SATURDAY AND Anthony Edwards’ stomach growls with impatience as a young man steps into his grandmother’s rear jeep with his older brothers and sisters. Mom for Grandma; they’re mirror images, always smiling and having fun. Tied up, they turn on Lockwood Drive and go to their weekly dinner at Golden Corner.
Mommy sings when the R&B comes out of the speakers. Anthony laughs because his grandmother doesn’t know the lyrics of any song from this century, but she still dances with all her heart. The family walks through the buffet doors of the restaurant in their usual size. Anthony, who grows every day, goes straight to his favorites: Steak, chicken, rice and ice.
They then return to their grandmother’s house, which after jumping from one place to another has become a home for the mother and children. It’s a blessing; Grandma knows all too well how to take care of Mom at a time when cancer treatment seems to do more harm than good. Grandma has been fighting the disease for years, she comes and goes for different tests, but her daughter’s ovarian cancer is more aggressive and spreads quickly.
The children retreat into the garden and play basketball, make swings against mosquitoes and slide on a surface that is dirtier than concrete. The members, consisting of a group of mature oaks, hang low above the head, resulting in unfavourable angles of fire. Anthony will never be able to beat his older brothers, but he doesn’t walk in and has a temper, slams the door and screams his head off. The games are getting more and more competitive. He’s getting better. He started working with a local AAU trainer who taught him things he thought were impossible.
One evening he sits in the room he shares with his brothers and sisters and takes out a black Sharpey. Something makes him pee on the walls, something jumps at him:
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Grandma almost goes crazy when she sees what he has done, but her anger is quickly swept away by pride. You set goals for yourself, young man. I hope you make it.
She doesn’t order you to paint over words.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Justin Holland, the coach of, has been working with Edwards since the star in high school. Kevin D. Lyles for ESPN
ANTHONIAN EDWARDS, WHO turned 19 in August, was considered by the NBA as a likely choice for a top three spot, provided someone is seriously considering the next design. The Georgian Guard is a clean shooter and a talented finisher, both plug-and-play in today’s game. The drawings compare him to the young Victor Oladipo or Donovan Mitchell. Kendrick Perkins, former NBA champion and current ESPN analyst, believes Edwards has the athletics of Russell Westbrook and the skills of James Harden.
Despite these noble comparisons, Edwards isn’t sure. In fact, it could be the greatest joker. The lonely season in Georgia is characterised by a lack of consistency in production and effort. No one who’s seen him play doubts his abilities. The question is whether he can put it all together.
The way he came here, so close to realizing his dream, is a story of unimaginable loss. That house on Lockwood Drive isn’t the family center it used to be. Edwards’ mother died when he was 14 and his grandmother died later that year. His older brother Antoine and his sister Antoinette took him into custody, but after that he was never in a stable place and moved from house to house.
Soon he will hear his name, Adam Silver, and begin carrying the burden of franchise hope for the next decade, but on Sunday mid-September, Edwards sits in a study room on the eighth floor of a fantastic high-rise building in Atlanta, 15 minutes northeast of the Auckland community where he grew up, and he seems distracted.
In the next classroom, a group of schoolchildren quietly read school books for classes they cannot attend in person because of the pandemic, which shows no sign of stopping. If Edwards hadn’t been retrained in high school from the class of 2020 to the class of 2019, he would have been there for them in the first year.
Instead, he’s stuck. Covid-19 broke the NBA calendar, and instead of calling in June, Edwards was put in a hamster wheel where every day was the same: Take a train, go home, play Call of Duty, let dogs out, maybe a drunk Lucifer. He hasn’t given many personal interviews after interrupting his work, and during one of them this afternoon he’s cheerful, one second he’s smiling, the next he’s quiet. He opens the door a little and then closes it.
He talks about the loss of his mother and grandmother, but he doesn’t go into detail. Trust, he says, is hard for him. Only two people get mine, but it’s over, Edwards. Nobody understands.
His eyelids are heavy and his thoughts are wandering. He says he stayed at home and went to Georgia, not to a power like the Duke of North Carolina, to be closer to his newborn nephew. But later he said I was ready to leave Atlanta. He says he’s not thinking about being the first player. He’ll be ready when the time comes, but I don’t care.
Honestly, he says I can’t watch basketball.
He tells the story of the first time he dived into the water and how he realized that he had talent and that he could have done something he probably couldn’t have done in football, his first love. So that’s where he went, just by hanging up his boots. That’s all I needed to see, he said.
When did he come to basketball after that?
He says I still don’t like it. I like basketball, yeah. That’s what I do.
