De'Andre Hunter Shares His Story in New Documentary Series

Ben Ladner

After De’Andre Hunter’s father passed away in 2005, his relationship with his brother changed forever. At the funeral, Hunter’s grandfather looked at Hunter’s brother, Aaron Jr., and told him, "He needs you." Hunter was seven years old -- 14 years away from winning an NCAA national championship and becoming an NBA lottery pick. During those 14 years, Aaron -- who is 12 years older than De’Andre -- assumed a parental role for his younger brother, guiding him through his basketball journey and shielding him from trouble in a tough north-Philadelphia neighborhood.

“He stepped up, took command of the household, took care of me,” Hunter told SI’s Rohan Nadkarni this week. “Definitely when I was younger, he was the father figure in the house, someone I looked up to, someone who gave me advice.”

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As Hunter grew up, Aaron Jr. had to find the line between being a relatable older brother and a figure of authority and influence for De’Andre. When Hunter got older, Aaron became less of a parent and more of an equal, and basketball became an opportunity for Hunter not only to avoid some of the dangers that come with growing up in Logan, PA, but to serve his family and honor his late father.

“His motivation is really his family,” said Hunter’s trainer Sean Colson. “He really wants to do it for his mom, his brother, his sisters, and he’s not really into the fanfare. He just wants to work.”

Hunter translated his work ethic and talent into a scholarship to play at the University of Virginia before being selected fourth overall by the Hawks in the 2019 NBA Draft. He began his NBA career precociously, and after riding the ups and downs of a typical rookie season, finished the year averaging 12.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Hunter shot 35.5 percent from 3-point range and provided adequate defense on the wing for a struggling Atlanta team while playing the most minutes of any rookie in his class. That workload took its toll as Hunter hit the rookie wall and fell prey to some of the rigorous physical demands of the NBA, but the rookie bounced back and closed the season with the best basketball of his career.

“It’s definitely very tiring,” Hunter told Nadkarni. “That’s something I overlooked. The working part of it, the practice, the traveling, that’s stuff I didn’t always take into account. That’s something I had t learn. I knew coming into the season it was going to be a lot of ups and downs, but I didn’t take into account everything that goes into just one season.”

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On Saturday, Hunter released the first part of a documentary series detailing his relationship with his older brother and his journey from his father’s tragic death to his rookie year in the NBA. Part Two came out on Monday, and the final chapter will debut next Monday. The first episode looks back at Hunter’s upbringing in Logan, his basketball roots, and the deep connection he shares with his brother. The second part follows him through the pre-draft process in the summer of 2019, and part three will go behind the scenes of his first days with the Hawks.

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Chapter 2: Draft Day

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Hunter is perhaps the most taciturn player on a team full of quiet players; he typically reveals little about himself and has been prodded by coaches to open up more as a communicator on the court. He is one of the last people on the Hawks one might expect to produce a documentary exploring some of the most personal details of his own life. But his story is compelling, unique, and moving. For that, Hunter was willing to pull back the curtain.

“Definitely just give a little insight to the process that was going on before the draft. Definitely want to show the relationship with my brother,” he said. “With a little insight, I think you’ll be able to see a different side of me that you probably wouldn’t really be able to see outside of the documentary.”