Nick Young is having the season of his life.
Not only is he a full-time starter for the first time in five seasons, but he also has his highest scoring average in three seasons (14.8 points per game), while shooting a career-high 47.1 percent from the field. And the Lakers are only a few games out of the playoff hunt, thanks in large part to his consistent and clutch play this season.
Off the court, Young has successfully launched his fashion line, Most Hated, and he’s in the process of getting his AAU team off the ground. Also, his daughter, Navi, was born this past fall, while his four-year-old son, Nick Jr., is starting to make strides in basketball.
And let’s not forget the buzz he’s generating for all of his creative in-game celebrations, like his “John Travolta disco shrug,” he calls it, which he did earlier this week.
In a conversation with the NBPA, Young shared insights on the different styles of Swaggy P, including his Most Hated apparel, in-game celebrations, career resurgence and being a father.
NBPA: What was the idea behind Most Hated?
Nick Young: Pretty much it was just from [my friends and I] hanging out—what we do, how we act and my confidence. And I felt like people were mad about how I carried myself. But I’ve always got a smile on my face like nothing bothers me. I do my own thing and we were, like, “What are we going to call ourselves?” And we just came up with Most Hated. We put [the fashion line] together last summer. We were trying to think of ways we could do it, so should we do our own line, should we do a pop-up [shop] or however? I’ve got a lot of ideas when it comes to clothes. And people believe in my fashion, so I knew that wouldn’t be a problem right there.
NBPA: When you say “people were mad,” who are you referring to?
NY: The media, everything, people in general. But I just believe in myself and do my own thing, and move to my own beat.
NBPA: On the About page of Most Hated’s website, it says, “To be hated is to be free. To be hated is to be original. To be hated is to make no apologies for you being you, at your greatest.” How is that represented in your life?
NY: [My friends and I] started playing around with different things and we put the Most Hated [team] in the Drew League [for the first time a few years ago]. And our annual summer camp for kids will now be called the Most Hated All-Stars. We’re also going to have the Most Hated All-Stars [AAU] travel team coming soon. And I’m big into fashion. I was, like, “I’m just going to do my own little line and see what happens with it.” And surprisingly, it’s been doing real good.
NBPA: With that positive response, who’s become a fan of the product?
NY: Pretty much everybody. It’s been getting a great response. When I’m on the court, people are, like, “Man, when can I get my Most Hated?” I’m, like, “It’s sold out, man. You’ve got to let me know.” But the new stuff should be dropping next week or the week after that. We’ll have different styles. It’s also for the fans. We want to hit them with everything.
NBPA: Who’s been the most surprising supporter of Most Hated?
NY: Pretty much Odell [Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants]. That was super dope. Odell is the capital of Most Hated. He doesn’t get any calls [on the field], people are hating on him and he’s a superstar. He’s doing his own thing. He dances when he scores touchdowns. So Most Hated fits him all the way [laughs].
NBPA: How does the design process work with Most Hated?
NY: I come up with the ideas and I sit down with my team. They are friends from LA. One friend created the font for Most Hated. He’s got his own warehouse and does everything. He does the packaging and handling and all that. We’ve just got to come up with the [style] ideas for him.
NBPA: Are you learning a lot about the fashion business?
NY: Yeah, it’s dope, just to sit down with my team and then let’s do this, let’s do that, or setting up photo shoots or getting different fabrics. Or when I see a sweater or something I like, I take picture of it in a store and send it to them, like, “Man, this is dope. We should do something similar to this.” And it’s worked. And I’ve given a chance to put my friends to work, give them a job to do and not just have them hanging around, so I think it’s dope.
NBPA: You also had the Most Hated team in the Drew League?
NY: Yeah, because we don’t get calls in the Drew [laughs]. We had the team in the Drew [in years past, but not last summer]. We’ve got Jordan Clarkson, DeMar DeRozan, Paul George. So we’ve got a squad in the Drew. It’s going to be better this year.
NBPA: Do you wear Most Hated a lot on game days to promote it?
NY: Yeah, to advertise it in interviews. Pretty much it’s got its life of its own really now. I don’t have to do too much anymore.
NBPA: What’s your mindset with mixing and matching clothes on game days?
NY: Back in the day when I was really trying to impress the team, I used to think, What could stand out? But I’ve past that stage. It’s like I’m an original fashion guy now. I might hit them here and there for special occasions, like a Christmas game I’ll come up with something crazy or a TNT game. But for the most part, I wear my own stuff.
NBPA: For you, does that also reflect living in LA, where fashion gets creative combining the city’s lifestyle and entertainment?
NY: Yeah, for sure. And that’s what all it’s about—being yourself. As long as you feel good and think you look good in it, you don’t really care about what other people think.
NBPA: Tied to your Most Hated theme of silencing the critics, you’re having your best season in a few years. What’s behind that revival for you?
NY: It’s been a blessing really. I think it’s having to go through everything I went through. That played a major role into it. And I put in a lot of work this summer. My brother, [Terrell], was on my case this whole summer, waking me up and training me. I feel like I’m a better leader now, for sure—from what I’ve been through and how hard I worked to get here.
NBPA: This is the first time you’ve been a consistent starter since 2011-12. How are you enjoying that role and continuity?
