Pam McGee has always had something to dangle over her son’s head. When he was a burgeoning young star at Nevada, she would tell him he still hadn’t reached the pros. When he made the NBA, she would tell him he hadn’t won a championship. Now with three rings, there’s one plateau JaVale McGee hasn’t reached that his mom has: Olympic gold. Time could be running out on those days now that JaVale is in Japan with Team USA basketball.
“She always talks about, ‘Yeah, y’all really not doing nothing until you get the championship,’” he said Thursday from Tokyo. “Then I got the championship, and she’s like, ‘Well, you don’t have the trophy .’ And now I even have a chance to urge a trophy. It’ll be amazing.”
Perhaps like no other player within the NBA, McGee has found himself chasing his mom’s legacy throughout his basketball career. Pam McGee’s women’s basketball Hall of Fame berth would are set by her USC tenure alone: back-to-back national titles, three All-America teams, playing alongside the likes of Cheryl Miller and Cynthia Cooper. But she also secured international history by winning gold within the 1984 Olympics, the primary trophy for the Team USA women within the sport.
JaVale has always been conscious of this history, although a number of the small print have escaped him. He recently asked Pam if she stayed within the Olympic Village in 1984: “I said, ‘J, it had been in l. a. .’” Even though Pam senses she could be losing some leverage in measuring her basketball career against her son, her overwhelming feeling is pride. JaVale was a late addition after Kevin Love stayed behind after camp in Las Vegas, but it doesn’t matter how you get on Team USA – it’s that you’re ready when it happens, Pam said.
“I always tell him, “We don’t care how we came to the door – front entrance, back door, side entrance – as long as we get to the table.’” she said during a phone interview with Southern California News Group. “I got cut from several teams before the Pan American team (in 1983) then the Olympic team. Eventually, people will recognize the work, those hours you’re fixing the gym.”
Pam is at the basis of her son’s work on the court. She was his first trainer, a task she took as seriously as a drill sergeant. In between the lines, she was never “Mom,” but always “Coach.” JaVale quit training together with her when he was 13, frustrated by how tough Pam might be. Pam accepted that call, telling him she didn’t want her role as a teacher to return before her role as a mother. He came back when he needs to high school, and learned that his friends who had kept training with Pam had made varsity, and he had only made JV: “He understood that the varsity players got all the eye from the lovable girls,” Pam said with a snicker.
That pressure has helped build-out of the legacy of the McGee family on the court: Pam and Paula, identical twins, were foundational pieces of the Trojans’ basketball dynasty (the subject of the HBO documentary “Women of Troy”). JaVale has played within the NBA for quite a decade now, and Imani McGee played within the WNBA – making Pam the sole former WNBA player to possess children who played within the NBA and WNBA.
But as proud because the on-court pursuits have made her, she gushes about her children off the court more: Imani is pursuing an academic degree, and what makes Pam most pleased with JaVale is how often she hears those around him tell her what a pleasant person he’s.
“One of the items that we all want once we check out our children: we would like them to be resilient and good people,” she said. “All sorts of people, from the ushers to the janitors, and therefore the fans, to the woman in Cleveland who gave me my COVID test just one occasion, say, ‘We love your son. He’s the kindest, nicest person we ever met.’ and that they try their hardest to urge to me, to travel out of their thanks to telling me that.”
Pam recently went viral for an unfortunate reason. On an Olympic call, a reporter asked JaVale if his mother was still alive. JaVale squinted skeptically: “Yes, she’s still alive. That’s a weird question to ask somebody, but keep going.” JaVale later posted an image of Pam understanding at a gym. (The reporter told SCNG that he had lost a parent and didn’t wish to be insensitive before asking a follow-up question about their conversation when he made Team USA.)
When told about the question, Pam audibly gasped. She’s a name with several social media accounts and had tweeted about her son’s inclusion onto Team USA earlier within the week. She took offense that the reporter would have asked the question without research on the planet stage, offering a well-known quote: “Better to stay silent and be thought a fool than to talk and to get rid of all doubt.”
But the overriding feeling she has is joy for JaVale, who FaceTimed her from the Team USA bus on the thanks to the opening ceremonies in Tokyo. the lads were riding with the ladies, and JaVale noted that Team USA coach Dawn Staley – who Pam played against during her pro career – was also on board.
Pam still remembers how special winning the 1984 trophy felt. Of many people playing basketball everywhere on the planet, only 12 women earned the proper to be called the simplest that year, Pam said. albeit the exclusivity element made it unique, Pam has always been one to share success with family: Moments after receiving gold on stage, Pam sought out her sister Paula within the crowd and wrapped the medal round her neck, dissolving both women into tears.
It’s been fun for Pam to possess a couple of achievements JaVale has never reached, but ultimately, becoming the primary mother-son duo to win golds in basketball would be the foremost exclusive club of all of them . “He wont to inquire from me , ‘Why can’t you only be a mom?’ she said. “I would say, ‘How am i able to just be something when nobody has ever done what we’ve done before?’ And now we’re setting the blueprint for the opposite people that come behind us.”