NEW ORLEANS — Erainer Davis remembers last Mother’s Day vividly.
There’s a daily reminder of it, reinforced by the comments of family, friends and others in her native Chicago, where she and her family live.
Last year with her son, Anthony, set to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft by the New Orleans Hornets, she was summoned to Lexington, Ky., to help Anthony pick out a car. When she arrived, there was a slight change in plans.
“He told me he wanted me to pick out a car for me,” she said. “I said, ‘But I already have a car.’ He said, ‘I want you to pick out one.’ ”
So she picked a Chrysler 300.
“It’s chocolate brown with a double sunroof,” she said. “A lot of people have told me they’ve seen a Chrysler 300, but not one like that. I just love my car.”
Although the uniqueness of the car can be appreciated, the mother of the draft’s top pick, who made $5.14 million this season and will command $5.375 million next year, could have had an even fancier, much more expensive ride. But that may have been too much change, at least for now.
Erainer, who is 5-foot-11, has seen Davis go from a 6-3 guard — his dad’s height — as a junior at Perspectives Charter School to a 6-10 senior. Then he became a 6-11 freshman at Kentucky, where he was the consensus national player of the year, and eventually the No. 1 pick at age 19.
In his first season in New Orleans, that Davis is well-grounded was obvious. There’s no sense of cockiness, which certainly could be understood from all the awards he has won and the money he makes.
“Anthony is the same person,” Erainer said. “We’re the same people. Even though it’s happening to him and it’s because of him, I always told him that, as quickly as you get any fame or fortune, it can all be gone. So why should he change? Why should we change?”
In New Orleans, a city with legendary nightlife and temptations, Davis basically lived alone as a teenager in a world full of sharks, even though family was constantly in and out.
“It is different,” he said. “I think college prepared me to be on my own.”
That occurred before his one year in Lexington. Erainer said she is most proud of her son’s maturity and independence.
“He has been very responsible,” she said. “I told him that the NBA is a man’s game, and you’re going to have the groupies coming at you, the girls coming at you. You’re going to have to be smart and protect yourself all around. I thought it was going in one ear and out the other, but there have been no problems. He has shown me that he has listened to me and that he is a very good kid.”
But still a big ole long, lanky momma’s boy.
“Yes, he is,” she said, laughing.
Erainer comes to New Orleans about twice a month to wash a mountain of clothes and cook. Ahe can’t depart Chicago without Anthony’s favorite pepperoni with extra sausage from Beggars Pizza, located near where he grew up on the South Side.
“When I come to New Orleans, he wants me to cook his favorite meal — dirty rice, collard greens, fried chicken and macaroni and cheese — and I have to bake chocolate chip cookies,” she said.
But there was one time, two games into his rookie season, when Anthony may as well have been a toddler.
The Hornets were playing Utah, and the family — Anthony Sr., mom, older sister Iesha and Anthony’s twin Antoinette — was all at the game but ready to fly back to Chicago, where Anthony would play against his hometown Bulls for the first time. But Davis left the court about three minutes before halftime after receiving a blow to the head. When the team came out for the second half, Antoinette noticed he wasn’t there.
“I tried to sit back because I know injuries do happen, and I didn’t think it was too serious,” Erainer said. “I thought, ‘Maybe, he’s just getting X-rays.’ ”
But later, she told her husband they should head to the trainers’ room.
“The doctor told us that he’d had a mild concussion and he couldn’t fly back to Chicago with the team,” she said. “They asked him some questions, and some of them he answered correctly, but some of them he was iffy about. The doctor told us he could go back to his house but to watch him overnight, and they would come in the morning and check on him.”
Davis went to bed without eating, only drinking a bottle of water and taking Tylenol. Erainer took off his clothes and put basketball shorts on him so he could sleep comfortably.
She stayed in bed with him, along with her mother and Antoinette. But Erainer didn’t sleep a wink; she said she felt helpless.
“I just sat there and watched him,” she said.
The next morning, everything checked out when the doctor came. Later that day, she had to drive him to get more tests.
“After we got there, he wanted to order pizza,” she said. “And people don’t probably don’t know this, but Anthony is a practical joker. He started cracking jokes. I said, ‘OK; my baby is OK.’ ”
Although she said Anthony is more like his father, who doesn’t have a unibrow but does have bushy eyebrows, perhaps Davis gets his sense of humor from Erainer. She proved a big hit on YouTube when she appeared at a Kentucky game near the end of the regular season wearing a unibrow mask.
“There was a lady with one on, but she said she didn’t have any more,” she said. “My sister told her that I was Anthony Davis’ mother, and she said, ‘Shut up! Where are you sitting?’ When we got to our seats, there were some on there, and I put one on. People started snapping pictures like crazy.
“There was a picture of me and Anthony with the masks on. That was cool.”
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