NY: It’s crazy. I’ve never really been a starter since the Wizards days. I’ve been so comfortable and used to coming off the bench, I had to get re-informed. But the [Lakers’] coaching staff has been great. They put the ultimate confidence in me. That’s why I go out there and do it. I think without them, none of this really would be going on. They’ll tell me from the sideline to shoot the ball. They give me the green light. When I don’t shoot, they say, “What’s going on? You don’t want to shoot today?” And then I think, I need three [shots] in a row now, especially when I’m missing.
NBPA: Do you remember the moment when Lakers head coach Luke Walton told you that you’d be starting?
NY: I would say the first day when I got there [to this season’s training camp], when I didn’t think I would even be on the team. He just told me, “Just go out there and work hard in training camp, see what happens. I believe in you. But you can only control what you can control, so just bust your butt and see what happens.”
NBPA: You’ve also become a reliable clutch shooter this season, notably with the game-winner to upset the Thunder in November. How have you thrived in those situations?
NY: I love it. Just playing in LA, I just want that moment, man. And [Walton] draws plays for me, too. And that one time [against the Thunder], I kind of stole the pass [to Lou Williams]. I just felt hot. I felt like it was going in.
NBPA: What did Lou say to you afterwards?
NY: He was good about it, and that’s what the team is all about. He was really supportive.
NBPA: So how do you come up with all of your in-game celebrations?
NY: [laughs] Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. It’s just the heat of the moment [laughs]. I’ve just been feeling good. [On Tuesday night against the Grizzlies], that was my John Travolta disco shrug. I just started doing it this year really. I’ve done it a couple times. I watch a lot of TV and say, “I’m going to try something out on the court.”
NBPA: What moves inspire you from watching TV?
NY: Oh, man, from everything really: Eddie Kane, David Ruffin, Michael Jackson, Jackson 5. Sometimes it’s not a particular move; it’s just their style.
NBPA: What is another one of your favorite celebrations?
NY: I’ve been doing the tongue out. It’s got a little MJ [Michael Jordan] fever in it.
NBPA: How how did the “ice in the veins” come about after you hit that big shot against the Thunder?
NY: That’s D’Angelo [Russell’s celebration]. He came to me one day and said, “I bet you’re going to do it.” I was, like, “Yeah.” And then I did it. It was just a little inside joke.
NBPA: Do you tune into the social media frenzy over your celebrations after games?
NY: Oh yeah. They loved that one [on Tuesday night]. It was on NBA TV. I get texts and everything. My mom sent me a text, “You’re taking my style. I’m Hollywood. I’m supposed to be the Hollywood one” [laughs]. But my mom encourages me to do them, “Be you. Don’t care about what other people think. You’re an entertainer; that’s what you do. Your name is Swaggy P.”
NBPA: What other celebrations around the league do you like?
NY: James Harden, that was cold—the shoulder thing he did the other night. And when he stirs the pot. That was dope and, of course, the J.R. [Smith] bow-down knee at half court [laughs]. That’s a classic.
NBPA: For someone who wants to try one in a game, any tips?
NY: [laughs] You’ve got to have confidence first. If you do it, you can’t worry about if you miss the shot because you’ve got to be ready to go through with it. And make sure your coaches understand who you are first. You can’t just pop out of the blue doing a celebration. You’ve got to come into it, practice with it [laughs]. They’ve got to love who you are first in training camp, so celebrating starts at training camp. You’ve got to set the mood right.
NBPA: There’s another celebration in your life: you now have a daughter, Navi.
NY: It’s been crazy. She’s about to be three months. Our first game we played [this season], she was born that night. I’ve already got a son, [Nick Jr.]. So now he understands basketball. He had basketball practice today and he wanted to shoot all threes and shoot shots. He just called me and told me he made seven shots. I’m, like, “Did you pass at least?” And he’s, like, “No, I made seven shots though” [laughs]. That’s the fun part because he understands now. He’s about to be five, so he just loves [the game] now. He comes to a lot of my games.
NBPA: Does he imitate your moves and celebrations?
NY: Oh yeah—the fadeaway on the floor. I’m, like, “Oh, man” [laughs].
NBPA: What’s an off-day like for you with the kids?
NY: We play video games. We’re playing Mario Kart on the new Wii. Zelda. He’s non-stop with that. I can leave him in his room now and I don’t have to be around all day [laughs]. But for the most part, we just hang out really.
NBPA: Do you have kids’ sizes with Most Hated?
NY: That’s the thing—we’re working on that and women.
NBPA: On the court, what are your team goals for the guys with the new year here?
NY: I tell them all the time, “We’re not far out of the playoffs. We’re only [a few] games behind the eighth seed, so we can make some real showtime here. We’ve just got to stay focused.”
NBPA: Any personal goals for you?
NY: Just to turn Most Hated into supreme.
NBPA: Is there one award you’d love to get in the NBA?
NY: Any award would mean something just to say I won something in the NBA, in all my years that I was there—anything really I can take home and I have a trophy on my wall. I haven’t got one yet.
NBPA: How about the Best Swaggy Award? You could host your own show to announce the winner.
NY: [laughs] Man, that would be dope.