It's the calm before the storm. Early Saturday afternoon in his room at the Hilton Americas-Houston, New Orleans forward-center Anthony Davis is enjoying a rare piece of private time in anticipation of a whirlwind day of NBA All-Star Weekend appearances and obligations.
Along with his father Anthony Sr., mother Erainer, older sister Iesha and twin sister Antoinette (Anthony is older by one minute and taller by at least a foot), the NCAA champion is simply lounging, taking in a brand new experience with the people who've been with him from the beginning. The people who make a point of attending Davis's milestone events. The people who are incredibly proud of this tremendous athlete's achievements.
Davis has already finished competing for the weekend. Friday night, as part of the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, the rookie chipped in his two cents to help fuel “Team Chuck” to victory.
He created the squad's first bucket by lobbing an alley-oop pass to San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, and followed that dime with a three-pointer on the next possession. Ultimately, the show was stolen by Denver Nuggets forward (and game MVP) Kenneth Faried and Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star Kyrie Irving, but Davis's line (11 points, nine rebounds, one assist with two blocks) represents a credible showing.
The hotel room conversation shifts to dunks. Everyone expresses admiration for Usain Bolt's jam during the Celebrity All-Star Game, but also acknowledges the truth: “The Fastest Man Alive” traveled. Davis thinks the night's slam dunk contest is “gonna be crazy.” Anthony Sr. thinks Faried will add a second trophy to his collection for the weekend, but Davis's money is on Toronto Raptors guard Terrence Ross.
“Faried dunks so hard,” gushes Anthony Sr.
“T. Ross, he's like skilled with it,” insists Davis.
As it turned out, father doesn't always know best. Ross took home the hardware.
This is as tranquil and private a time as Anthony and his family will have before venturing into a public hopped up for glimpses of an NBA player. In the case of Davis, they'd be witnessing a potential superstar whom a franchise has banked on to become a cornerstone. Even as a rookie with much to prove and -- relative to, say, LeBron James -- little time in the public eye, the kid is plenty capable of creating a scene.
You can see why a police officer has been stationed by Davis. Granted, he's also taking pictures of the Hornet, but you get the sense that were matters to spill out of control, the officer would put down his iPhone and handle the situation.
After an appearance for Kia, we take a quick detour to grab some to-go Chick-Fil-A. During this pitstop, there's a brief moment where Davis actually blends in like any anonymous 19-year-old -- an anonymous 19-year-old who happens to be 6-foot-10 with a Plastic Man wing span and a small camera crew following him on the sly, but an anonymous 19-year old nonetheless. With his gray Louis Vuitton sunglasses obscuring the most famous unibrow since Frida Kahlo, nobody seems to realize the number one overall pick of the 2012 draft is waiting in line for a chicken sandwich.
Then a group mind forms in the food court, with everyone sharing the same wavelength.
A guy standing off to the side with his girlfriend whispers, “He's a basketball player.”
The couple moves a few places behind Davis in line, seemingly more concerned with texting friends than whatever grub they may or may not even order once Davis leaves.
In the next line over, a woman snaps a shot of Davis at the register with her cellphone, then posts it to Instagram. She's one of about 15 rogue photographers stationed near the fast-food outlet, documenting their moment in the kid's presence.
This is as orderly as Davis sightings get. From here on out, he's recognized faster than Derrick Rose going baseline to baseline. He lures cellphone cameras from pockets like the Pied Piper attracts mice, and leaves a frenzy in his wake.
An autograph signing for Foot Locker requires a security escort and a trip through a series of cement corridors inside the Houston Galleria Mall.
We're led to a chain link fence enclosure, complete with a DJ spinning hip-hop, a regulation goal, and a table set up for Anthony to decorate photos and basketballs with his name.
That there'd be a line winding around the cage is a given. But the crowd of lookie-loos gathered on the second floor balcony cranks up the atmosphere to another level, as if Davis were a rock star performing a concert. You can see why a police officer has been stationed by Davis. Granted, he's also taking pictures of the Hornet, but you get the sense that were matters to spill out of control, the officer would put down his iPhone and handle the situation.
It's understandable why, in his everyday life, if Davis wants an item from a mall, Erainer would prefer he send her on the errand, rather than go shopping in person. Her approach is just more practical. And with this tight-knit family, what else is a mother for?