How Warriors' Omari Spellman got NBA career blueprint from his parents

/ by Logan Murdock
Presented By DubSharkOfTheDay

Editor's Note: NBC Sports Bay Area’s third “Dub of the Day” this season is Omari Spellman. Stay with our digital and TV coverage all day long to learn everything about the Warriors small forward.

Omari Spellman takes jokes seriously. 

On a given night, the Warriors big man can be seen hours before a game studying ways to roast a teammate. From Ky Bowman's hairdo to a reporter's attire, no one is exempt from Spellman's levity. The approach comes from his father, Willie, who used banter to get to his boy. 

"He used to tag me," Spellman remembered in a conversation with NBC Sports Bay Area. "He would wake up with a joke for me. So then it would be, all right, I'm going to beat him. He don't know it, but I got something for him. And then I just started kind of competing with my dad on jokes."

When jokes ceased, Spellman, 23, would compete for household basketball supremacy.

Spellman was raised in a family full of athletes. Willie made an All-Conference team at Youngstown State in 1998, while his mother, Teresita Jones-Thomas, entered the 2019-20 season 30th on the Youngstown women's all-time scoring list.

The pair gave their son a blueprint for his current profession. 

"My favorite NBA basketball players were DeMarcus Cousins and Carmelo Anthony," he acknowledged. "But my favorite basketball players ever? My mom and my dad."


Omari Spellman hugs his mother in a photoshoot after being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 2018 (photo via Associated Press/John Bazemore)

Family business

As the Warriors know, Spellman's game doesn't necessarily match his 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame.

Most games, he's more inclined to use a face-up game to set up a wing jumper than post up his defender. His wing-like game is complemented by his passion, and those close to him will point to his origins as inspiration for his skill set.

In his Youngstown career, Willie averaged 12.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, finishing with second-team All-Mid-Continent honors during his senior season in 1997-98. Across campus, Teresita carved out a legacy of her own, finishing 24th on the school’s all-time scoring list.

Teresita would later birth another athlete: Omari's younger sister, Taiyier Parks, is a freshman at Michigan State. When Omari was an adolescent, Teresita's college teammates made a VHS tape of his parents, providing a tangible reminder of his basketball lineage. 

"I would play that tape like just seeing my dad get hyped," Spellman said. "Seeing my mom shoot mini pull-ups, that's when I decided I want to shoot mini pull-ups, I want to make plays and get super hyped. I want to do the things that I see them doing. And I think that really shaped my game."

Teresita Jones-Thomas, Omari Spellman and Taiyier Parks are photographed at Spellman's introductory press conference with the Atlanta Hawks on June 25, 2018 (photo via USA Today Sports Images/Dale Zanine)

Growing pains

Implementing his parents' moves provided another challenge. Because of his husky frame, many around the neighborhood would pick the pudgy kid to play center. When he instead began to emulate his idols, his irritable nature would lead to questions. 

"Why you ain't like posting up?" they'd ask, prompting a common retort from Omari.  

"Yo bro!" he'd scream. "I could definitely say I'm better at being a wing than you."

Then, he'd take the ball full-court, often dunking on any player in sight. When he couldn't get to the cup, he'd use the jab -- perfected by his mother -- and swish a wing jumper, providing another reminder of his parents' style of play. 

"I was taught a lot of guard skills," he said. "Like face-up, put it on a deck, pick-and-pop, shot, fade, drive."

Omari developed enough skill to beat Teresita 1-on-1 at 12 years old. But his rivalry with Willie meant more. 


"I beat my dad in basketball my junior year of high school -- lost my mind," he said. "To me, it was like winning The Finals, but that was the apex for me as a junior in high school. State championship? Nah, I just want to beat my dad 1-on-1."

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Keeping the tradition alive 

His parents' influence has been apparent during Spellman's first season with the Warriors.

In last week's loss to the Detroit Pistons, Spellman scored a career-high 23 points, adding five rebounds in 20 minutes, showing off every bit of his parents' skill sets. Of his eight makes, four came from behind the 3-point line. 

Thus far, the Warriors have shown faith in Spellman's talent, picking up his third-year contract option in October. But no matter where he plays in his career, Willie and Teresita's influence won't be far behind. 

"I looked up to my parents," he said. "I idolized them."