He’s not very convincing. He said if he was called to the NFL tomorrow, he’d give up basketball. Because you can do whatever you want in the field, he explains. You can drill the bullet. You can dance. You can do all sorts of disrespectful things. In the NBA, he says we can’t do all that. You’ll be fined.
He keeps saying he’s a rookie in the rap world. He’s already recorded a few songs with his big brother Bubba. So, how’s Damian Lillard? But I can really rap, he says. Ma’am, while we’re on the subject… I don’t know what he’s talking about. I rap like Lil baby. He says he won’t release the numbers until he’s approved by the NBA.
An hour goes by and we split up. He is optimistic about opening a shop, buying a house and bringing two dogs – one of which is called a small ant – to any town, wherever he is. Meanwhile, Edwards takes the elevator to his apartment, where he does what he has been doing for months: waiting.
Justin Holland, who has been Edwards’ coach since the beginning of high school, took part in the interview and rode the elevator with him. They are as close together as anyone else, and in a phone conversation a few days later Holland says he wants to make things clear. He protects Edwards like an older brother or an uncle. He insists that Edwards loves basketball, that he wants to be the best choice, that he takes it all very seriously.
Of course he still has something to grow, the Netherlands says he needs a structure, so he went to Georgia instead of becoming a professional and chasing salaries abroad or in the G-League. But what Holland didn’t understand – what he said he had never heard before our conversation – was how the loss of his mother and grandmother Edwards had changed him and forced him to build something Holland thought was a shell to keep others away from us.
It could be for his own good, who knows? Says Holland. Maybe he can make himself so happy. Once you have suffered an injury and understand how to treat it and how to treat it over a long period of time, it may be best to stay the same.
Later, Bubba said this: Throughout our lives, our mother and grandmother have been the people who have supported and loved us the most. For both of them it was like a punch in the heart. It cools your heart. You no longer have the support you once had. You don’t have the love you once had anymore. So, will I ever find her again?
Fault! The file name is not specified. Edwards started slowly and scored 31 runs in the last 16 minutes after Georgia suffered a small loss to Michigan last November. Marco Garcia/AP Photo
EDWARDS was nicknamed , Antman by his father. But as a child, he heard more about his father than he saw. Old heads all over town have sworn that the original Ant Hill could be the next Michael Jordan. You can ask the people on the street, Edwards. They would have told you: If he held his head to the right…
Edwards was a star in football from an early age. Andrew Banks, a local coach and friend of the family, remembers a 7-year-old boy who once went to Pop Warner and was impressed by his physique: Big calves. Big joints. Thumbs. Big wrists. Edwards was strong and fast – Adrian Peterson’s baby walked easily among his peers. He had nothing to beat three quick touchdowns per game. He was one foot taller and grew every year. When he was seven years old, his shoes were a size seven, says Banks. When he was eight, they were eight. His legs and his age are glued together.
Edwards’ mother, Yvette, and his grandmother, Shirley, will do it at every game. They sat on top of a hill in Moseley Park and wore T-shirts and waved pompoms. The mother’s voice went through the crowd and turned Edwards’ neck in his direction.
She can be hard on him. I don’t know what’s wrong with you, she fell on him while he was fighting, but you better get her up! Then he got angry. Then he pulled himself together and ran into the end zone. The way she talked would make you so angry you’d want to do better, Bubba says. It hurts, but you know it’s for the best.
When things were going well, Mom was the best cheerleader. During the match Edwards blew his pillow. He started a long run on the sideline, and suddenly she too wanted to run and laid a parallel track along the fence that marked the field. She had no choice but to scream, Banks said. She had the best kid.
The banks and almost everyone you ask will tell you that Edwards was number one in the country at the time – if such a rating was possible for 9-year-olds. But the basketball slowly started to pull him back.
One day Edwards decided he didn’t want to play in a local football tournament. Mom said he had to get dressed anyway. And in three games, the defensive back dived at Edwards’ feet and broke his ankle. Since then he quit soccer and missed the basketball season in eighth grade by twisting a leg.
But when his plaster cast was removed, his second leg became so strong that he was able to push it back and jump higher than ever. It’s the first time he’s taken a bath. The feeling of reaching the edge was exciting. It’s like the lights are on and the road is open. A born ant, a basketball star.
He made one of the smoothest tapes in the state and hammered homemade macanas that made the audience scream. It dribbled through the five defenders and the impact of the rocket went through windows that were hardly larger than the porthole.
But as her popularity grew, her mother’s health deteriorated and she was hospitalized. She died in January 2015. Bubba says Edwards’ Pop Warner teammates attended the funeral and were on one side. On the other side, he was stupid, with Edwards’ stone face. Shortly thereafter, Grandma was again diagnosed with cancer and seven months later, Edwards laid her down to calm the sweetest woman he had ever known.
