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Victor Oladipo talks Prince George’s County, reopening the NBA and ‘The Last Dance’

The Pacers star is an executive producer on Kevin Durant’s new documentary

To hear it from NBA All-Star Victor Oladipo, Prince George’s County in Maryland produces pound for pound the best basketball players in America.

“Let’s be real,” Indiana Pacers guard Oladipo told The Undefeated. “If we really wanted to, just from our county we could have a starting five that’s in the NBA. A lot of states could do that. But counties? I don’t think a lot can say that. That’s what is different.”

Prince George’s County, which borders the east side of Washington, has a population of 900,000 and boasts a number of current NBA players, including Oladipo, Kevin Durant, Quinn Cook, Jerami Grant, Markelle Fultz and Jeff Green. Former NBA players include Michael Beasley, Thurl Bailey, Steve Francis, Jarrett Jack, Ty Lawson, Michael Sweetney and Delonte West. WNBA All-Star Marissa Coleman is also from Prince George’s County.

On Friday, Showtime is premiering a new documentary, Basketball County: In The Water, which was produced by Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures. The documentary delves into the backstory of ballers from the area, explores the racial challenges and poverty they faced and looks back at the legendary DeMatha Catholic High School basketball program.

“Hopefully, after this, people will want to know what water we are drinking,” said Oladipo, who is one of the executive producers of the documentary.

Oladipo talks with The Undefeated about his roots in Prince George’s County, the NBA’s suspended season, his health and ESPN’s The Last Dance.

Why was it important for you to be a part of this documentary?

It’s about where I’m from, where I grew up. It means a lot to me, especially the people. We grew up watching certain people that influenced our drive and dedication to the game. It is our obligation to do the same as we get older.

Who were the basketball players from Prince George’s County that had an influence on you?

I would watch Kev [Kevin Durant], Michael Beasley, Ty Lawson, Jason Clark, Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, the list goes on and on and on. Those guys influenced me to be a better basketball player because they were so elite in my area. I had to get to that level.

Obviously, Kevin and Mike touched me by getting to the NBA, and I wanted to get to that level. I worked really hard, too, and the next thing you know, all three of us were No. 2 picks. …

They were people I looked up to from far away. I met ‘Beas’ at my godfather’s house at a cookout when he pulled up. He probably wouldn’t remember. The first time I met Kev, I was in the league, believe it or not. We had mutual friends and mutual ties to the city. But I didn’t meet Kev until before my rookie year. The day I met him we played against each other at a basketball event at my high school.

What were the biggest challenges growing up there?

The greatest challenge was making sure you did something with your life. I am a first-generation Nigerian immigrant. I was born and raised there [in Maryland]. But my parents weren’t from there and they didn’t know too many people that lived there. It was tough for us, especially in the beginning. My parents were trying to figure out their path, what they wanted to do with their lives and how they were going to provide for the family.

I saw my parents work hard. They instilled hard work in me. And then me growing up in P.G. County and playing the game, I kind of inherited that competitive nature. From the hard work and competitive nature, you create me.

Victor Oladipo, when featured in the documentary ‘Basketball County: In The Water’ wearing a Dematha Catholic jacket.

How have you and your family held up through COVID-19?

Everybody is healthy, thank God. My friends and my family are doing well. I got to continue to stay safe and stay healthy.

How are you doing physically after returning to action this season from your ruptured quad tendon in your right knee?

I’m still rehabbing and working right now. Obviously, things are different. I still have to rehab for my knee. My knee needs it.

Does the layoff benefit your postinjury if the NBA 2019-20 is to return?

It’s hard to tell. It’s a little bit of both. I don’t get the in-game experience, but it gives me time to get stronger and more rest. I still get a chance to strengthen and rehab. Everything happens for a reason. I truly believe that. I believe in my purpose and my path. I’m just going to make the most of the opportunity I have.

What do you think is the best way for the NBA to resume during the pandemic?

I’m not really sure. Thank God we have other people to make those decisions. It is a very tough one to make, if I was in the trenches. I would try to do it the safest way to get it done without anyone being in danger. We will see. I’m not sure how it will end up or happen, but I will be ready for whatever happens.

If the NBA season were to resume, how formidable could the Pacers be?

We can be a little scary. We had a chance even before [the pandemic] to be a really good team in the playoffs. If we come back, we will come back and be ready. I am going to prepare myself and I know my teammates are preparing themselves as well.

What else have you been doing of late? Is there some new music on the horizon?

Not quite. I don’t know if anything is coming anytime soon. But I do have some things brewing. We will see. I might drop some stuff in the near future. Be on the lookout for that.

What music are you listening to right now?

I just listened to that Kehlani album. That was really good. Chris Brown and [Young] Thug album was good. Lil Durk’s album was good. There is so much time on my hands. I feel like I can listen to anyone’s now. Drake’s new album was really good. I hope people keep dropping more music for us. It’s great, especially now during quarantine. There is not much to do but work out and listen to music.

What are your thoughts on ESPN’s The Last Dance featuring Michael Jordan?

It’s an unbelievable story. It gives the perspective about being on the inside looking out instead of the outside looking in. Having MJ give his point of view and perspective internally … it’s kind of dope.

So, it’s pretty awesome to be able to witness that and watch it. It makes you work hard as a person and a basketball player, too. Just try to inherit certain traits you want to inherit to your game and your life in general, too.

Has Jordan said anything that has made an impression on you?

Episode seven where he got passionate about the way he played. Certain guys weren’t like him because they never won. That was the way he played. If they didn’t like it, they didn’t have to play. Period. I think he got emotional because people don’t really understand how much he loves the game and how passionate he was about it. And at the end of the day, he wanted the best for himself and his teammates. And in order for him to be the best, he had to have his teammates be the best, as well. It’s definitely something I will always remember from watching that.

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.