lakers, Paul George talks dunks and more with Jimmy Kimmel
- Paul George appearing on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' so he can meet Guillermo