With music blaring and the aroma of home-cooked Bahamian food filling the air, anyone and everyone on the block could tell that there was a party going on.
The reason for celebration was simple – Buddy Hield had returned home.
After a strong finish to his rookie campaign for the Kings, Hield returned to his native land of The Bahamas to make good on a promise to give back to his home country.
In an effort to fulfill his vow, Buddy’s “Buddy Buckets Basketball Camp & Clinic” is in its second year, with an emphasis on presenting youth in The Bahamas with opportunities to grow their game on and off the court.
No. 24’s camps were spread over the course of several days on two different islands – one in Nassau, the capital of The Bahamas, and the other taking place in Hield’s hometown of Freeport.
Between his duties in hosting these camps and coaching up the youngsters, Buddy made it a point to spend time with family and friends in his former neighborhood of Eight Mile Rock. This included a visit to his grandmother, whose house would become the hub for the festivities on his first day back in the community.
Following an introductory press conference held at the very same park that Buddy’s childhood NBA aspirations stemmed from, Hield declined a ride in a vehicle to his grandma’s house, instead opting to stroll through the neighborhood.
As he walked, past memories of home quickly took hold of the guard’s mind.
With each step, Buddy Buckets was pointing out familiar places to friends alongside him, eventually leading to a detour that would shorten his trek.
Upon arrival at his grandmother’s house, Buddy was greeted by smile upon smile, with each individual’s admiration and affection pouring out with every hug and handshake.
No person in sight went unacknowledged by Hield.
The soon-to-be second-year player would go out of his way to talk to whoever was present. Even as cars would pass by on the narrow street, Buddy met every hand extended out the window with a warm handshake and conversation. The proud son of The Bahamas was home.
While fans of Buddy see him as the basketball star who dominated during his college days or a budding up-and-comer in the NBA scene, those surrounding him at Eight Mile Rock on this humid afternoon saw him as a member of their community who they were just glad to see come home – even if only for a while.
Buddy’s origins are rooted in humble beginnings for the 23-year-old.
Growing up with six other siblings, Hield shared a bedroom, bathroom, and a bed with all of his brothers and sisters – even waking up before sunrise to ensure he was the first one to bathe or risk getting stuck in a queue and being late for school. His family struggled with poverty, as his mother worked two jobs to keep them afloat. But as much as they saw the struggle in their day-to-day lives, Buddy never stopped loving life.
“Despite how hard my mom worked, laughter was everywhere in our house,” Hield wrote in his article for The Players’ Tribune. “When I got to OU, people said, ‘Buddy, you’re always smiling, what’s up with that?’ And I always tell them where it comes from.”
Buddy’s hoop dreams were spawned at a young age, similar to his fellow players in the Association. However, his hometown of Freeport did not have many options for children to practice their basketball skills – so Buddy took action. He would gather whatever materials he could scavenge to create makeshift hoops that would maybe only last days at a time.
One of his creations still lives on in the backyard of one of his old homes in Freeport, where Buddy stopped by recently to reflect on his craftsmanship and his journey with a simple photo and caption to accompany it.
Once the outdoor court at Eight Mile Rock opened up, it became near impossible to keep No. 24 away from it. Known for his tireless work ethic throughout his young career, it was apparent very early on how relentless Buddy was and remains to be while working to accomplish his goals.
His mother recalls literally having to drive her van onto the court at the park – sometimes past midnight – in order to finally convince Buddy to call it a day and head back home.
“He loves basketball, he loved to be out there,” she said. “Basketball freed him from a lot of pain and a lot of things. It wasn’t easy growing up.”
Buddy’s skill combined with his dedication would help propel him into a successful college career – becoming one of the top players in the nation as senior, then into a top 10 selection in the 2016 NBA Draft.
Now, as an integral member of the Kings young core, the future continues to look brighter and brighter in Sacramento, with No. 24 ready for the challenges ahead while motivated by the times of his past.