27 Nov “I Owe My Success to Them” – Baron Davis
Two-time NBA All-Star player and South L.A. native Baron Davis recently shared his story with The Movement about being raised by his grandparents.
How did you come to live with your grandparents?
I was 5 and my sister was 4 when my grandparents took us in. It was just an unstable situation where my mom couldn’t take care of us. We were on the verge of going into foster care, but my granny and granddad weren’t going to let that happen.
How old were they when you started living with them and what were their circumstances?
My grandparents were in their late 50s and early 60s. As far as circumstances, I was young so I couldn’t really give you the specifics. But you know it’s South Central, so it wasn’t glamorous or anything. … My sister and I weren’t the only kids they took care of. In a small house right off of San Pedro, my granny and granddad probably raised about 20 other kids in our same or similar situation over the years.
What would have happened to you and your sister had they said no?
I really don’t know what would have happened to my sister and I before my grandparents took us in. … I can tell you this much: Foster care wasn’t that far away.
How would your life have turned out differently if your grandparents hadn’t raised you?
My life would be very different. I probably would have found myself like many of my peers getting into different negative situations because there wasn’t anyone to pull them in and give guidance when they hit those crucial forks in the road. Forget the success, I wouldn’t be the person I am today if my grandparents didn’t step up to raise me. My grandparents provided me with stability and structure when so many people growing up in my neighborhood didn’t have it.
What was it like to be raised by your grandparents?
It was a blessing to be raised by them. They were my family and the heads of the family, so we were always surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins and just never alone. At the same time, they were my grandparents so you know they were old school — lots of discipline, chores and real family values. But as I got older the best thing was that they were more like my best friends. My grandfather was the one who I learned to love sports from — Dodgers, Notre Dame football, most importantly basketball. He built me a hoop in the backyard and that’s all she wrote. Nothing fancy, just a rim and a backboard, patches of grass and a little slab of cracked concrete. Once my chores and work were done, you couldn’t get me off there.
What role did they play in your success?
I owe my success to them. My success is a direct representation of the values, discipline and guidance they gave me. When I was young all I wanted to do was play basketball all day, all night. But they used my love for it to teach me discipline in school. Bad grades, no ball and that’s the way it went. When I wanted to transfer to a better basketball school it was my granny who wouldn’t let me, because education trumps everything. … The success that my granny always valued most for me wasn’t about basketball or money but the success of just being a good person, doing the right thing and being a gentleman.
What would you say are the benefits of keeping children with their families?
… No one is going to be more vested in the success and future of a child than their own relatives. You also have the benefits of the extended support. You can lean on other relatives or the family’s connections to the community. But I really think one of the benefits of relative care over foster care is the familiarity for the child. The houses, people, neighborhoods and traditions are all going to be relatively familiar to the child. … My grandparents … didn’t need someone to tell them who I was or what I had been through. They already knew me, so there wasn’t any wasted time.
Relative caregivers don’t see themselves as heroes. What do you think? What would you say to a relative caregiver raising a child?
I think that mindset is just what sets them apart and makes them superheroes. They are doing what needs to be done out of love, not because there is something in it for them. Personally, being taken in by my grandparents saved my life, and I truly believe I wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t stepped up and made the decision to do so. To other people that … have the opportunity to provide relative care, do it; it’s truly a life saver.