Wilson Chandler grew up in Benton Harbor, Michigan, which is a two-hour drive from Chicago. When he was around two years old, he was taken in by his grandparents, and he has credited his grandmother, Olivia, for raising him.
Chandler earned a scholarship to play at DePaul University in Chicago. Over two years, he racked up an impressive 86 blocks. Then the New York Knicks selected him with the 23rd pick in the 2007 draft. During the ’10–11 season, Chandler was traded to the Denver Nuggets.
He also played on the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions because of an NBA lockout in 2011–12. Chandler, who returned to the Nuggets in the spring of ’12, went down last November with a hip injury and missed the ’15–16 season. I recently caught up with Chandler, who this summer has gone back to his hometown to volunteer with the Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor.
Tell me about your involvement with the Boys & Girls Club in your hometown.
They started this program called Night Court to keep kids off of the streets, so I went home to be a part of it. Night Court is very important, especially in a town like Benton Harbor, where there is not much to do. The Boys & Girls Club is a good place for kids to learn and a good place to have fun. My favorite part is seeing the reaction from the kids. The Nuggets help me by sending me basketballs, but I put most of it together.
What does it mean to give back to your hometown?
It means a lot because it is rare for a pro athlete to come out to Benton Harbor to play sports with kids. Also it’s good to go back to my hometown and be a good role model.
I know your grandmother has been an important part of your life. Can you tell me about your relationship?
My grandma means everything to me because she took me in, raised me, and is just the best. My favorite things to do with her are watching movies and watching basketball because she is a big basketball fan. I actually got into basketball because of her.
What was your first basketball memory?
I used to use a clothes hanger and bend it up into the shape of a hoop and stick it into a door. Then I would ball up socks for the basketball.
What was your favorite NBA team to watch when you were a kid?
I loved to watch the Lakers because I was a big Kobe [Bryant] fan.
What was it like playing in China?
China was a great experience. The coaches were great, and I had a teammate that was my favorite person to talk to.
What have you been doing to prepare to come back from injury, and what has been the hardest part?
I am working out everyday, making sure I am eating the right things and getting cardio and sleep. The hardest part was being out the whole year and now trying to get my rhythm back.
What is one thing you want SI KIDS readers to know?
I love candy, and my favorite type of candy is probably Reese’s. I also love to play Call of Duty.
Photographs by Roc Nation Sports (2)