DeMar DeRozan’s greatness both on and off the court

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EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 15: DeMar DeRozan looks on during a practice at the 2019 USA Men's National Team World Cup training camp at UCLA Health Training Center on August 15, 2019 in El Segundo, California. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 15: DeMar DeRozan looks on during a practice at the 2019 USA Men's National Team World Cup training camp at UCLA Health Training Center on August 15, 2019 in El Segundo, California. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
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EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 15: DeMar DeRozan poses at the 2019 USA Men’s National Team World Cup training camp at UCLA Health Training Center on August 15, 2019 in El Segundo, California. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 15: DeMar DeRozan poses at the 2019 USA Men’s National Team World Cup training camp at UCLA Health Training Center on August 15, 2019 in El Segundo, California. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)

DeMar DeRozan is a star on the court and a role model off of it. He is an example of what hard work, effort, and determination can do. DeMar is a voice who is unafraid to speak his mind and shed light on the challenges that so many of us face. DeMar DeRozan is not only the man that many young kids in Compton, Toronto, and now San Antonio look up to, he is the man that the NBA needed to fight issues that go far beyond the hardwood.

“Compton, Compton, ain’t no city quite like mine” the hook sings on Kendrick Lamar’s track, Compton. Kendrick Lamar makes no effort to avoid his strong affinity towards the city he grew up in. Similarly, Compton native, DeMar DeRozan, shares that same sense of pride about the city that raised him.

In a 2017 interview with the Undefeated’s Marc Spears, DeRozan was asked about his hometown and his reasons for giving back to his city. DeRozan answer made it clear he would ever call Compton home.

“Not one dollar that I earned since being in the league made me. This place here, this city made me.”

From his upbringing in Compton, California to his days in Toronto, the four-time NBA All-Star unquestionably shows his support and affection for his community each and every day. So much so, that Derozan has the word “Loyalty” tattooed on his left hand.

DeRozan’s fondness for Compton kept him close to home for college. In 2009, DeRozan led his USC Trojans to victory in the PAC-10 tournament.  After one collegiate season, the 6’7 guard was ready for the next level.

Now, DeRozan is the San Antonio Spurs star, but his career began almost 2,000 miles north of the Alamo City. With the ninth pick in the 2009 NBA draft, the Toronto Raptors selected the future star.

Following the 2010 season, the Raptors turned to the 20-year-old DeRozan to be their next go-to player. Much like he was forced to do in his hometown of Compton, DeRozan would have to learn fast and grow up quick. DeRozan did just that. He is the one responsible for bringing the Raptors back relevance after Chris Bosh’s departure.

The two-time All-NBA guard is the Raptors all-time leading scorer. He also leads the franchise in minutes, games played, field goals made, and free throws. From a career standpoint, DeRozan became the greatest Raptor of all time.

DeRozan repped “the North” the same way he repped Compton. He truly became a part of the city and treated it like his own. In 2016, rumors swirled that DeRozan could head to Los Angeles as a free agent, but Demar was not going to let his loyalty falter. DeRozan was ready to put the Raptors jersey back on and get to business on the court.

From 2013 on, DeRozan averaged at least 20 points per game every season and has yet to miss the playoffs. Prior to the arrival of DeRozan, the Raptors had five total playoff appearances in franchise history. Starting in the 2013-14 season, DeRozan led the Raptors to the postseason five straight times, doubling their previous number of appearances.

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However, we all know how several of the Raptors seasons ended. The narrative that DeRozan could never win the big games, and seemingly got demolished by LeBron James in the playoffs every year is mostly true. But, that does not discredit what DeRozan has done.

What often gets overlooked is DeRozan’s consistency and his ability to bring the Raptors to relevancy they had never before known. Over the past decade, DeRozan has been one of the NBA’s best players, yet he is not always appreciated as he should be.

Now with the Spurs, DeRozan is continuing his quest for greatness. DeRozan, paired with LaMarcus Aldridge, nearly led the Spurs to a playoff upset over the Denver Nuggets last season. After coming two baskets shy of advancing to the conference semi-finals, the Spurs are hungry to compete again this coming season.

While the on-court accomplishments speak for themselves, DeMar DeRozan is much more than basketball. DeRozan has never let the game define him as a person, and recently, he opened up about who he honestly is.

Prior to the 2018 All-Star game, DeRozan sat down with the Toronto Star and began discussing his longtime battles with mental health, anxiety and the stigmas that surround depression. DeMar is not naturally an outspoken person, but he knew the importance of what he was saying.

DeRozan was not looking for support, though he received an outpouring. What DeRozan was trying to get across was the message that no matter what someone is going through, it is okay to open up and speak about these issues.

DeRozan instilled a sense of hope for people who struggle with depression, anxiety, and mental health, simply by letting them know that they are capable of success at the highest levels despite the challenges.

There is no way to know how many people needed to hear DeRozan speak up. What we do know is that DeMar’s words resonated enough to spark a movement in sports that has more athletes than ever talking about their mental health.

The mental health movement in the NBA took a huge step forward this offseason, in large part due to DeRozan as well as other stars like Kevin Love and Paul Pierce. The NBA released a memo that detailed new mental health policies.

The memo requires all NBA teams to have at least one licensed mental health professional to be available to players and coaches. It also required teams to have new mental health procedures in place. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults lives with mental illness. DeRozan, by bringing light to these issues on one of the world’s largest stages, has accomplished no small feat.

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Whether it is on the court or off the court, DeMar DeRozan is a star and should be appreciated like one. He has done more for Compton, Toronto, and the NBA than many players could dream about. He is going to continue to be himself and keep his steadfast loyalty apparent every day in San Antonio and wherever life may take him after basketball. At the end of the day, what more can a city, a team, and a league ask for than a figure like DeMar DeRozan?

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