NBA player JaVale McGhee made golden history this summer at the Tokyo Olympics with Team USA’s men’s basketball team. It was the Phoenix Suns center’s first appearance at the Games, and the first time a son-and-mother duo earned gold medals during the Olympic Games.
JaVale’s mother, Pamela McGhee, is a former WNBA star who played for the L.A. Sparks. In 1984, she helped the women’s team secure the golden victory over South Korea during the Games held in Los Angeles, California. Now retired, and a basketball Hall of Famer, Pamela often has been spotted courtside supporting her son, just as she has for many years.
Opening up to former pro NFL player Shannon Sharpe for the “Club Shay Shay” podcast, JaVale shared how his mother’s support of his future meant her love and sacrifices knew no bounds during his childhood years. From tackling private school tuition to paying Amateur Athletic Union basketball teams, there was nothing his single mom did not make happen — none of which is lost on the 33-year-old.
“Every day I think about just the struggles that we went through when I was younger. Having to warm the water up in the microwave so I can take a shower, wash up before school type stuff,” said JaVale, reflecting on how far he and his mother have come. “Living in Flint but going to Detroit Country Day, which is a high private school; we had to wake up early like 6:45 a.m., drive 45 minutes to school every day coming from Flint.”
The now three-time NBA Champion shared that simple childhood things such as having sleepovers at his home were off limits due to his family living in a hotel to make ends meet.
“Not being able to have my friends come over my house ‘cause at one point we was staying in a hotel — I think in like my sophomore year in high school — so I’m going over my friend’s house staying in Detroit Country, obviously they got money. I’m in there like whoosh, they got a pantry, they got four-five rooms, they living, I’m enjoying that,” he recalled.
Pamela elaborated on their stint of sharing a single-room with a double bed by adding, “I could stay at an Extended Stay and I knew I had one bill, ’cause I was stacking my chips so he could go to this private school. They give you a scholarship but you still got to pay your part, and that’s what I had to do coming out of a divorce that killed me. But you know I put it all back together and people just think one day we woke up. Nah I did that, raised both of them [JaVale and his sister Imani McGhee-Stanford]; they went to private school.”
In the end, Pamela shared that pitying herself and the circumstances she and her children faced was not an option. It’s the same champion mindset she and her son both share.
“One of the things he used to say to me is ‘Mom I never see you cry.’ I was like, ‘Dude it’s milk on the floor what we gon’ do? You gotta get a mop. Crying ain’t gon’ get that milk up son; you gotta get a mop.’ ”
For JaVale, having to grow through tough times has only made him that much more endearing of who his mother is and all she has sacrificed to help him live out his dreams.
“The struggle that we went through can’t nobody ever take that from us, and I don’t care what she do to me. It don’t matter,” he said. “She can curse me out, call me this and that, whatever she do she good with me for the rest of my life, for the rest of her life ‘cause it’s serious the things she’s been through just to make sure I was good.”
The son-mother story touched JaVale’s fans who praised his mother for making a way in spite of the hardships placed before her.
“True Queen! Salute Mom that’s the sacrifice of a good shepherd. Our kids are our only value…What a way to be blessed 👑”
“Black moms will make it happen!!! No matter what the circumstances & what’s placed in front of them they’ll make a way. Much respect & love Pamela ✊🏾✨💙”