Back in his hometown with the sun shining bright on a summer day in Illinois, Iman Shumpert struts into Oak Park and River Forest High School projecting an air of unflappable confidence.
This brash style should not be mistaken for cockiness or a lack of respect. Shumpert developed a strong mindset from an early age that fueled his rise to the NBA. To discover how a young Shump became one of the top rookies last year, one must look to his parents, Odis and L’Tanya. The two important figures in Shumpert’s life were on hand during his first annual basketball camp at the same high school where he helped the Huskies win three conference titles.
L’Tanya fondly recounts memories of Iman throughout his youth, “Extremely boisterous, very self confident, a self initiator, he actually did everything on his own. He was strong willed and I can’t argue that because he got that from both his parents and I basically tried to encourage that independence; very independent spirit.”
Shumpert exudes a high level of tenacity on the floor as a result of his relentless attempt to make an impact in every contest. Whether it’s intentional or not, he seems to play the game with a gigantic chip on his shoulder. The No. 17 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft quickly proved his worth this past season by earning a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First Team and he received a massive amount of respect for his skills on the defensive side of the floor.
While basketball was always the professional goal for Shumpert, his parents made sure the supremely gifted athlete placed academics atop his priority list.
“He enjoyed school and rarely missed any classes because he knew if we found out, it was no problem for me to tell the basketball coach to sit him on the bench and not play,” Odis authoritatively stated.
Every minute Shumpert spent at Oak Park and River Forest High School he was reminded of the importance placed on academics. In fact, Shumpert is not even the most famous person to graduate from the school. Legendary author and journalist, Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park and owns a prominent place in the hallway of the institution.
The education process continues for Shumpert both on and off the court. Shumpert just turned 22 years old and is beginning to receive significant attention for his extraordinary basketball abilities. When the NBA rookie returns to his hometown, L’Tanya quickly stresses to her son the influence he has on the youth in Oak Park and across the country.
“I’m in his ear all the time, letting him know that it’s more than just you, it’s about community now, just liked you looked up to those players, people are looking up to you now. I really put the nudge on him to stay responsible because I really want this portion of his giving to develop,” L’Tanya expressed.
Aside from the guidance Iman’s parents provide, they often step back in awe of his incredible accomplishments. From the unforgettable moment when David Stern called his name on draft night to the first time he stepped onto the legendary Madison Square Garden floor, Odis and L’Tanya have enjoyed every monumental step.
At times, the imagery feels surreal for L’Tanya when watching Iman at MSG, “I still get chills. I could not believe it. You have to say to yourself, that’s Iman, that’s my child.”
She added, “Even when I’m at home watching and they show some of my favorite celebrities, I have to keep saying to myself, my god they are watching my kid play ball. They are courtside, watching my child play ball because it’s still my baby playing ball. It’s really incredible.”
L’Tanya said texting and Facetime have become an essential part of her life to keep up with Iman during the hectic NBA schedule. The family remains a close knit bunch despite the distance that separates them.
As Shumpert continues to rehab his surgically repaired knee, he focuses on year two of his NBA career and the necessary responsibilities off the court. There is no doubt that Odis and L’Tanya will join him on the journey and help bring the best out of their “Independent Spirit”.
In October, MSG Networks will deliver Beginnings featuring Iman Shumpert. This show will detail the early stages of Shumpert's life and rise to basketball fame with unique viewpoints from his parents and college teammates.