“Playing basketball to me is my life.”
Tyreke Evans can’t walk down the street without pretending to dribble against an imaginary defender. He can’t even look at a ball without feeling the urge to hit the gym. He’s been doing this since childhood, since he was traveling around Chester and Philadelphia watching his older brothers play, dreaming of the day they’d finally relent and let him into the game.
That’s where he developed his killer instinct, the thing that gets him going for opponents’ necks on the court. Even if he only has eight points, Evans says, he’s going to make sure you know he’s there.
And for all of the accolades he receives on the court–Conference USA Freshman of the Year in 2009, a Rookie of the Year award in the NBA one year later–the 6-6 Evans can be just as competitive off of it. When it comes to style, the 26-year-old is creative and willing to try just about anything. The kick game is on point, too, ranging from Air Jordan retros to Nike Sportswear joints to high-end fashion from designer brands like Balenciaga and Louboutin.
With the start of the NBA season going down and with the looming release of multiple Nike sneaker colorways for LeBron, Kobe, and Kevin Durant, we traveled to New Orleans to catch up with Evans in Episode 9 of The Drop video series. It made perfect sense. Tyreke Evans is not only one of the best players on a rising Western Conference superpower, he’s also a cat with a defined personal swagger. We let him explain.
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“It’s just one of the sports I grew up playing. My four brothers, they were always playing sports. I had a football in my hands first and my mom didn’t want me to play. I just started playing basketball ever since I was six and never stopped playing.
“Football was one of my favorites. I wanted to be a quarterback. But once I picked up a basketball, it wasn’t boring to me. I had fun playing the game, whether with my friends outside or playing in the League. That was the biggest thing for me. I had fun with it. Nobody made me play.
“My brothers always played and I always watched them play. When they used to go to the gym at Swarthmore College and play 5-on-5, I would be over there shooting by myself. I wanted to play with them but they always said I was too little. It wasn’t long before I started playing with them, maybe when I was like 13. That’s when they knew I could really play the game of basketball.
“I got my first basketball court on Easter. They had to take it down for me to stop shooting because it was raining out and I wouldn’t go in the house. I’d watch NBA TV, go outside, and practice the moves on my court. I always had a ball in my hands. When I didn’t have a court, I’d shoot on a telephone poll. Anything.
“I loved the game so much, it just went by so fast watching those guys in high school and coming up to college. And now I’m playing against them. Playing against Iverson, I grew up watching him a lot because I was in that area. Turning to channel 35 and watching Comcast and he was destroying cats at barely even 6-0. Then you got Ray Allen, Tracy McGrady, who is my favorite player. To actually see him in the league, you really made it because those guys were great at what they did and I looked up to those guys. Kobe, and now just playing against the Lakers…my first year I was so pumped for that game in Sacramento. My heart was pounding hard, but it was a happy part of me. I wanted to go out there and show them I’m just as good as those guys. That’s how I felt. I didn’t back down from the challenge.”
On summer workouts:
“It’ll be three o’clock in the morning and they got tapes there so the coaching staff will say, ‘You were in there late.’ They call me the owl because I’m up late and I can go to the gym anytime, especially in the summer. When I go to the gym at 4 in the morning, I’ll be on Snapchat and people will be saying, ‘Why are you up?’ That’s when I like to go to the gym the most. When people sleep, I’m working. It’s always been like that. I’ll go to the gym late at night and people will be like ‘Why are you at the gym? It’s Friday night. Why you not out?’ That’s just what I chose to do. It’s what I like to do. That’s something I always wanted to do and I’ve been doing it. I’m used to it.”
On New Orleans:
“I definitely like this city. It’s different. I traveled a lot and this is the first time I’ve been here since I’ve been with the team. I’ve been to a lot of cities but this one is just different and unique. A lot of people come out here, tourists, go to French Quarter, eat, party. You got a little bit of everything. The thing that catches me and that’s amazing is the food. I can go to a lot of spots that I haven’t been to where people will tell me the food is great. I tell myself, ‘Man, I gotta slow down and stay right for the season.’” (Laughs)
“I’m just like me personally, just laid back, but I’m going to put together something nice. I’m not a color guy. I don’t like the bright colors looking like a Skittle. I keep it nice and simply, but nice. Red is my favorite color so I always try to find something with red in it, red and black. I have a guy who I work with in Vegas who sends me a bunch of stuff, different name brand stuff. Sometimes he puts it together and sometimes he don’t. I always have a lot of stuff that I like to switch up and make successful. It’s simple but when I put it on it looks nice.
“Fashion to me means a lot. It’s your swag. It sets the tone. A lot of people say that fashion is just for show. For me, I think it says who you are.”
On his sneakers:
“It’s a dream come true. Growing up, I wore Jordans a lot. Every new pair of Jordans, just like every kid, you wanted to have them, and Nike made them. When I got that opportunity to be a part of it with Nike, I definitely was up to take that just because growing up everybody had Nikes. Jordan was the main shoe. When they told me they wanted to make a shoe with me, just having that shoe during the season customized with my name on there just goes to show me all the hard work that I put in. I could easily be out doing something else but I’m living my dream.”
On off-court work with VSP:
“It’s big. A lot of people don’t think about that but a lot of people need glasses that don’t even know. When I started with VSP in Sacramento, we came together to figure out how can we help people get eye exams. They wanted to go to a basketball player and they chose me. Since we started it’s been great. We started in Sacramento. It went well. Kids would come get free eye exams. I would always talk to the kids and interact with them. VSP would sit down and talk about how could we make this a big step or the next step? Any ideas that you have? I always wanted to do something for my hometown, whether it was a camp or give back. I said take VSP to my hometown and that’s what we did.
“It’s important [to give back]. It’s a tough city. A lot of people don’t even know where Chester’s at when I say I’m from Chester. It’s right by Philly. It’s just tough growing up and knowing where I’m from and knowing what it was about. A lot of people didn’t make it out of there, had a lot of talent, but I was blessed to have my brothers to give me that rope and guide me out. But there are only two people that made it out and that’s me and Jameer [Nelson]. We don’t see too many NBA players that made it from where we’re from but there’s a lot of talent. I always wanted to bring that back to my hometown to let the kids know to never give up. Working with VSP I had the chance to do that and had a camp back at home. I’m going to try to keep doing it every year and hopefully it gets bigger and bigger.”
On daughter and his family:
“She’s just young right now. She doesn’t really understand. She does know that when she comes to the games, she gets more excited to watch them. Before it was just like ‘Where am I at?’ But now she’s starting to cheer and watching it. That definitely changes a lot about me playing basketball, working extra hard. After basketball when I have a family, I can sit back and enjoy my life and my kids.
“Fatherhood is tough. It ain’t easy. (Laughs) Just me being 26 and going to the games, working out, then still finding time to spend time with the family, it’s tough. But at the end of the day, it’s a job and I have to be successful at what I do and be successful as a parent. I just make it work the best way that I can.
“Having a daughter to me is a blessing. I never thought I would have a daughter at this age, but I wouldn’t take it back for nothing. My mom raising five boys and me having a girl, it shows a lot about how strong my mom is to raise five boys. She did a good job. And now, I got a daughter who’s strong and I love her to death. She means the world to me.”