Editor’s note: On Thursday Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors will make his way to his hometown of Atlanta to face the Hawks, and he wanted to show his gratitude for the city — particularly his neighborhood. The following letter was composed by Deseret News sports writer Eric Woodyard from an interview with Favors.
Come and ride with me for a quick second as I take you down my personal journey of what the A-T-L means to me. Way before the fame and NBA lifestyle, I didn’t even have a basketball goal.
It was just my best friend, JJ, and me, hooping on a recycling bin by my momma’s car in my neighborhood, Cleveland Avenue. We would be in the grass as kids, just dribbling and trying to play one-on-one or imaginary two-on-two or whatever, then shooting in the recycling bin at like 8 or 9 years old.
You see, JJ grew up one house down from me. It was my house, the house next door, then it was his grandmother’s house, so we’ve been tight since fourth or fifth grade. He is my guy. We’re like brothers and he’s always been with me and had my back. It’s just love, and I always keep him with me.
But even more so than that, when I was growing up, the big thing down there in the A was football because of Michael Vick. I say it all the time, but Michael Vick was like Michael Jordan to us growing up. Everybody was outside throwing the football, going out for the football team in middle school and wanting to be like Vick. Everybody wanted to get the ball and run, see who could throw it the farthest, and be the one to run the fastest, so those were fun memories.
Then, with the older group, music was the thing. That’s when you had the crunk era and music was a big thing down there. Everybody took pride in the area that they were from, like the zones. Down there, it goes by police precinct zones like Zone 1 is West Side, the Zone 3 area where I’m from is like the South Side, and the Zone 6 area is the East Side. So, we all took pride in that and those were fun times. Even when we played against each other in sports, such as basketball and football, it was always that rivalry.
That’s the real Atlanta in my opinion, and I’ve always been proud to represent Cleveland Avenue. Honestly, it’s what you make it. It’s some good, it’s some bad, but it’s what you make it. It’s a lot of good people over there. The side that I grew up on, the whole thing is a community. Basically, everybody knows everybody. It’s a good area. I know sometimes it might get a bad rap but over there it’s a lot of hidden talent, whether it’s in music or in sports, or not even that, in just regular living. We’ve got a lot of people who have come up over there that have went on to become lawyers, teachers and just anything in everyday life, so I think it’s one of those hidden areas that doesn’t get talked about.
Everybody wants to be from Atlanta, but I take that pride because if you’re really from Atlanta, you’re from like the city, the inside city, as I mentioned the zones. If you’re from those areas, you’re from Atlanta. I know a lot of guys that grew up on the outside of Atlanta, they want to be from Atlanta, so we welcome them in but it’s all fun. I know a lot of guys who are from Atlanta and take a lot of pride in it.
Atlanta is a trendsetting city, with the music, with the arts, the sports, and I always cheer for the Atlanta Falcons. I always cheer for the Atlanta Braves, and I know the Atlanta Hawks are like my competition but I always love to see them do good because that’s the team I grew up watching because I didn’t have cable so I grew up watching the Hawks. The colleges were Georgia Tech and Georgia; I just cheer for all them.
The Hawks games would come on UPN way before the Joe Johnson era. It was back when they had Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Jason Terry. I grew up watching them. Then, I grew up watching Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith too, but when I first started watching the Hawks it’s when they had Shareef and all those guys … Theo Ratliff and Dikembe Mutombo.
As a 2009 graduate of South Atlanta High School, I also wear being a role model to the kids of Atlanta on my sleeve because a lot of kids over there, they need that motivation and inspiration. A lot of them grew up, or either their parents or siblings grew up, watching me progress through Crawford Long Middle School then high school, and that’s something that they always look up to. I go back there sometimes and I see some of the kids that were younger and they always say, "I remember you in high school and now you’re doing this. You’re doing that and you inspire me to work on my game and go to college." I remember some of the guys would tell me, "You’re like a blessing out here. It was a blessing to see that somebody from the same neighborhood and the same type of way that we grew up has made it." You know what I’m saying? I know I’m a big motivation to them and a big inspiration so yeah, I wear that on my sleeve.3 comments on this story
So, to everybody from that Cleveland Avenue area, like all of the OG guys that look out for the youth, that spit the game to the youth and help us out, and guys who grew up around there that doesn’t get much credit because they’re not an athlete or celebrity but are just in the community, there is a lot of those guys that I want to thank. I can’t really name them all because I don’t want to miss somebody and make them mad but shout-out to all those guys. I want to let them know that they’re not forgotten. I’m not a rapper and I can’t put it into music, but I just want to show that love and just to show that I remember that love.
And lastly, remember one thing: Always tip your Waffle House servers well. That late night All-Star Special still does something to me. I get that every time.
Forever I love Atlanta.
Signing off, D. Favors