Anthony Edwards, the number one draft pick for the Minnesota Timberwolves who has recently begun to justify that status with highlight dunks and elite pace attacking the rim, would like to assure us that there isn’t much he can’t do. Especially if it’s a sport. And especially if it’s for money. Basketball is just one of his numerous talents, but according to Edwards, he can also throw a baseball 92mph right now and jump on a track with Lil’ Baby, the superstar Atlanta rapper who grew up in the same neighborhood.
The potential Rookie of the Year has been on a tear since the All-Star Break (23.4 points, 5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 3 assists per game on 34.3% 3 point shooting), but Edwards has also become known for his affable personality and, most recently, not knowing who baseball giant Alex Rodriguez is.
In a recent sit down with GQ, Edwards learned that Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez are no longer together and explained, in his thick, delightful Southwest Atlanta accent, why he looks up to Jimmy Butler, Allen Iverson and some of the great provocateurs in NBA history.
GQ: So…you really don’t know who A-Rod is, huh?
Anthony Edwards: Well…I do now!
What made you change that?
Everybody was texting me, tellin’ me ‘bout it, that’s it, forreal.
What did you learn in the last few days about the dude who might own your team?
They told me he’s a Hall of Famer. Somebody told me he’s like the Michael Jordan of baseball.
I feel like that’s a stretch.
You didn’t watch any games or highlights to verify that with your own eyes?
Nah, I ain’t watch none, nah. I know he date J-Lo [Jennifer Lopez], though!
He does not.
He used to date J-Lo, but they just broke up.
You look like you’re disappointed.
Yeah, I am.
He gonna be my owner, I want him to be happy.
You think he’s gonna be happier with J-Lo?
When you put it that way….that doesn’t seem wrong.
Yeah! Like, for sure!!
Which other famous baseball players do you actually know?
I know, like, Hank Aaron…Barry Bonds….you know what I’m saying? Jackie Robinson…I know them.
So, you know the Black baseball players.
Yeah! I know the Black baseball players, fasho! But, uh, I know Chipper Jones. I know of him. I know…What’s his name? Freeman? Freddie Freeman?
So, you also know everyone who’s played in Atlanta.
I know uhhhhhhhh….what’s the dude who played for Atlanta? No. 22? The left hand hitter? He was like center field or something. Richardson? Maybe?
I have no idea who you are talking about.
I know Ortiz.
The hitta! The dude who be hittin’ home runs!
On what team?
He plays for the Red Sox.
Big Papi Ortiz! That’s his name ainnit?
Yes, that’s his name. I’m glad we figured this out.
Yuh! I know him. Who else I know….Oh! Derek Jeter? Yeah! That’s my favorite player.
There you go! Derek Jeter! He might’ve actually been the Michael Jordan of baseball.
Yuh, Derek Jeter fire.
Cool, glad we know some baseball guys. You’ve said before that your favorite team as a kid was the Thunder, because of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. You’ve played both those teams now, is that still true? Has your perception of those two changed at all?
Nahhhhh. As far as Durant being my favorite player? Nah. Hell nah, that hasn’t changed. He’s still my favorite player.
What reinforced it for you?
He gave us 30 off of 15 shots. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody, when I look at the box score, look at the sheet, and they take 15 shots and they get 30. Like, I haven’t seen that. I’ve looked at every superstar that we played. He had 30 on 15 shots, he was 11-for-15.
Did you guard him?
….nah I ain’t guard him.
You happy you ain’t guard him?
I ain’t gonna say I’m happy I didn’t. But, he’s like seven feet. I’m 6’4”, I can’t really do too much.
What about Westbrook? You had 21 against the Wizards.
Yuh, Yuh, Yuh, Yuh, Yuhhhhhh! I love playing Westbrook. Fasho! ‘Cuz, I can guard him. That’s my matchup. They always put me on Westbrook. Yeah, I had fun with that.
How well do you think you did against him?
I did ‘aight. I had a couple blocks on him and played some good defense. He still, though, got that burst of speed that you just can’t stop, forreal.
Another person you’ve talked about is Allen Iverson. What was it about him that stuck out for you?
He just himself. He reminds me of myself. I don’t really care how people view me. I’mma be myself no matter what. That’s what I like about him and also about Jimmy Butler. When I started to read on and watch Jimmy Butler. He’s himself no matter what.
