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Golden State Warriors’ Kevon Looney is ‘greedy’ for rebounds thanks to his upbringing

The veteran center’s board work was developed by a dad who prioritized it and an older brother who didn’t give him a choice

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Kevon Looney smiled when he saw a text message from his dad on his phone in the visitors locker room after the Golden State Warriors’ playoff win on Wednesday night. With another 20-rebound game in the postseason, the Warriors forward knew he earned a text of praise from Schreiner University’s all-time leading rebounder.

“He texted me, ‘Wow, great game today.’ He really doesn’t care about no points. He talks about me going to the glass every time on rebounding,” Looney said with a smile after the Warriors’ 123-116 victory over the Sacramento Kings in Game 5 at Golden 1 Center. “He can say, ‘You gave up on the boxout. You gave up on this play. You have to go every time.’ When I call him after a game, that is what he will want to talk to me about. So, when he texted me, ‘Great game, son’ after the game, I knew I went for the rebound every time.”

The Warriors can claim the best-of-seven series with a win over the Kings in Game 6 in San Francisco on Friday. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green had the sexier Game 5 statistics, each scoring over 20 points. But with a game-high 22 rebounds on just four points, Looney did the needed dirty work in the mammoth Warriors’ win while making history in the process.

The Warriors said Looney joined Basketball Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain and Nate Thurmond as the only players in team history to record multiple 20-rebound games in the same playoff series. Looney also had 20 rebounds in the Warriors’ 114-97 victory in Game 3 of this series. The eight-year NBA veteran is averaging 14.4 rebounds in the series against the Kings.

“That’s amazing. Nate Thurmond and Wilt. You won’t get bigger icons that played the center position, especially for the Warriors franchise,” Thompson said.

Said Green: “From the time he has gotten the opportunity, he’s shown he could [rebound]. It’s one of the things now you expect. That is one of the biggest compliments you can get. We expect ‘Loon’ to rebound the basketball. We expect him to get us extra possessions on the offensive glass, and he’s doing that every night.”

Golden State Warriors center Kevon Looney (right) and forward Andrew Wiggins (left) celebrate after they beat the Sacramento Kings in Game 5 of the Western Conference first round at Golden 1 Center on April 26 in Sacramento, California.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Looney fancies himself a basketball historian who is quite familiar with the legend of the late Chamberlain and Thurmond. Thurmond was actually a regular at Warriors’ home games before he died at age 74 on July 16, 2016. Looney, who was drafted in 2015, said he didn’t get a chance to meet Thurmond during his rookie season with the Warriors before his death.

Looney said it was “incredible” to share a record with Chamberlain and Thurmond.

“That’s crazy, man. I’ve always been like a basketball historian, so I watched a lot of those, the biographies and different things like that,” Looney said. “I always tell my dad to talk about [the greats]. For me to be mentioned with them in rebounding and different things like that, that is just amazing.”

Looney credits his father and his brother for giving him a foundation to become a great rebounder.

Doug Looney was a star forward for Schreiner University men’s basketball program in Kerrville, Texas, in the early 1980s. Today, he is still the school’s all-time leading rebounder. As his son’s youth basketball coach, Doug Looney often preached to his son, more than about scoring, the intricacies and importance of rebounding and boxing out.

Kevon Looney still hears his dad’s rebounding lessons from his youth in his head during Warriors games. And if he forgets, his dad will get the message to him via text.

“My dad was always big on boxing out and the fundamentals. I don’t know, maybe rebounding just runs in the family. But that’s something I always practiced and I took pride in,” said Kevon Looney, who was 15th in the NBA in rebounding this season with a career-high 9.3 per game. “He told me that rebounding was about timing, the angles of the ball, the fundamentals of boxing out, knowing when to go and different things like that. That was the only thing he really would yell at me about growing up.

“Making the right place and boxing out. I could have 40 points and 10 assists, but if I missed a boxout, I was going to hear about it. He’ll text me at halftime. ‘You got to box out. You got to run back and box out.’ Different things like that.”

Looney also had to rebound well as a kid to play basketball with his older brother Kevin.

In their hometown of Milwaukee, the Looney family had a basketball hoop in their backyard and a nearby basketball court at a school. Kevin Looney, who is six years older than Kevon, would let his brother play basketball with him, but there was a catch: Kevon had to do much more rebounding than shooting.

“Going to the park with my brother, he would shoot all the balls. And only way I got the ball was the rebound. Rebounding is always something I took pride in.”

— Kevon Looney

Kevon Looney said getting the boards on his brother’s missed shots helped him learn how to best trace the ball after it hit the rim. That skill has been beneficial on a 3-point heavy shooting team like the Warriors, whose players missed 27 of 38 3-pointers in Game 5 while Looney grabbed seven offensive rebounds.

“Going to the park with my brother, he would shoot all the balls. And only way I got the ball was the rebound …,” Kevon Looney said. “Rebounding is always something I took pride in. Growing up, I actually was a skinny guy. I always take pride in being tough and being able to mix it up. People thought they could push me around because I was skinny. So, I took pride in banging and rebounding.”

Curry, Thompson, Green and Andre Iguodala are widely known as the stars of this successful Warriors era when the team won four NBA titles and made six NBA Finals appearances since 2015. While rebounding rarely gets the acclaim that scoring does, Looney takes pride in starring in the role.

“Rebounding is a stat you can be greedy in,” Looney said. “I always have been unselfish on the court, passing and sacrificing for the team. But with rebounding, you can go out and get every one of them and no one could be mad at it. It’s a way to help my team win. I feel like I’m great in that area.

“I always wanted to be a leader and be best in something. You have to find something to be a leader in. I can be a leader in this.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.