Jaylen Brown has wisdom way ahead of his years. He’s shown us that before with his takes on Colin Kaepernick and introspective thoughts on the Isaiah Thomas trade. Now, he’s at it again.
The Celtics are in London this week for a Thursday game against the Philadelphia 76ers. While waiting, Brown sat down for an interview with the British outlet The Guardian. The conversation floated from a David Foster Wallace parable, to Kaepernick’s fight for the common black American, to Brown teaching himself how to play the piano, and becoming multilingual, and much more.
That a 21-year-old like Brown was able to take the conversation to those diverse places is incredible. Here are the best moments of that conversation.
Brown promised to never forget where he came from
He’s aware that everyone doesn’t get the same opportunity to play in the NBA as he does. Some of his loved ones will never get the same chance he has, and he feels for them because of that.
But he also won’t forget them.
“Just because I’m the outlier in my neighbourhood [sic] who managed to avoid the barriers set up to keep the privileged in privilege, and the poor still poor, why should I forget about the people who didn’t have the same chance as me?”
Brown grew up in Marietta, Georgia, where he played high school basketball. He has two brothers back home still and also recently lost his best friend who was from Georgia. However, he still keeps in touch with his family. He still has plenty of connections in his home state.
He used a parable from a famous writer to simplify how racism works
Racism isn’t always overt, Brown explained. It’s embedded in policies and the country’s education system. And he used this example to explain how people in the country perceive it.
“We’ve got two young fish swimming one way and an older fish swimming the other way,” the 21-year-old star of the Boston Celtics says as he considers the enduring backdrop of race in the United States. “They cross paths and the older fish says: ‘What’s up guys, how’s the water?’ The two younger fish turn around and look back at the wiser fish and ask: ‘What’s water?’ They’ve never recognised that this is what they actually live in. So it takes somebody special like Martin Luther King to see past what you’ve been embedded in your whole life.”
This references a speech given by author David Foster Wallace to a graduating class at Kenyon College. The speech argues that there is a default setting for humans in the society they’re born into, and that makes it difficult for them fully understand its downsides.
He called sports a “mechanism for control”
Sports have often been referred to as a respite for people, but more and more the lines between sports and politics are blending. Brown recognized that, but he also noted why some don’t want to cross that line.
“That’s the reality because sports is a mechanism of control. If people didn’t have sports they would be a lot more disappointed with their role in society. There would be a lot more anger or stress about the injustice of poverty and hunger. Sports is a way to channel our energy into something positive. Without sports who knows what half of these kids would be doing?
This is why Brown said he knew Kaepernick would never be welcomed back into the NFL. Kaepernick blurred the lines even further and many didn’t want to deal with it.
He taught himself how to play the piano
And here I am at 25 barely being able to wash clothes properly.
“I take piano lessons after I spent the last year teaching myself piano. If I’m frustrated or had a bad day, but need to keep engaged, practicing the piano does that for me … I’m just a regular guy,”
I can confirm that is not regular. I need a hobby.
He also taught himself Spanish — but he’s slipped a bit
I knew a bit of Spanish back in middle school. Again, I’m 25 now.
“I’m not as good now,” he says. “I started again because there’re so many conjugations that slip your mind if you don’t practice. But I also just learned the Arabic alphabet. I’m proud of myself because the pronunciation is hard.”
Brown starts to say the Arabic alphabet out loud and, to an untutored ear, he sounds impressive. “Yeah,” he says with a grin, “I’m trying.”
Arabic, too!? What the heck am I doing with my life?