Basketball has been nothing but good to Gordon Hayward, who signed a four-year, 128-million dollar deal with the Boston Celtics in July.
The 27-year-old had spent the previous seven seasons with the Utah Jazz, but Hayward learned a whole new meaning of the word “success” last year.
In 2016-17, Hayward averaged a career-high 21.9 points per game and was selected by coaches to represent the Western Conference in the NBA All-Star Game. He became a superstar in that final year in Utah, and he’ll now take his talents elsewhere.
But basketball isn’t Hayward's only passion. The 6’8’’, 226-pound forward has always had a soft spot for tennis, which he discussed in-depth with Tennis Channel’s Jon Wertheim.
Hayward grew up playing the sport with his twin sister, Heather. Both of them were good players, but Gordon ultimately had to choose which sport to play full-time. While it was hard for him to shake tennis, he knew that basketball gave him the best chance for success.
Gordon decided to play ball for Butler University and Heather was right there with him, playing tennis for the Bulldogs’ team.
Hayward insists that Heather has never been able to beat him, and that, surprisingly, wasn’t the only bragging Gordon did in the interview. He says he is the best tennis player in the NBA. Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki might have something to say about that.
One man that Hayward probably doesn’t think he can beat is John Isner. Hayward has always admired Isner’s game, and he even compared himself to the American. "If I was to ever be a pro then I’d probably play something like him,” Hayward said. Admittedly, a lot of that has to do with size.
Comparisons aside, playing tennis has done a lot for Hayward's basketball career.
“I wouldn’t be nearly the basketball player I am without playing tennis," Hayward said. Adding that tennis helps him “pick himself up mentally and move on” when things aren't going his way.
His basketball career hasn’t always been easy, as the time he spent with the Jazz definitely had its ups and downs. Utah missed out on the postseason in five of his seven years with the team. When Hayward was snubbed from the All-Star Game in 2015-16, he did nothing but work harder to change the narrative the following season.
Hayward pointed out that playing tennis helped him with his lateral movement, which is extremely important in basketball. That ability to move has helped Hayward become a versatile defender, which is something that Celtics head coach Brad Stevens will definitely be taking advantage of this season.
Stevens was also Hayward’s coach at Butler and he was a big reason that the forward ended up signing with the Celtics. The two have always had a great relationship, and Stevens is actually a tennis fan himself.
Hayward hopes he can one day play tennis with his two daughters, Bernadette and Charlotte. He insists that a lot of life lessons can be learned on the court and that his daughters could benefit tremendously from playing the game. Hayward certainly has.