We’ve been saying it for weeks: for Kentucky to be the legitimate national championship threat we all know they can be, they must get the ball to Bam Adebayo. This morning, Sports Illustrated’s Brian Hamilton profiled Bam’s journey from a single-wide trailer in North Carolina to college basketball’s biggest stage. While a lot of the feature details Bam’s improvement this season, the part that resonated with me the most was the look into his bond with his mother, Marilyn, who moved the family from the rough streets of Newark, New Jersey to “the backwoods of somewhere” North Carolina when he was seven because she wanted to give him a better life.
He was seven, he says, when Marilyn decided to flee. “She was like, I can’t have my son grow up in this,” Adebayo recalls. (Marilyn declined to be interviewed for this story. Bam’s father, John Adebayo, remained in New Jersey and didn’t play an active role in his upbringing.) They left for Marilyn’s native North Carolina, staying with her sister until she could get on her feet. She secured both the cashier’s job at the Acre Station Meat Farm and the green trailer on Church Lane and that is where a new life began. Adebayo remembers wondering at the quiet and all the trees. Best of all, he could stay outside after dark.
He knew his mom worked hard, making the short quarter-mile walk to the meat farm every day whether it was raining or snowing or sweltering outside. He could tell when she was tired, but he didn’t say anything. He thought he had everything and it never occurred to him to feel otherwise. “She fought for us,” Adebayo says. “She made it happen. She made it work. . . . Growing up in a trailer, you think everything you get is good. I always thought it was a gift from God, because some people are out here struggling and on the street. We had warmth. We had clothes. We had a roof over our head.”
I’m a sucker for stories like this and Hamilton does a nice job with it. He even gives us another gem about Bam, who we learned in the preseason loves Katy Perry: sometimes, to mellow out before games, he listens to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”
As if we need another reason to love him, right?