It’s like a fog now. Bubba, who is three years older than Anthony, says he doesn’t remember much of what his brother said afterwards – he learns a lot – but he clearly remembers a conversation. I’m gonna make her proud, Anthony told her.
Fault! The file name is not specified. According to Kendrick Perkins, former NBA champion and current ESPN analyst, Edwards’ ability to earn points is comparable to that of James Harden. Kevin D. Lyles for ESPN.
Later, when Uncle Edwards introduced him to the Netherlands, he was a local coach working with a handful of Division I candidates. Anthony wanted to stop after their first intensive training, but he came back and slowly became addicted to shredding. He went to the Holy Spirit of preparation, where he scored 22.5 points per game and led the team to the national title.
Tai Anderson, who took over as head coach for the upcoming off-season, watched Edwards at a tournament in Virginia and was surprised. It took him every five minutes, he says, to realize that Edwards would not only be the best player he trained with, but that he could be the best player any of his family has ever worked with – and that family includes two cousins who are Power 5 helpers and a grandfather named Lefty Drisell, the family hall that Len Bias helped develop in Maryland.
Anderson thought the day he saw the young Jrue Holiday at Edwards, he remembered the former first-round team and the NBA All-Star. And over time it became an insult, he says it was… Crazy. Edwards is recycled in his last high school season with an average of 25.7 points and 9.6 rebounds.
When Edwards arrived in Georgia, power coach Sean Hayes had already heard stories about the best chances of getting to Athens. When Edwards arrived at the gym, Hayes knew the hype was real. Edwards’ first vertical test was measured at 39.5 inches, making it one of the ten best shots. He’s taken two steps, he’s floating and he remembers Hayes. All his teammates were sedated.
For a month and a half, Edwards was up to 41.5 inches tall. He’s six feet tall and weighs 220 pounds, and at 17 he can jump that high, Hayes says. Imagine where he could go.
Hayes, who has worked in both the NFL and the university, says only two players he has coached are as athletic as Edwards: Midfielder Terrell Owens in the Hall of Fame and future vanguard Jason Peters in the Hall of Fame. Edwards completed a three-hour training session and launched 360 dn.
That’s something I’ll never understand, Hayes. I see him near gardens, windmills and tomahawks. Most people leave the course after intensive training, looking for a small sip of water, and there he laughs and joins in.
But for such a gymnastics crate, his nine months in college were marked by contradictions that became apparent until the state of Michigan’s game in Maui last November. On national television it’s time for Edwards to shine against the top five teams. Coach Tom Creene challenged him on defense and at first Edwards gave him everything he could hope for: He fought, deep down, through screens. But then he started to fall behind in his defense. And then he started jerking off in threes and doing sloppy things. He finished the first half at 1:00:8 with four spins and Georgia was 21 minutes behind.
Minutes in the second period Edwards landed on the ground after the rebound and scored an away game. Then he emptied the controversial triplets. Then he went back to the defense, let her husband get caught in traffic and ran off with the flight. Then he threw a coin at a cutting partner so he could lie down easily. He took a long step back 3 of the pickup and actually managed the cooking by hitting the heat control chutes. Edwards lost 31 points in the last 16 minutes, while Georgia narrowed the gap to two points and lost 83-75.
Then there were nights when Edwards scored in the mid-twenties and nights when he disappeared and returned in numbers. In a friendly match against Missouri he bet that he couldn’t make a double-double and in the end he got 23 points and 10 plates. He caught 43 rebounds in a segment of 4 games. But then, over the next four games, he scored 17 rebounds.
He is the best ahead in design and because of his versatility and ability, he can become a direct producer in the NBA, said a scout. While defending himself, he had the resources and physical profile to be effective, but he was undisciplined and missed missions. Edwards showed a lack of commitment on that side of the room.
Edwards thinks the answer to that question is simple: a trick. He’s pointing to a game in Michigan State. If I put the two halves together, I’m different, he says. When I get this, it’s over. And what’s stopping him? Nothing, he says. I’m just not ready. In the NBA he promises to change that.
Christian distracted some of these criticisms by referring to Edwards’ youth in the reclassification and said he was still one of the best teammates he ever trained. Christian says that Edwards is sparkling and contagious, that he has an aura that attracts people, that he is sensitive but not superficial.
The day before his official visit Edwards called the staff assistant and asked if he could take one of his classmates with him. The assistant rolled his eyes and thought Edwards was trying to give a friend a good time. But Edwards explained it: It was Christmas break, and this guy’s from Eastern Europe, he has nowhere else to go, and I don’t want him to be alone.
