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Brotherly love: Imani Boyette talks JaVale McGee

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The 6’7” center for WNBA’s Chicago Sky says big brother JaVale McGee doesn’t know where he’ll end up, but he really hopes to stay with the Warriors.

Warriors center JaVale McGee with younger sister Imani Boyette at her first WNBA game for the Chicago Sky.
Imani Boyette via Instagram.

“I have zero information,” Imani Boyette said of JaVale McGee’s contract situation with the Warriors. “When I ask him, he just says, ‘I have no clue ... whatever happens happens.’ But he would definitely love to play for the Warriors again.”

JaVale McGee is Imani Boyette’s big brother (her words). I asked Boyette if she gets tired of being asked about her brother. “No, not really,” she replied. “I’m excited. It makes me feel good that people want to talk about my big brother.”

She uttered those words with such love and joy that it was easy to envision her smiling brightly on the other end of the line. Throughout our conversation, it became clear that the siblings share a very special bond, and this close relationship is one of the reasons Boyette wants McGee to stay with the Warriors.

“I just enjoy having my brother as close to me as possible, whatever that looks like,” Boyette said. “It’s nice to have him in Oakland because my husband [Paul Boyette, Jr.] plays for the Raiders, so it’s like killing two birds with one stone.”

Boyette, Jr., a defensive tackle, recently signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent.

But there is more to the story than keeping family together in the Bay area. McGee’s assets helped the Warriors win a second championship in three years. He is a high-energy player who can impact the game on both ends of the floor, with:

  • quick pacing that allows him to get back on defense or break away on offense;
  • finding the right spots on the floor from which to rebound the ball or reject shot attempts; and
  • making those cheer-inducing dunks that excite the Roaracle Arena crowd so very much.

McGee doesn’t just play the game — he puts on a show. And the fans love it.

If fans are customers and customers are always right, Warriors’ owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber know what they must do.

McGee has more than paid his dues in the NBA, spending the first four years of his nine-year career on a team with little hope of championship success (the Wizards) before becoming a bit of a journeyman — moving on to the Nuggets, 76ers and Mavericks — before finding his way to the Warriors. At age 29, with no guarantee on how long his career will last, McGee is right to try to maximize his earning potential.

(At minimum, McGee should be compensated for being the target of Shaquille O’Neal’s bullying throughout his entire career.)

With the Warriors, however, McGee finally found basketball redemption. Holding that trophy and looking forward to the championship bling and banner presentation are exciting rewards. But the way McGee earned those rewards is important to note. He was granted the opportunity to show what he could do and he seized it. When Zaza Pachulia went down to injury, McGee more than held his own in the starting lineup, leaving many to campaign for McGee to remain one of the starting five.

Both McGee and the team thrived because his high-energy play is a perfect match for the Warriors’ vibrance and puissance.

Boyette would like for McGee to stay with the Warriors for these basketball reasons, too. “Especially style of play,” she said. “Everything works great.”

For now, fans can only ruminate upon what may be happening behind the scenes and hope for the best. But Boyette says her big brother is not fretting the unknown. He is apparently in great spirits and at peace with letting the chips fall where they may.

“He seems very, like, calm,” Boyette said. “He’s just working out and enjoying his summer. I was just with him during the [WNBA] All-Star break, there in L.A., and he said that he really enjoyed his time with the Warriors and he definitely hopes that’s where he lands.”

Imani’s favorite McGee moments

One of Imani Boyette’s favorite games of the season featured JaVale McGee in the starting lineup, playing for about 15 minutes.

“He was killin’,” she said.

This sentiment could refer to many of the games McGee started (and others that he didn’t), furthering the case for him to move up to the starting five — or at least be given more minutes.

Boyette’s second-favorite McGee moment of the season was Game 5 of the NBA Finals. It was the only game of the 2016-17 season that she got to attend in person and it turned out to be a very special moment for her and her family.

“[E]ven though he didn’t play I got to witness him win a championship and watch him hold the trophy and take the family pictures,” Boyette gushed. “It was really awesome.”

Imani Boyette and JaVale McGee are both fierce competitors, but there doesn’t appear to be an ounce of sibling rivalry between them. For example, Boyette isn’t trying to grow a rat tail that is longer than her brother’s as far as we know. But these two clearly have each other’s backs.

They are to each other everything that family should be, and their fondness for one another seems truly genuine and, actually, beautiful.

Watch Imani work

The Chicago Sky won five of seven games leading up to the All-Star break and ended that stretch with a bold exclamation mark: a win over the 2016 WNBA champion Sparks that handed LA its first home loss of the season. That win was made possible courtesy of two impressive blocks by Boyette in final minutes.

The Sky’s first game after the All-Star break, however, was a loss to the Connecticut Sun.

“They just played really well as a unit,” Boyette said, of Tuesday’s game. “Our communication was bad. Our togetherness and our cohesiveness just wasn’t there ... Connecticut took advantage of it. They’re a really great team with a lot of young talent. Weird day, weird game.”

But the Sky will face a Brittney Griner-less Phoenix Mercury tomorrow in Chicago. Not having to contend with Griner under the basket — an All-Star who is averaging 22 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks per game this season — certainly provides an opportunity for Boyette and the Sky.

“Brittney Griner is having an amazing season,” Boyette said. “She definitely deserved her All-Star nod. Obviously, we want her healthy and to be back out on the court. But it’s obviously an advantage to not have her play.”

Game information

Phoenix Mercury at Chicago Sky

Friday July 28, 2017 — 5:30 pm PST/8:30 pm EST

See it live at Allstate Arena or watch on WNBA League Pass!