Detroit – What time it was.
Shortly after Jaden Ivey, selected fifth in the NBA Draft on Thursday night, was introduced as the Detroit Piston for the first time Friday at Rouge Park, Vice President Arn Tellem had a trick up his sleeve.
The “fairy tale”, as Pistons coach Dwane Casey called it, became even more surreal.
Along with Ivey’s new Pistons jersey – he’ll be wearing No. 23, by the way – Tellem had a few extra jerseys to give away in honor of Detroit’s sporting ties that bind Ivey to his new home: a Detroit Shock jersey for his mother, Niele Ivey; a Detroit Country Day School basketball jersey for his father, Javin Hunter; and a Detroit Lions jersey honoring Ivey’s late grandfather, James Hunter.
For the second time in as many days, the gesture instantly brought Ivey to tears.
“You could kinda see my emotions,” Ivey said. “Just my family, what they’ve been through all their life and what they’ve worked for, they’ve helped me get to this point, just to see all the shirts, it made me emotional.”
Here’s the thing: These jerseys, Tellem told Niele, were made more than three weeks ago — “just in case,” he said.
As parents, Javin and Niele’s number one desire for Ivey is to know he’s in the right place. Of course, he is in a place he knows well, that he learned to love during his childhood. But is he in the right place with the right people? The Pistons have gone out of their way to make sure the answer is yes.
“Absolutely. I feel it. I feel the energy of the city, I feel the energy of the organization,” said Niele Ivey, 44, the Notre Dame women’s basketball coach who played for the Shock in 2005. “It’s like home. It feels like what we’re used to – the Notre Dame family, the Purdue family – and so I feel like God really placed us, because I heard there were so many scenarios, there were so many things on the table.
“The fact that he’s here, I think there’s a reason for that.”
Javin Hunter, 42, grew up in Detroit and graduated from Detroit Country Day, a three-time state basketball champion. He went to Notre Dame as a football player and had a short career in the NFL, which was cut short by an Achilles injury.
He now lives in Hanover, Maryland, but as Ivey grew up, he raised his son in Detroiter part-time. He often took him to visit his grandparents and sent him to Greg Kelser’s basketball camp at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. He took it to Joe Dumars Fieldhouse.
Soon, Hunter said, his son will learn what really makes Detroit special.
“How loyal they are and how intense they are…they’ll take care of their own,” Hunter said. “I feel like they know Jaden has ties to the city and lived in the city, he came here so I feel like they’re going to take care of him.”
The only shame, Hunter said, is that Ivey’s grandfather, James, who earned the nickname “Hound Dog” for his ability as a defensive back with the Lions (1976-1982), was not there. to see him. James died in 2010 of a heart attack at the age of 56.
“He meant everything to me, that’s why I had tears in my eyes, because he got me. He sacrificed a lot for me too,” Ivey said. “He’s the reason I get so emotional. To be here, to be a Piston, to be in the city of Detroit, it’s an honor to be here.”
If Ivey’s grandfather was still around, “he’d be doing backflips,” Hunter said.
“He loved the city of Detroit, obviously he stayed here and worked for Anheuser-Busch when he finished playing, and my mom still lives here in Orchard Lake so you know, he would be thrilled. He would be in every game He would like pitchside seats for games to see his grandson play He spent a lot of time with Jaden, he loved Jaden to death, and I feel like he made things happen .
The Pistons made a good impression on Ivey, but after hearing Casey and general manager Troy Weaver talk more about it on Friday, it’s that feeling that goes both ways.
“I’m going to say this,” Casey said, “Jaden’s story and history is amazing. It’s like a fairy tale. Even from me, and I’ve been in (the league) a long time. understanding his grandfather played here, his father went to high school here, his mother played in the WNBA here, successful college coach right now, it’s amazing. And like (general manager) Troy (Weaver) said so, the good Lord wanted him to be here.
“It’s something that – I’ve been a coach for a long time, and these situations don’t always happen, and so it’s a blessing and we’re lucky, happy and excited that Jaden is here.”
Many athletes go through this process stone-faced, with a kind of fake bravado, trying to be stoic as their whole lives change in the blink of an eye before they can even legally take a sip of alcohol.
The emotions Ivey has shown over the past day feel like a symptom of coming of age – someone who understands the seriousness of what is happening, the unlikelihood of it all, the added dose of serendipity that surrounds a fortuitous moment in nature.
“I think people take this moment for granted, this opportunity that you have in front of you, and you know, it’s okay to let your emotions out,” Ivey said.
Jaden Ivey is home. And he just can’t believe it.
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.