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WORDS, Ryan Chang
PHOTOS, Ryan Chang
It was an unusually warm January weekend in New York – so warm that AOC even tweeted about it (https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1216540784037679104). For Ray and me (a couple of pure bred Angelenos), the unexpected warmth was a delight even if it meant being cheated out of our only chance to utilize our winter drip/wardrobe. We arrive promptly to the Brooklyn Nets Training Facility in Sunset Park at 7pm and find Spencer, hoodie and headphones on, already waiting for us. We would later find out, as Dinwiddie’s work ethic would dictate, that finding him here alone in the evenings or at odd hours is not a rare occurrence.
Dinwiddie started off his professional career in 2016 with sporadic assignments to the D-League, having only flirted with the big league. It wasn’t until his tenure on the Brooklyn Nets that he started to show off. We sat with him to tell the story of how he became who he is. We conduct the interview on the training facility’s basketball court which boasts a panoramic view of the Upper Bay along with the Manhattan skyline. The floor to ceiling windows paired with the breathtaking energy of the city helps make me feel infinitesimally smaller next to the 6’6” Nets guard.
Ryan Chang | Spencer Dinwiddie
You grew up in LA?
Yeah, grew up in LA, South Central. Bust out to Taft for high school.
Oh, so you were living in South Central while you attended Taft [William Howard Taft Charter High School]?
Yeah. Actually me and ‘Twaun would get on the same bus. Antwaun Woods on the Cowboys. Taft had a lot of talent. Mike Thomas on the Saints. We were all the same year.
Were you born and raised in South Central?
Yeah pretty much. I lived in Inglewood for about two years. My parents met out there as well. They’ve since moved to Leimert Park.
What was the commute like to high school?
Haha. It was tough. I split time on that commute between catching the bus and catching a ride with Coach DT, Derrick Taylor. We didn’t live too far from each other, and that’s kind of how I ended up at Taft too. I told my parents that I wanted to go to a public school, and Taft just hit all the criteria with a good academics and an excellent basketball program.
So your parents initially wanted to put you through private school?
Yeah. I got a few scholarship offers to some private schools, but I ultimately ended up going to a public high school. Back then, the Los Angeles City Section had the best programs for basketball. You had Dwayne Polee on a historic Westchester team, Renardo Sidney at Fairfax, and Larry Drew at Taft.
You’ve made a lot of basketball driven decisions for pivotal moments in your life. Has basketball always been a goal for you?
Oh, it’s all I ever wanted to do since I was 4 years old. I mean I can’t say I always saw myself being in the league, but it’s all I ever wanted.
How has this strategic decision making influenced your life choices?
Anything in my life that I truly want, I attack it with a plan. How are you really going after it if you aren’t putting your full effort or full focus on?
Spencer shares with me that his parents were very much the “as long as you get good grades” type of parents. Their basketball demands of him were not actualized until he brought up that he wanted to make a push at the league in his junior year of high school. But until then, they pushed him in all facets of his student athlete career with indiscriminate support. Having started high school at 5’7” in height, Spencer tells me that his parents wanted to make sure he had every opportunity afforded to him, which meant he had to get good grades. He admits that it was easy to maintain his high academics alongside his athletic focus – an ease no better illustrated by him testing a 1400 out of 1600 on the SAT without any prior studying.
What did that “push for the league” look like?
It really all happened in my junior year of high school, I started to ascend as a player and become the player I envisioned myself being. I started that year 6’1”.
Oh wow, so you were just growing.
Yeah. I was 5’7”, 5’10”, 6”1’, and finally 6’4”. I grew 3 inches every year in high school and then another 2 before I ever played a college game.
By the time I played my first college basketball game, I was 6’ 6”, 185 pounds. So some of this was God’s gift, haha.
If basketball didn’t happen, what would have been plan B, would it have been an academic fallback?
I would have had no choice but to go the academic route. I probably would’ve chosen Harvard over Colorado. I like to know how things work by analyzing things and breaking them down, so maybe I would have ended up with something in engineering.
What do your parents do?
My mom owns a preschool and my dad does real estate.
The reason I ask is I want to know where you attribute your work ethic to.
I get that work ethic from my dad. He’s a hustler. He’s relentless. Headstrong. Stubborn. A lot of the stuff that frustrates him about me. Look in the mirror big fella.
What values do you take from your mom?
I think she’s the smart one. My dad’s obviously extremely intelligent, but my mom has Ph.D. You know just the way she is with her vocabulary and her words.
