In the era of clichéd athletes, Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings is a breath of fresh air.
The 20-year-old trendsetter has proven in his short basketball career that he’s not afraid to think outside the box.
Whether it was skipping college to play professionally in Europe, his unique signature hair styles or spurning Nike and Reebok to sign with Under Armour, Jennings brings a certain swagger (speaking of clichés) to the NBA.
During the Elite 24 Weekend in Venice Beach, I had a chance to sit down exclusively with Jennings and discussed his new signature Under Armour shoe, his Team USA snub and his incident with Jordan Farmar.
MV: Looking back, what did you take away from playing in the Elite 24?
BJ: I was invited to Elite 24 and it was in New York City at Rucker Park. Famous park that everyone knows about. Just to be able to play there at a young age and actually put on a show for people from New York because I’m from Cali and my name wasn’t big on the East Coast. Just to go there and make a name for myself was a great thing for me and that’s how I blew up.
MV: How does Rucker Park compare to Venice Beach and vice versa?
BJ: You know what’s crazy? I have never played at Venice Beach before. For me, it’s a new experience for me, even though I’m from California. A lot of guys here, we don’t play outdoors like that. Venice Beach is not somewhere we play. New York is the Mecca of basketball, so you know the excitement there and how that is.
MV: How did you get involved with Under Armour?
BJ: It’s a very unique shoe company. They are scaring a lot of people right now because Nike feels like one day someone else can take over, and I believe we can at Under Armour. How I got involved was Kris Stone (Under Armour’s Director of Basketball), when I was getting ready to go overseas, he came to me and asked me if I wanted to be on board because he wanted me to rock the shoe. Me being a trendsetter and so different from everything, I wanted to take chance. Also, to be the face of a basketball company, you can’t ever turn that down. With my swagger and my game, I just try to bring that to Under Armour.
MV: How much input did you have in designing your shoe?
BJ: I had a lot of input. If you look at the shoes, it has three stripes on it. It symbolizes my family … my mom, my brother and me. The Gumby haircut … the shape of my shoe is like a Gumby because of the haircut I wore. The strap is from one of my black watches that I always wear. The name Black Ice came from the air freshener in my car. A lot of the things in the shoe come from me.
MV: Will anyone else wear your shoe?
BJ: I wouldn’t mind other players wearing my shoe, as long as its NBA players. Maybe a couple of high school players like Austin Rivers. It’s my shoe, so of course I’m going to be stingy about it.
MV: Do you have any regrets about skipping college to play professionally in Europe?
BJ: No. What’s crazy is everyone who was behind my back telling me that was a dumb decision, now they are all in my face saying how great of a decision it was along with signing with Under Armour. I just laugh.
MV: Have other players reached out to you for advice?
BJ: Not really. Not too much. What I would say to them is it’s not an easy thing. It’s not easy but it’s not hard … it’s a challenge. It depends on how tough you are.
MV: How would you grade your rookie year in the NBA?
BJ: I would have to give it an A. We got to the playoffs, won 46 games and everybody counted us out. For us to take Atlanta to seven games without our big man, that tells you a lot about our team.
MV: What are your expectations for this season?
BJ: Win 50 games, get out of the first round of the playoffs, win the Central Division and hopefully I can average a double-double.
MV: What are your thoughts on the Big 3 in Miami?
BJ: If that’s the new thing with everybody teaming up, I guess they should be expecting me, Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry to team up when our contracts are up I guess. I’m going to have to talk to Tyreke and Stephen.
MV: Is that something you would seriously consider down the line?
BJ: I’m not going to say anything right now but from the looks of it, since everyone is doing it, then I guess we might as well just do it too so we could at least get some TV time. Just be in the mix at least.
MV: What was your initial response when the New York Knicks passed you up in the NBA Draft?
BJ: I was a little upset. But hey, it’s over and done with. I’m happy where I’m at and I think I’m in a great position with the Milwaukee Bucks. I have a great coach in Coach Skiles. He’s teaching me a lot and he also played the game. He’s also a real disciplined coach so he’s going to help me out a lot.
MV: Did Team USA reach out to you about playing?
BJ: I never got an invite or anything like that. Hey, it is what it is I guess. Even though I do have a little bit of European experience. I thought I would have been a great fit but good luck to the guys that got invited.
MV: As of a couple of weeks ago, you’re back on Twitter. Why did you delete your account the first time?
BJ: It’s just annoying to me at times. Sometimes Twitter gets too much for me so I like to take a break from it. I might delete my page and get back on it just because I want to take some time off. I don’t want people knowing what I’m doing and everything like that. It was good for me to get off Twitter for a minute.
MV: What should your Twitter followers expect from you?
BJ: What should they expect? Same me. I’m going to keep it real and say what I want. Just enjoy.
MV: Can you explain what happened with you and Jordan Farmar last season?
BJ: I really don’t like to make people famous because Jordan Farmar is really a nobody. We got into it during a game. They are beating us by 20 and he had said something. He was playing the garbage minutes so I guess he felt like poppin’ off. That was basically it. At the end of the day, you just laugh at a guy like that. But someone made a fake Jordan Farmar page talking crap and I though it was him but it really wasn’t. I got caught up in it.
MV: Was that one of the reasons why you deleted your Twitter account?
BJ: That was one of the reasons too but I also got tired of it.
MV: What can we expect in terms of a hairstyle for this season?
BJ: Right now I’m rocking a curl. Why? I don’t know. Just something different. I’m rocking a curl because I’m going to grow it out and then make my decision when the season starts.
MV: Are you going to television your hair “Decision?”
BJ: I might UStream it. Who knows.
MV: Being from Cali, do you know how to Dougie?
BJ: Do I know how to Dougie? No, I don’t know how to dougie. That’s what’s crazy but I need to learn. You might see a little next year. We have a couple of ESPN games next years so you will see me on there clowning.
You can follow Marcus Vanderberg on Twitter: http://twitter.com/marcowill