Do you see a parallel with yourself?
We all got different backgrounds. We not the same people at all, we all have different features. But the one thing we have in common is we are gonna be ourselves no matter what.
But, because of that, you get a few haters along the way. Have you noticed in your rookie season that because you’ve decided to be a boisterous and open athlete who’s willing to speak on certain issues, that you get any negativity coming back to you?
Fasho. Being myself, I get more positive vibes than anything, ‘cuz people be like, “Yeah, I like him, he one of one, he original.” But, you know, some people gon’ hate. They say, “He’s not camera ready, he don’t know how to speak.” They just be hatin’. They don’t know I’m being myself.
That doesn’t bother you?
Nah. MmMm. Nawl.
You don’t care?
I don’t care how people be viewin’ me. As long as I’m being 100 at all times then I’m good.
Tell me how your game has elevated over the last few months or so? [Before the All Star Game he was averaging 14.9 points per game, after the All Star game he’s averaging 23.4 points per game] A big piece seemed to be the coaching change.
[Chris Finch] really let me play my game. He go out there and be like, “just play yo game, do you.” So, I’m just having fun at that point. When I’m having fun I’m playing my best.
Is there a difference between that and how the season started?
It’s hard to compare it. Because I didn’t get no preseason training, no Summer League, Ryan [Saunders] wasn’t able to spend a lot of time with me. And then it was like that [snaps fingers]. He only had a little amount of time to try to help me develop. But Coach Finch…I was playing a couple of games already. I was coming off the bench. Then, I was starting. And he got here and he told me to go out there and play my game. We played Toronto twice already and the first game I played, I had a really good game against them and he [enabled me] to play my game.
You’ve been ballin’, though. You averaged around 24 points a game in March and 23 points a game since the All Star Break. But you aren’t the clear cut choice for Rookie of the Year. What do you think? Are you the Rookie of the Year?
Everybody be askin’ me, I just tell them the same thing: Whoever picking the trophy, whatever it’s called, if they think I am, then yeah. If they don’t, then cool. I’m just here to play basketball. I’m tryin’ to be the best that I can be.
I think you’re the Rookie of the Year! Tell me why you might be.
Well, I’m playing at a really high level right now. Like, I’m playing at a really, really high level. I’m scoring the ball at will. I’m getting a lot of steals. I feel like I’m really fun to watch.
See, you don’t know if I have a Rookie of the Year vote. I might need some convincing. We know you’re fun. We see it! What else is it?
Ain’t too much I’mma do convincin’ wise and talkin’ wise. I just like to go to the court. I don’t really do too much talkin’.
But you do rap, too, huh?
Who taught you how to rap?
It’s just in my family. My dad can rap. All his sons can rap. We all can rap.
What made you choose the Lil’Baby beat?
‘Cuz Baby my boy. He had, like, this lil’ challenge for whoever could slide this beat or do something. I decided to just do it for fun.
Is Baby actually your boy? Do you really know him? Are y’all close, or is it a play thing? Like how Meek Mill could be my cousin, because I’m from Philly.
Nah, we from the same hood. We cool, that’s my boy.
You had a line in one of your freestyles that said, “and my chain is so cold that it’s snowin’.” Where can I acquire a chain of that frostiness?
You know betta than me!
How do I know better than you?!
You probably got more money than me.
You are about to be a millionaire!
[Edwards smiles mischievously.]
You know what, how about we just go jewelry shopping when this is all over?
Oh! We can do that! Fasho!
This is all taking away from me asking you when your mixtape is gonna drop.
I ain’t gone say a mixtape. I might drop two or three songs. A lil’ EP! And probably in like the beginning of next season.
What should I expect? Am I getting trap beats? Am I getting R&B?
Nah! No R&B! Nah!
What?! You’re not singin?!
Fasho not [laughs]! You just gon’ get somebody from the hood. Thas’ what you gon’ get.
Are we getting a Lil’Baby feature?
Fasho! My boy gon’ get on there.
I’m expecting that now. Do you have a rap name?
Nawl. They just know me when I get on the track.
What gives you this levity when you play basketball and do interviews? What makes you feel like you actually can be yourself?
I don’t know. I jus’ be havin’ fun widdit. Like, I don’t need no push, no edge. I just try to have fun with everything I do, forreal.