I ask Spencer to tell me about the ACL injury. He chuckles when I bring it up and gives me the abridged version before going into details: “Shit man, I was dribbling up the court.” On January 12th, 2014, Dinwiddie blew out his knee in a game against University of Washington. Ultimately, he had torn his ACL, MCL, medial meniscus, and lateral meniscus.
“Shit man, I was dribbling up the court.”
I discover how dedicated and steadfast Spencer is in his pursuit of success. He tells me that he really wanted to break Adrian Peterson’s record of having the surgery 6 days after the injury. On day 6 post-injury, Dinwiddie’s doctors let him know that he would be having surgery on day 8. Things take a dark turn, and the aspirations of the league slowly fade away against a backdrop of sadness and tears.
Sitting in the Brooklyn Nets Training Facility, knowing how the story continues, I ask him what ultimately enabled him to declare for the NBA that same year.
What kept you grounded and focused? What helped you ultimately overcome this career-threatening injury mentally and emotionally?
I woke up one night, and I was crying. My mom was there. I went through the motions, asking why this happened, why me.
She was like, “Spencer, what do you want to do?”
I said, “I want to go to league. What do you mean?” I’m crying and shit.
“Na, what do you want to do?”
“I want to go league. What are you talking about?”
“Then do it.”
That really helped ground me. I researched every little piece of this injury. Researched what I should be doing, what I should be eating. Whatever was not going to advance me to the goal did not have a place in my life. I was as dedicated as humanly possible to getting in the league.
What were some of the things you found in your research?
Hyperbaric chamber. PRP injections. Elevating my leg. Anything you could think of. I was eating ginger root, organic ginger root, straight. That was my snack. I was eating mostly vegetables, some lean meats, lots of fruit. I was laser locked in.
Ginger root as a snack sounds gross.
Haha, oh, it was. It’s a lot more fun to eat Skittles.
The ginger roots eventually paid off as Spencer was able to make the NBA training camp in early September – a mere 8 months post-injury – after being selected 38th overall (2nd round) by the Detroit Pistons.
We shift the talk to his recent foray in blockchain technology. Dinwiddie had first found out about it in Colorado from a fellow alumnus but had not invested in cryptocurrency until mid-2017 right before Bitcoin’s all time high was realized. While this new technology could only afford his “Vegas gambling money,” it had certainly piqued the curious engineer inside of him setting forth the motions that would manifest in DREAM Fan Shares.
DREAM Fan Shares is the platform which Spencer has set up to help other athletes create their own Professional Athlete Investment Tokens (PAInTs). The SD8 token, which is Dinwiddie’s own token, is the first token (on the Ethereum blockchain) to be issued by the platform, and it allows the public to invest in their favorite athletes. If the athlete appreciates in value, whether it be through endorsement deals or new contracts, then the token will see a similar trajectory. Spencer was able to see tremendous opportunity in a now seemingly archaic form of sports contracts.
What is the main reasoning behind tokenizing a player?
This gives more power and freedom to the player by democratizing and decentralizing where their money is coming from. It allows fans to directly interface with the success of their favorite athletes.
So investors will receive a token after investing?
Yes, and the token pays them out in dollars. Yeah, that’s the other thing. This isn’t a “currency.” The token is a representation of ownership that is made possible by Ethereum.
Spencer plans to do more investing with the money that he raises from the SD8 token sale. He currently works on various ventures including Project DREAM (Disrupt Reality Every Available Moment), a platform for athletes (or anyone else) to make their own branded products without having to wait for big brand endorsement to do it for them. Dinwiddie’s own brand K8IROS (pronounced Kairos – Zeus’s youngest son) is the first offspring of Project DREAM much like the SD8 token is of DREAM Fan Shares. SANDALBOYZ was able to work with Project DREAM and K8IROS to create a signature Spencer Dinwiddie Court Slide.
What are future plans with Project DREAM?
Just keep it open to guys. See, Nike will only pay an athlete x amount because they know they can 5x or 10x it. The fans pay the money to see the asset, the athlete. The NBA or the brand is not what’s special. You are what’s special. You’re the one that can 360 dunks when nobody can. I’m really trying to enlighten people. If I can open the mind of the next Lebron or the next Michael Jordan, then they can really cause a tectonic shift in how people think. If this person is enlightened by the things I do, then they will be able to carry generations.
The SANDALBOYZ x K8IROS Court Slide is available at https://projectdream.io/shop/.