What's not to like about Mavs' Haywood
There's no doubt that Dallas Mavericks fans are enjoying the arrival of Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson. Since the trade with the Washington Wizards at the All-Star break, all three contributed to a 13-game win streak that propelled the Mavs into a fight for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
Five free throws: Brendan Haywood
1. Are you a fan of any other sport?
"I'm a huge football fan." That includes college and pro. He's a huge fan of the Miami Hurricanes. He almost played basketball at Miami because he loved their football program so much. As for the NFL, he's a Colts fan.
2. What's your pregame ritual?
"A lot of people have their different superstitions. I'll eat whatever I feel like eating that day. I might take a nap. I might not. It just depends on what's going on. I might catch a good episode of 'Law & Order.' I don't have anything I feel like I have to do every day. I don't believe in superstitions."
3. Did you play a musical instrument?
He played alto and baritone saxophone from 7th through 9th grade. "I could play songs and read sheet music. But I can't remember any of that stuff now." Any chance he'll play a duet with Mavs coach Rick Carlisle accompanying him on the piano? "Uh, no."
4. What did you call your mom, Barbara?
Great name, right? So many variations: Babs, Barb, Bar-Bar, Bab-O. I thought maybe one of those nicknames had crept in there at some point. Nope. "I just call her mom. I don't think she'd take too kindly to Babs."
5. Can I give you a new nickname?
His previous nicknames include: B-Hay, Big Wood and Wood. The most popular, and the one most of his friends use, is B-Wood. After a good 12 minutes of thought (while I was waiting on towels to dry), a flash of brilliance: What about Hay-fever?! I've got it. You've got it. We've all got Hay-fever! Except Haywood: "No." How about if we let it simmer and check on it in a couple of days? "Okay, we'll let it simmer."
As I prepared for our interview, I searched the internet for some personal information, but there's not much to be found. He's never been in legal trouble -- he's apparently never brought a gun to a card game in the Wizards' locker room -- and he's never been married, nor does he have any little Haywoods running around.
Throughout our interview, he seemed perplexed that anyone would want to know anything personal about him. When I asked if he'd ever dated anyone famous, his response was, "Even if I had, I wouldn't put that out there. Who would want that out there?" Oh, I don't know ... about the half the NBA doesn't seem to mind having that out there. So I got the impression that Haywood was somewhat private which is an automatic invitation to pry.
We all have our favorite things from childhood that we carried with us into adulthood. Some of us still drink Kool-Aid, love push-up popsicles, will watch Scooby-Doo if we can find it, or secretly hope tube-socks make a comeback.
Haywood was forever playing video games when he was a little kid. His favorites: "Early, early Nintendo with Tecmo Bowl. And then when I got the Sega Genesis, it was John Madden Football. I'm still a big John Madden fan to this day."
He and his close friends spent hours playing. He admits, to this day, when Madden is released, he and his friends buy it the first day it's available and compete all year long.
I asked him about his favorite Halloween costume. I could easily picture him dressing up as a skyscraper, the Incredible Hulk or the Central Time Zone. But he never celebrated Halloween. His mom, Barbara, was very religious and she felt it was a pagan holiday, so he was never allowed to go out trick-or-treating. But he didn't completely miss out on the sugar highs and the possibility of a cavity. "I did have one friend who would give me a little bit of his candy because he knew I didn't get to go out."
And how about growing up? I mean literally growing up, up and up. Can you imagine Miss Barbara trying to keep him in clothes and shoes? His biggest growth spurt came during the 9th grade. "I believe I was 6-4 and by the time I was measured for 10th grade, I was 6-8."
And how about those cruise ships he calls feet? His size-17 feet stopped growing by his senior year in high school. To her credit, his mom never yelled at him or pleaded with him to stop growing.
Haywood spent all four years at the University of North Carolina. He says he loved it. "I just enjoyed the school, the fans, made a lot of good friends who are still friends to this day, so I enjoyed everything there."
He graduated with a degree in Interpersonal Communications, which includes classes on rhetoric, debate, public speaking, mass media, etc. His favorite classes were speech and debate class because "I'm an arguer. I love sports debates and political debates, what's the best music. I love to debate that."
Haywood has made sure his career will continue once his time in the NBA comes to an end. "When I'm 40, I think I will be doing something along the lines of broadcasting -- that has to do with basketball, be it college or pro." And this isn't just a hopeful wish.
When he was with the Wizards, he worked the broadcasts for the WNBA's Washington Mystics. When he was injured last season, he was an in-studio co-host for the Wizards' games. This past summer, he had one of the most popular blogs on yardbarker.com, a site that hosts blogs by fans and celebrity athletes. He's also done a radio show.
"I think I've covered all facets of the media game because I wanted to make sure I had everything covered so I knew what I wanted to do," Haywood said. "I like the broadcast work I did for the Mystics because it was live work and I got a lot of adrenaline out of that. I actually liked the radio show because you get to talk about whatever; be it basketball related, or something going on in the world. I like that because a good radio show is very entertaining."
And who doesn't like going to work in jeans and a ponytail? Or, uh, sweats and a headband? "I could go in with a bathrobe if I wanted," Haywood said.
Now that's my kind of thinking. (Note to staff at 103.3 FM ESPN: Please shield your eyes on Friday ... I'll be sporting a new "look.")
Mavs fans, if you're looking to add a new favorite player to your list, be sure and include Haywood. He's your all-around good guy. He's extremely nice, easy to talk to, intelligent, thoughtful, outgoing and hard working. On the court, he's brought a little something-something that could keep the Mavs around until early summer.
Kelly Webster is an on-air personality for ESPN 103.3 FM and will continue Living The Dream for ESPNDallas.com.