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Temple Shied from Family History, Made Own Road to NBA

Garrett Temple’s family has deep basketball ties, but he made it to the NBA his own way.

Jessica Camerato profile picture
Updated 10 months ago on
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Garrett Temple wanted to play basketball – he was pretty sure of it – but it had to be his decision, not an obligation. Growing up in a family deeply involved in the sport, his career path seemed outlined for him at an early age. He’d do it on his own time, on his own terms, paving his own path to the NBA.

Collis Temple Jr. was the first African-American basketball player at Louisiana State University. A generation later, his oldest son Collis III joined the team. Garrett grew up well aware of his lineage at LSU. He inherited the same athletic talent.

It would have been easy to replicate the steps taken by his family members. That didn’t interest him, though.

“I wanted to make sure I did something I wanted to do, not just doing something my family wanted me to do,” Garrett told Basketball Insiders.

Garrett was around 10 years old when his parents divorced. His brothers moved in with their father, who was an AAU coach, while Garrett stayed with his mother at first. He didn’t want her to live alone; she wanted her son to be an independent thinker.

“She told me to remain well rounded, keep my faith, understand if it’s something I wanted to do, not just my brother or father,” he said. “I think her being there really helped me in terms of being independent, not adhering to peer pressures.”

A few years later, Garrett moved to live with his father. The house received another addition when his best friend and basketball teammate Glen Davis moved in during the eighth grade. Davis was a top prospect in Louisiana, and at points Garrett began to wonder if he was receiving looks for his own talent or because of his relationship with the future NBA big man.

The questioning culminated in a significant conversation with his father during a drive to the ABCD Basketball Camp in Teaneck, New Jersey.

“I was kind of upset because I thought they invited me just because I was Glen’s friend. I wanted to earn my own way,” Temple recalled. “So I told my dad to drop me off somewhere else, I didn’t want to go in there. I asked my dad, ‘Why is basketball so important to you?’ He was kind of at a loss for words. I was the one that always asked why. He learned then that I was a different kind of guy, I wanted to get a good reason for doing something first.

“I think he sighed and asked me if I wanted to play. I said, ‘Yeah I want to play, but that seems like it’s all we talk about, all we think about. That’s when I began to go work out myself. … Since then my dad has been great. He kind of got off me a little more and let me find my way.”

Garrett joined the basketball and track teams at University High School in Baton Rouge. When it came time to look at colleges, he explored his options before deciding to continue the LSU tradition. Garrett visited schools across the country, including Stanford University, Baylor University and the University of Oregon.

“It was always a foregone conclusion I’d be there,” he said. “I guess I was the rebellious one, though. I ended up visiting other schools. My mom said, ‘You should do your own thing.’”

Once enrolled, it was important for Garrett to differentiate himself from his relatives that played before him. In high school he had worn number 41, the same number his father and brother wore in college. But once he got to LSU, he changed to 14, “just to make my own little path.”

His brother also shared his practice schedule. Be the first one in the gym and the last one out, he told Garrett. His family always stressed the importance of a strong work ethic.

“I said I’m going to be the first one in, last one out most times, but I’m not you, man,” Garrett recalled. “I’m a different guy, I’m going to do it a different way.”

Garrett redshirted his freshman year and played through his senior season. He became the school’s all-time leader in minutes played, was a starter on the 2006 Final Four team and received accolades including an All-SEC Defensive Team selection.

“It was the best thing I ever did,” Garrett said of choosing LSU.

Garrett was undrafted in 2009 and made his NBA debut in February of 2010 with the Houston Rockets. Over his career, he has played for the Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Milwaukee Bucks and then-Charlotte Bobcats before settling in the past four seasons with the Washington Wizards.

During his time in the NBA, Garrett has followed his mother’s advice of staying well rounded. He likes to golf, tunes into medical-themed TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, watches comedy and action movies (Bad Boys 2 is at the top of his list), and read as much as possible, including the entire Harry Potter collection.

Now 29, Garrett looks back on his early basketball days and is proud of the road he took to the NBA. He doesn’t want to be anywhere else but in the league, though he had to decide that for himself. Once feeling pressured by his family’s strong basketball history, he can look back with appreciation.

“My dad said, ‘You can’t get ahead staying in bed,’ but anybody who knows me knows I love to take naps,” Garrett recalled with a laugh. “When I finally made it to the NBA, we were at a family dinner my rookie year. He made a toast and said, ‘I had that saying, but my youngest son proved me wrong.’”

Garrett just did it his own way.

Jessica Camerato is a bilingual reporter who has been covering the NBA since 2006. She has also covered MLB, NHL and MLS. A graduate of Quinnipiac University, Jessica is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association and the Association for Women in Sports Media.

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