In that sense Edwards looks very much like Dwyane Wade and Oladipo, says Christian, and calls him an old soul in terms of behavior and ability. Christian believes that if he wants, Edwards can become the youngest player he’s ever coached to compete in the NBA Championship.
I think there is no doubt that being part of a team fighting for the championship and being part of it can be an eternal star [and] in the right environment, says Christian. I don’t think there’s a limit, really. But I think that because of his age, because he came a year earlier and all those different things, the coming years will definitely be [important].
Wherever Edwards is deployed, it’s important, Christian says, because he needs support – he needs practical advice and long-term leadership. And frankly, that frightens me, Christian. I’m afraid you’re going to have to invest time for this, in real time.
The Netherlands is doing its best to prepare Edwards for a different design than the previous one, which was thrown away twice when the pandemic raged and the monotony of a closed summer took hold. They tried to keep them fresh with another coach. Piston guard Jordan McRae has joined their formation. They’ve added a body care specialist.
After practice they played table tennis to do something else. At first, Edwards was terrible. He’s gonna lose to everyone in this building. But the perfectionist took over, and after about a week or so, he hit the nose and the back and brought some serious English to the stage. It turned out that Edwards, just as he studied the crossover of Kiri Irving or the one-way street of James Harden, was chasing ping-pong shots on YouTube.
So Edwards plays basketball, says Holland, in small rows. When Edwards said he wasn’t a basketball fan, the Netherlands said he wasn’t a fan of watching the games he played. But make no mistake, Holland says he’s a sports student and he watches videos of the Bradley Beale retreat on his iPhone.
Edwards is a tough guy, isn’t he? I’m asking you.
Holland is laughing.
That’s right, he says.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Edwards realized his dream to become an American McDonalds in his home state Georgia in 2019. Scott Cunningham/Getty Pictures
Two weeks after our first interview in Edwards’ mood has changed. He doesn’t want to give up the project and admits he wants to come here. The Lakers led 2-0 by hitting the NBA final the night before, and he hopes for a miracle: a sweep that will drive the league higher up in the sketch, which Edwards will love.
I pray he talks about an opportunity. I’m excited. I’m just ready, for my family to be happy, and wherever I end up, I’m just ready to use my work.
His enthusiasm for the game was not the last time we spoke. He describes how he studied Chris Paul and how he can learn how to shoot through a defender of any size. He says he can learn from the big leagues how to create space with color.
Basketball is my life, he explains. I like it, and that’s what I do. Basketball is my heart, but football is my starting point, so I’ll never forget it. But don’t get me wrong, basketball is my number one sport, because I think it’s going to help me get through a lot of things I have to go through.
And that’s what I do. It’s a job. I feel like I’m working right now. I like her.
We talk about his basketball experiences and he tells me something I’ve never heard before: He said he had another sister, Ariel, who died before he was born. And like Mom and Grandma, Edwards said he’d play for them on their birthday.
But he doesn’t want mercy, and you won’t find him feeling sorry for you. Since the death of his mother and grandmother, he has done nothing but make them proud. That’s always been his goal.
Basketball is my main interest, he says. I just need it in my life.
He remembers his grandmother when he was 11 or 12. She was sick and had something to eat. She once told him you had to take care of your family.
He was surprised. At that time it was clear that Edwards was very talented, but he did not understand what that could mean for the rest of his family.
No, Grandma, he says. We all care about each other.
They always have. He couldn’t have imagined it any other way.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Basketball is my priority, says Edwards. I just need it in my life. Kevin D. Lyles for ESPN.
Man has now grown up just before the realization of a dream that started in a dusty garden where he was not so long. His future lies before him, a horizon that promises glory and fortune. He hopes to buy this house on Lockwood Drive to protect him and all the memories he keeps.
But as long as he’s high. He doesn’t have to share a room with anyone. The walls are clean. There’s a janitor he can call 24 hours a day if he can think of only one reason. He walks the streets of Atlanta alone at night and talks on the radio. If he listens well enough, he can still hear his mother sing when the old love song starts.
It’s quiet. He opens his phone and searches. He has done it so many times that he knows exactly where to look on YouTube for videos that are now 9 and 10 years old. He wears purple and gold – his Pop Warner T-shirt.
It’s nice to remember what sport he first fell in love with. Then no one could have touched him. But it’s better to see the faces in the crowd.
He stops a video right after one of his touchdowns. Grandma sits on the platform and smiles, just like everyone else.
He’ll freeze another video for about a minute. And there’s his mother, as always, right next to him. She’s standing right behind the fence, clapping and screaming, which he can’t see.
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