PORTLAND — Derrick Favors represents Atlanta, Georgia’s south side, growing up on Cleveland Avenue to be specific.
Al-Farouq Aminu also hails from Atlanta, but he grew up on the east side of town, with Nigerian kings in his lineage.
Although Favors and Aminu weren’t extremely close in Atlanta, they certainly hold that mutual respect for one another for rising above the same struggles in the same city.
The NBA forwards once again crossed paths during Sunday’s preseason matchup as the Utah Jazz were in town to face the Portland Trail Blazers.
Utah would ultimately come out on top, 123-112, with Favors posting 11 points and four rebounds to Aminu’s six points and six boards, but the moment is always bigger than basketball.
“It’s definitely cool, especially being a guy originally from Atlanta,” Favors said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys come through and a lot of guys make it in college, the pros and overseas, and a lot of good young talent is coming out, so it’s definitely important to just keep repping it.
“Atlanta is one of those hidden places for talent because football takes over and then you’ve got the music that takes over, so people don’t normally pay attention to basketball, but I think Atlanta brings out a lot of great basketball players,” he added.
Favors and Aminu mostly matched up against each other when they were on the floor at the same time, but it’s tough to take away much during the preseason other than two Georgia boys fulfilling their lifelong dreams.
“I don’t know him that great because I didn’t grow up with him like that, but just being from Atlanta knowing that he probably went through the same thing that I went through, and it’s dope to see where he’s at today,” Aminu said of Favors.
With Aminu, 28, graduating from Norcross High School in 2008 and Favors, 27, prepping at South Atlanta High in 2009, they never faced each other on the high school circuit. However, they both were back-to-back Mr. Georgia Basketball winners in their respective senior classes and McDonald’s All-Americans.
“He went to a bigger high school than I was and they was on another part of town,” said Favors, also a First-Team Parade All-American in 2009. “I was more in the city and they were more in the suburbs, but I kept up with him because his team was one of the top teams in the state, and they was a pretty good team.”
Aminu went on to spend two years at Wake Forest while Favors was a one-and-done at Georgia Tech, then they were both lottery picks in the 2010 NBA draft.
Favors went third overall to the New Jersey Nets as Aminu was selected eighth by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Now both guys are entering their ninth season in the league together.
They’ve gone head-to-head 22 total times throughout their NBA careers, with Aminu owning a 13-9 edge, but Favors has the better individual stats at 11.2 points and 8.1 boards to Aminu’s 7.7 points and 6.3 boards.
They became familiar with each other through a mutual friend in Howard Tompkins, and the rest is history.
“I heard from when he was making noise with the Atlanta Celtics (AAU team) and you would always hear about a young dude with people saying ‘man, he’s only like 14 or something like and I think he already 7 feet,’” Aminu recalled. “So he started already getting a buzz about himself, so that was about the first time.”
Although they’re currently competing on rival Western Conference teams, their mission is still the same, even if they don’t discuss it among themselves, and that’s to represent Atlanta to the best of their ability.
“It was a while where Atlanta was only known for football, and I think it started to kick off for basketball when Dwight Howard went No. 1 in the draft, then Lou Williams came after, then myself and then him, so I think it all inspired us to show that you can really do it from Atlanta,” Aminu said.