Even though you don’t know any baseball players, you used to play baseball. You said you could play in the MLB right now, do you still think that’s true?
What makes you say that with such confidence?
You gotta give me a month to get my arm back right.
I gotta get my arm back right! I was a pitcher, but it be hurtin’ my elbow. So once I get my arm back right we be good.
Okay how fast are you throwing it?
If I throw it right now?
If you throw it right now, and if I gave you a month.
If you gave me a month it might be a hunnid.
You lying ya ass off.
[laughs] I’m dead ass! I’m dead ass! I sweatagod!
I want to see a video of you a month from now once you train.
Nah, I’m not finna train for that.
What is it if you allegedly threw it right now, then?
92, 93 mph.
92 right now?!
Well, the Braves might be able to use you.
Yeah, they can use me…..In my offseason!
You said you would be down to do any sport as long as money is on the line. You think you can play others as well?
Name a few: lacrosse, hockey?
Yuh, I play allat. But I’m talm’bout: football, baseball, tennis….and I can swim.
You can swim? What events?
Straight down. I don’t know no events. I just wanna go straight down.
Is that because of your job as a professional athlete? Not everyone gets paid to do what you do, but this is your occupation. Do you take a certain level of professionalism when it comes to your work? Or is this just a job you do?
It definitely takes a different level. It’s a job, just like other people have. It’s a job, but it definitely takes a different level of focus, time management, you have to be smart. You have to grow mentally. It’s not even about the physical part. That’s how you got here. But once you get it mentally, I feel like everything will be ‘aight.
If you talk to some guys who are as dominant as you were in college, they can kind of moonwalk through games. What’s been the difference between your time in Georgia and the focus you’ve developed now?
You just have to go out every night and just be ready to play. At Georgia you can go out and be like, [lazily] “Oh? We got a game today?” Like, nah. [In the NBA] somebody on the other team tryin’ to prove themselves to you, like you not the number one pick. Whoever you is. Like if you LeBron James. Somebody on the other team is trying to show you that you ain’t that good. You gotta come out to play every night.
Did you have your “Welcome To The League” moment?
Bradley Beal, yeah. He hit a couple tough shots on me, like suuuuuper tough shots and I was like [raises eyebrows, starts shaking head back and forth] ‘aightttt.
What’s the dunk of the year?
That dunk Miles Bridges did.
How do you create something like that in an in game situation?
I don’t know howwww he did that [we both laugh]. I do not know. His was on, like, Clint Capela. Clint Capela is a known shot-blocker. For you to go up there and … [thinks]. Yeah, nah. He got the dunk of the year, for sure.
In the last few weeks some Timberwolves games were cancelled because of curfews due to protests stemming from the murder of Black folks by police officers in Minnesota. What was it like for you as a rookie to go through that?
I was at the crib and they texted us just saying, “No game today, the state shut it down.” And I was like damn. I was ready to play. We had KD that night. I was ready to play. Then, they said we might play tomorrow at 3 pm. And that fucked everything up. ‘Cuz I usually wake up at 3. We don’t have to be at the arena until 4. So, I wake up then, get dressed, get a shower and get to the game. But, that shit was crazy, though.
What’s it been like living through this? Both Daunte Wright’s killing and the trial of Derek Chauvin?
What’s crazy is: I really don’t know. I ain’t seen nothing. Whenever I leave the house it’s the crib to the gym. No cars in the way. No nothing. A straight shot. I don’t see nothing.
Is it weird to feel removed from everything even though you are in the middle of a lot of action?
People ask me all the time. My coaches from middle school call me and ask what its like and, bruh, I honestly can’t tell you. I don’t see nothing at all. I just see it on Instagram and stuff.
I understand that. I’ve been to protest zones in some cities and it, sometimes, will only take up a small part of the city. The entire world could be talking about downtown but your life could feel the same.
It’s crazy to think I live here and all this stuff is going on. But, I mostly be in my own world, man. I stay out of everybody’s way. I just be chillin’.
This season you’ve been good, fun and what a lot of people of this generation want to see out of a basketball player. Have you accomplished everything you wanted this year or is there more you still need to get?
To end the year? It’s more I need to get.
[Tilts his head and stares] More. Shit. More. Morreeee. Whatever there is left on the table, I need it.