Will-osophy: 'You Either Family Or Nothing With Me'
By caseyholdahl Posted in: willbarton
I recently had a chance to talk to Trail Blazers rookie Will Barton after a voluntary workout at the team's practice facility. This is the first in a series of blog posts stemming from that conversation.
You need only glance at a map of the United States to know that Baltimore is a long ways away from Portland. So it's a good thing rookie Will Barton, whose allegiance to the Charm City is literally tattooed on his body, got a chance to get back to his hometown after beginning his professional career in earnest at the Las Vegas Summer League.
"Getting to go home after my first professional taste, it felt real good," said Barton, who averaged 15.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.0 steals in five games in Las Vegas. "Everyone at home really embraced me, proud of my efforts. Any time I go home to my neighborhood, to my family and my friends, it's always a good thing, especially after performing like I did, like the team did. It was a great feeling."
While Baltimore likely won't make a list of desired vacation destinations any time soon, the allure of the city is still as strong as ever for Barton. Even though he likely has memories of the city he'd rather forget, the deeply-rooted desire to put on for his city more than overcomes any kind of negativity. For Barton, representing Baltimore is, in large part, about representing all of the people who might have had the ability, but not the opportunity.
"In Baltimore, we alway have a bunch of talented guys. And not just in sports, but in life," said Barton. "But not a lot of guys make it out. So when we get one, we embrace 'em, because we know it's real. In our city with a lot of crime, a lot of violence going on, it's easy to get caught up in that lifestyle, that bad lifestyle. When the neighborhood or the city gets one, everyone is really pulling for him and behind him."
But there's a danger in loving your city too much. Stories of players bankrupting themselves trying to take care of their people back home are as common in professional sports as concussions. And then there's the influence of people you grew up with, some of whom might not have your best interests at heart. Barton knows this, which is one of the reasons, along with his love for the people who mean the most to him, why he only has two classifications when it comes to relationships.
"My family pretty much understands what I'm trying to do. They're the only people that matter to me, to say the least," said Barton. "I always tell people: I don't have friends, I have family. A friend, I look at him as a brother. They're in my family, in my core. So I really don't have any friends. You either family or nothing with me."