DeMar DeRozan used cellphone camera well and this helped provide one of the more charming, indelible images of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team’s exhibition tour.
DeRozan captured the soulful stylings of Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving as they delivered a throaty rendition of Vanessa Carlton’s early 2000s hit single, “A Thousand Miles.” On Team USA’s flight from Chicago to Houston, DeRozan then shifted his phone to find Kevin Durant admiring the sing-along while smothered, E.T. style, in a white comforter. And finally, fittingly, DeRozan ended the Facebook post by focusing on an unimpressed and disgusted Carmelo Anthony, looking as if he was prepared to kick the kids off his lawn.
Through the whole half-minute recording, DeRozan smiled into his phone, played a little air piano and spared viewers of his own “American Idol” audition.
“I don’t sing at all,” DeRozan told The Vertical this week with a laugh. “I knew it was going to go viral, but not like it did. When we’re not on the court, all we do is play, joke around, have fun. So, just to give people the insight of what we do, for 20 seconds, you know, that don’t add up to the amount of fun that we have during the rest of the day.”
DeRozan has accomplished plenty in his seven seasons in the NBA – making two All-Star teams, winning a gold medal at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, leading the Toronto Raptors to the Eastern Conference finals and agreeing to the third-largest contract in NBA history – but he has managed to avoid the usual fanfare along the way. Playing north of the border has contributed to DeRozan maintaining a low profile, though Vince Carter found a way to hurdle that obstacle as if it were Frederic Weis. DeRozan has also embraced being in the shadows with a low-key, no-nonsense approach that shunned publicity beyond what he did on the court.
“I think it just wasn’t in my personality at the time,” DeRozan told The Vertical. “I just always told myself, I wanted to establish myself as a basketball player, first. I want to be known as a helluva basketball player, before I jump out and try to do everything else. Now, at this point in my career, I’ve established enough to where I can show my personality a bit more. It’s going to be a lot more to come.”
The Raptors rewarded DeRozan’s dedication to improving his game over chasing a more recognizable name last month with a five-year contract worth about $139 million that currently has him tied with five other players – including USA teammate Kevin Durant – for the league’s highest salary next season at around $26.5 million. DeRozan will earn nearly 66 percent more than last season, a staggering bump that he keeps in perspective.
“Honestly, I haven’t looked at it like [that]. It’s crazy when you do say it. But I’m going to go out there and play like I’m still playing for a contract,” DeRozan told The Vertical.
Before this year, Toronto had a tradition of losing early in the postseason and losing its best players in their primes. Carter forced a trade that put him in the coveted New York media market. Chris Bosh bolted in free agency to form a super team with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, a one-man media circus, in Miami.
If DeRozan wanted a larger platform and more notoriety, his first dive into unrestricted free agency presented him with an incredible opportunity. DeRozan has worn Kobe Bryant’s signature sneakers for years and was rumored as the leading candidate to fill his retired idol’s shoes for the Compton, Calif., native’s hometown Los Angeles Lakers.