He’s the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons.
He’s headed to the Motor City to help revive and restore a franchise that finished last in the league this year.
But to Cade Cunningham, Arlington, Texas will always, always be home.
“I mean, coming out of Arlington, I’m very prideful about my city. I love my city to the end of me.” the 19-year-old said shortly after being drafted in the NBA’s 2021 Draft last Thursday.
“I’m born and raised there. I’ve learned so much there. All my friends grew up there. I’ve had ups, downs, everything in Arlington, Texas,” said Cunningham. “That’s a place I’ll always call home and will always be grateful for.
“You know, in the NBA I want to carry that same Arlington swag and step in with the same mentality that somebody from the DFW has.”
Cunningham began high school at Arlington Bowie High School before transferring to basketball powerhouse Montverde Academy in Florida, where he was rated a consensus five-star recruit. As a senior he received national player of the year recognition.
He played college basketball for Oklahoma State University and was named a consensus first-team All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year after his freshman season with the team. Cunningham also won a gold medal with the United States at the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup.
Cunningham said he is thrilled to “step on the onto the court with the greats that I’ve watched for a long time and see them in person and learn from them and take as much as I can from them.
“But I know how much responsibility comes with being the No. 1 pick. I know how much responsibility a city will put on the guy that they take No. 1,” he said. “I’m more than excited to take on those tasks and try to deliver to the city of Detroit. I’m just happy to be here, thankful for the opportunity and ready to get started.”
Cunningham said he has learned a lot of important life lessons from his dad, Keith Cunningham, and older brother Cannen, that will serve him well in this next phase of his life.
“My pops, I mean, he is the hardest worker I’ve ever met in my life. He’s wired to work — to wake up at 3:45 every morning, no matter if it’s a holiday, no matter what’s going on, he’s ready to get up and work. That’s a fact,” Cunningham said.
“I’ve never seen him oversleep. I’ve never seen him complain about working. So to have that as the head of your household, I mean, you can only take from that and learn from it and apply it to your life. I know how much hard work can bring you, and to be in this position now is a testament to that.”
Big brother Cannen has pushed Cunningham just like his dad.
“He wants greatness out of me. He’s pushed me to be great since I was a kid. He’s never taken it easy on me,” said Cunningham. “He’s always kept it real with me. That’s why those two guys are the biggest influences in my life, because they’ve always kept it real with me and they’ve always been there to support me.”