Kyle O’Quinn sometimes sports a sweatshirt that reads “O’Quinn & Son Hardware.” It’s the name of the hardware store his family had growing up in Queens, New York.
O’Quinn was raised by his mother, Regina, a post office worker, and his father, Tommie, who worked in N.Y. transit, alongside his older sister, Rasheena. He describes his childhood as “regular family life … just the four of us pulling for each other.”
O’Quinn started playing basketball recreationally in his neighborhood at a young age, like most kids do, but didn’t play organized basketball until he was in 11th grade. Up until then, baseball was his first love.
“Until I couldn’t get the curve anymore, the ball started moving too fast,” O’Quinn, a die-hard Mets fan, remembers. He also played football because he liked the physicality and his best friend was the quarterback, but he knew he didn’t want to play in college.
Basketball just kind of happened. It kinda chose me because of my growth spurt, and how things were playing out.
After getting an opportunity to play his senior year of high school, he made the most of it, and Norfolk State offered him a full athletic scholarship, the first and only college to do so.
“It was life changing for my family,” Q’Quinn said to NBC Sports Philadelphia. “You didn't realize it at the beginning, how much help it provided, but it was really, really helpful. … When you get older and you see all your friends in college debt. … You think your parents are so rich, and in reality we weren't. I was just thinking my sister went, so I'll go, and the scholarship really helped.”
When O’Quinn got drafted by the Orlando Magic with the 49th pick in the 2012 NBA draft, he can remember his late father's response putting everything in perspective.
“You were 1 of 60,” O’Quinn remembers his father saying. “I was like wow, when you really think about it.”
O’Quinn, whose father passed in a car accident in September of 2015, always carries his father with him.
“Just appreciation of life,” O’Quinn said of the biggest thing he takes from his father. “He left that with us. We just know he's in a better place. … I know he's super chillin’ right now.”
For more on O’Quinn, check out our Q&A:
What do you take away from each of your NBA stops?
In Orlando, I think they taught me how to be a pro, carry myself as one. I had Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick, Al Harrington.
In those early years, New York kind of gave me my identity, my style of play, being a spark off the bench, getting the crowd involved and doing things that don't show up in a stat sheet. They gave me tremendous opportunity to play and gave me my identity, and now I'm here.
How is Philly different from all the other places you’ve played in?
The fans are in it, and I think the fans are in it wholeheartedly with you. They are not playing GM in the stands, criticizing the home team, cheering for the away team. They are with it. They are in it with you. It's hard to explain because I'm not trying to kill the other fanbases, but sometimes you have those people that sit so close and they feel like they know a better rotation or coach should call this play and (Philly fans) kind of go with whatever’s going on and they feed off the energy. The play that we try to put out there kind of represents them and I think the way they cheer for us, represents us.
(Photo courtesy of Sixers.com)
I’ve noticed that you’re always using acronyms on your social media accounts. What started that and does every acronym have their own meaning? Can you share one with us?
Just a me thing. Sometimes there's some curses in there, or some things I don't want people to know. Sometimes it's an inspirational quote and I know what it means, like the one I keep on my shoes. How much do you look down at your feet on the bench or at the free throw line? It stands for “Control what you can control.”
What’s the story behind the Crocs? I see you wearing them all the time …
My nephews wear them, and I feel like I'm out of place when I don't wear mine. They question me. And just because we live close to a farm, it's an easy shoe to wear. Washable, you can hose them down, and when I go to Yoga they're easy to wear. They are very easy wearing, and I was actually surprised they had them in my size. I think just trying to be cool with my nephews is what started it, and then I just kept it going because I actually think they are super comfortable.
How many pairs?
Every pair that comes in a Size 16. And I put the Jibbitz on them to kind of style them up a little bit.
* Sidenote: I had to look up what Jibbitz are. They're basically shoe charms for Crocs.
Speaking of style, how do you describe yours and is there a story behind the Bass Pro Shops hat that we always see you wear?
I really don't think I have that much style. I wear what's comfortable. Everyday, all day gear. I don't like changing too much. Anyone who knows me knows I don't really like wearing jeans. Super comfortable. The Bass Pro Shops hat kind of came out of nowhere, because we were on a road trip type deal and we needed Yeti coolers and bottles and we were in there, and they (Bass Pro Shops) had literally everything, and I thought the hat was cool. Where I train at in Vegas they have one of the bigger stores, and I was in there one day and I grabbed the hat and didn't have a haircut and kept wearing it, and next thing I know ,other people started wearing it, and then I got every color.
And your beard?
I pretty much treat my beard like the hair on my head, so I don't overcomplicate it. I think a lot of it just has to do with the anatomy of my beard. People act like I have a secret potion that I put in there but I don't.
Do you have goals after basketball?
My dream is to be a Dean of Discipline or a guidance counselor. I pretty much graduated with an education and psychology background.* I knew I wanted to be in the school system when I'm done — that's why I chose those directions, so I could have a job after I'm done.
*O’Quinn graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Waiting on people. … People brushing their teeth without running the water. Like they put the toothpaste on there and wet it, and then walk around. … That's disgusting. DISGUSTING. I hate when someone doesn't brush their teeth with the water running.
Are you like me and brush your teeth in the shower?
Oh yeah, I keep a toothbrush in the shower and by the sink.
Anything you're afraid of?
(laughs) Being in the house alone. People think I'm crazy, but I hate being home alone. I don't like being alone.
Who is Kyle outside of basketball?
I am a full-time son. A full-time uncle. A full-time brother. That is me.
I hope you know K.O. now. If it ain't comfortable, I ain't doing it!
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