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Donovan W. Carter of HBO’s ‘Ballers’: ‘LeBron will bring a title back to L.A. … I guarantee it.’

The former UCLA lineman on his character Vernon Littlefield — and why he’s rocking Off-Whites over Yeezys

“I have now come full-circle.” These are a few words from the bio on Donovan W. Carter’s personal website — and they couldn’t be a more perfect summation of his journey. After moving to Los Angeles when he was 8, Carter began playing organized football at age 9. Eventually, he grew into a star player at Birmingham High School in Lake Balboa, California. Ranked by Scout.com as the No. 1 strongside linebacker on the West Coast, Carter received a full football scholarship to UCLA, where he appeared in 42 games for the Bruins over the course of five seasons in Westwood. But in 2013, Carter went undrafted by all 32 NFL teams, forcing him off onto a bit of a life detour.

The 6-foot-1, 300-plus-pound Carter began acting, and a collection of commercial appearances led to a role on HBO’s Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson-led series Ballers. The comedy/drama is fictional but based on real life, thanks in large part to former Super Bowl champion running back Rashard Mendenhall, who serves as a writer and executive on the show.

On Ballers, which recently got renewed by HBO for a fifth season, Carter portrays Vernon Littlefield, the gentle giant lineman of the Dallas Cowboys whose edgy best friend, Reggie, stirs up most of the star player’s decisions — for better and for worse. So Carter’s life did come full circle. Because on the silver screen, he made it to the NFL.

At the launch party for NBA 2K19, The Undefeated chopped it up with Carter about Vernon, his favorite video games of all time, his expectations for LeBron James in his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, and more.

What do you miss most about playing football?

I miss the camaraderie. Just getting together with your teammates … getting together and having fun. That brotherhood.

What’s the biggest similarity between you and Vernon Littlefield, your character on Ballers?

We’re both young, both successful in business. But we’re figuring out things, because we’re both new to what we’re doing. Making a little bit of money while learning how to save.

Q: Fave sneakers? A: It was Yeezys, but Yeezy been whylin’ so I had to switch.

What’s the biggest difference?

I would make better decisions than him. He’s always got his best friend with him. And I don’t mind asking people for help or their opinion, but I think I don’t think I’d make some of the same choices he does.

Do you think everybody has a person like Reggie, London Brown’s character, in life?

Absolutely … and if ain’t your friend, it’s your parents, your girl, something.

What’s your favorite sneaker that’s come out this year?

I gotta say Off-Whites. Virgil Abloh is doing a good job with the collab. It’s just different. It was Yeezys, but Yeezy been whylin’ so I had to switch.

You’re not wearing Yeezys anymore?

I still got them, because I done spent so much money on them, but I’m doing my best not to buy no new ones.

What’s your favorite video game of all time?

When I first got my PlayStation, I got Gran Turismo … of course Mortal Kombat … but I gotta say Crash Bandicoot.

What do you like about NBA 2K?

I like basketball. I couldn’t play, so it was my dream to dunk and do all that stuff. It’s fun. I played a lot when I was in college. You always could find a 2K game with all my teammates. It’s competitive, it’s fun, it’s fast-paced …

So your football teammates were playing 2K?

Football players, you get tired of football, so it’s like, ‘Let’s play something else.’ Because we see football all day, every day.

Who’s your GOAT in basketball?

Oh man, Kobe “Bean” Bryant. I mean, MJ [Michael Jordan], but I’m from L.A. so I grew up watching Kobe.

Who’s the best current player right now?

LeBron [James] … all day.

Are you happy LeBron is a Laker?

So happy. It’s been since 2010 that we’ve been any type of competitive, so I’m happy he’s here. I’m happy he wants to take on that challenge. Because L.A. is a tough city, a tough crowd.

Can LeBron win L.A. another championship?

Yes, he can. … He will! … It’s gonna take some time, but he’ll bring a title back to L.A. … I guarantee it.

Aaron Dodson is a sports and culture writer at Andscape. He primarily writes on sneakers/apparel and hosts the platform’s Sneaker Box video series. During Michael Jordan’s two seasons playing for the Washington Wizards in the early 2000s, the “Flint” Air Jordan 9s sparked his passion for kicks.