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Beloved NBA baller Baron Davis talks about ‘Insecure,’ hanging with Paul Pierce and his Black Wall Street dreams

And what would it have been like if Davis had gone to an HBCU over UCLA?

Baron Davis has a new side hustle. The former NBA player turned documentarian is working with his childhood friend and fellow retired NBA star Paul Pierce. The two multiple All-Star selections are promoting Bengay’s Sore Winners Campaign, which celebrates people who strive to do their best in a game, at the gym, at work and with their families. Davis calls it “progress through pain.”

As a part of the campaign, Davis and Pierce surprised two basketball teams in a recreational league — by coaching them. The game took place earlier this year at Morehouse College in Atlanta, and Pierce’s team won. The longtime leader of the Boston Celtics, who became an NBA champion in 2008, spoke with William C. Rhoden and on the Rhoden Fellows podcast to discuss what life after the NBA has been like since he retired in 2017. The Undefeated’s Eryn Mathewson caught up with Davis to talk about everything from how he’s quietly been auditioning for a major HBO show to what motivates him in his post-NBA life.

What shows are you currently watching?

I watch a lot of Desus & Mero. … I watch a lot of TV and go to the movies all the time. I just started watching Dear White People, and I’m going to binge-watch it. I love the writing.

Are you more of a sitcom or drama guy?

I’m into a little bit of everything. Mockumentary, to sketch, to kind of dark comedies. I’ve been watching this show Barry that’s kind of funny. And I watch like crazy documentaries, like Wild Wild Country and Evil Genius … [also] Game of Thrones is a part of my life. Power is great. Black-ish is good. Insecure — I’m trying to be on that show. I’ve been auditioning since it started.

How do you like spending time on the other side of the camera, directing?

I love it. I have an opportunity to … look at these new stars and do some of the things that I always wanted to do from a creative standpoint. I want to be different and stand out and more so give them the kind of look and the voice that they want.

Insecure — I’m trying to be on that show. I’ve been auditioning since it started.”

Is it fair to say social justice is the common thread in all of your work?

I would say so. From Crips and Bloods: Made in America to the character of Black Santa, it has a lot of social justice to it. But it’s about social celebration more than anything and being socially responsible for the stories we tell and the seeds that we plant. My underlying theme is connecting us to who we are from a positive standpoint or trying to solve problems we deem as unsolvable.

What music did you listen to when you were playing professionally?

I listened to a lot of West Coast music: Snoop, Dre, Tupac. Also Biggie, Jay-Z, Cash Money, Master P, UGK. I always tried to represent everybody and everybody’s city because that was our only way of really finding out what Chicago looked like … through the eyes of Kanye. The Bay through E-40. Jadakiss is one my favorite rappers of all time. A lot of my money as a rookie and my first few years in the league was spent on music.

What’s in your rotation now?

My taste in music now is still very West Coast-focused. Kendrick, Schoolboy … Ty Dolla, YG, Jay Rock. But I do like the whole wave from Atlanta, from Gucci Mane to Migos … to Trouble. And even some of these newer cats like … Dave East, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie. Moneybagg Yo, Lil Baby — they’re expressing themselves however they want in their own music form. It’s like basketball. I love the young talent in the NBA.

What was your favorite postgame meal as a player?

I would probably eat some fruit, maybe some chicken wings. Maybe I’d have a shake. I drink a lot of water. Sometimes I wouldn’t even eat postgame. I’d be too jacked up … too excited.

What made you join the Sore Winners campaign?

The Sore Winners campaign is kind of like a story of my life — it represents progress through pain. When I was a kid I had bad hamstrings, and I grew 4 or 5 inches over a summer, so Bengay was kind of like a tool and a weapon. So when the campaign came about, it was like, what better brand that brings back that nostalgia? You know, like the pain and the progress and the storytelling and all the things that I want to do. And I think the campaign is not just performance but also just a thing of life, right? Being a sore winner is being able to fight through the toughest of times, and even as an athlete or a weekend warrior, it’s being able to push through. With Bengay, being able to have that relief, I think it’s a dope campaign and really clever — something that I wanted to be a part of.

“A lot of my money as a rookie and my first few years in the league was spent on music.”

What’s been the best part?

I think the best part is, you know, hanging with Paul. [Coaching] … was probably the coolest aspect. These guys, just to see the look on their face when you walk in the room, you know, was just like a joy. It became like real and fun at the same time for me and Paul, and I think for also the players participating.

The game took place at Morehouse. How’d you like it there, and have you ever been to homecoming?

I wish! I’d go this year, if somebody would take me. Being at Morehouse was great. I mean, you know, Morehouse is historical. Being there, for me, just brought a lot of good memories of when I was going, visiting friends and things like that.

You’ve been to Howard’s homecoming though, right?

I have been to nothing. No historical black college anything yet. When I do get a chance to go, it’s gonna be like a kid in a candy store. I went to UCLA. If I didn’t get into that program, I probably would’ve gone to an HBCU [historically black college or university].

If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?

I’d stop time and time travel so I’d be able to figure some things out, stop some madness, stop a situation from happening, to understand. I‘d go back to the time of Black Wall Street … to live that … and be able to understand what that was and put it into context so I’d be able to better tell that story now.

Eryn Mathewson is the editorial coordinator for the Rhoden Fellows program. She enjoys coaching young journalists, writing and producing podcasts. When she's not working, she's probably running or watching "bad" TV.