Before competing in the NBA, they played video games together. Before being a professional athlete was their job, it was their dream.
The relationship between Sixers forward Jerami Grant and Magic guard Victor Oladipo goes back nearly 10 years. It began when Grant was in seventh grade and Oladipo, two years his senior, was best friends with his older brother, Jerian. They were on the same team at DeMatha Catholic High School (Hyattsville, Maryland) and on the same AAU squad, Team Takeover.
Oladipo became a frequent visitor in the Grant household. The trio spent hours together after school. On many nights, Oladipo stayed over at their home.
Over time, the connection between friends and teammates became much more significant.
“I don’t even look at him as a friend, more like a brother," Oladipo, 23, said.
On the same page, Grant similarly described their bond.
“That’s basically like my brother,” Grant, 21, said.
Oladipo attended Indiana University. Grant went on to Syracuse. In 2013, they were matched up in the Sweet 16. The fourth-ranked Orange upset the top-seeded Hoosiers. Oladipo scored 16 points as a starter; Grant notched four off the bench.
That summer, the Magic selected Oladipo with the second overall pick. The following year, the Sixers drafted Grant 39th overall. Last June, the Wizards chose Jerian Grant 19th out of the University of Notre Dame. He was traded to the Knicks that night.
Oladipo wasn’t surprised to see Jerami Grant make it to the pros.
“He was very hardworking, I remember that,” Oladipo said. “He always wanted to be in the gym. He just kept getting taller and taller every year. Finally when he filled into himself, that’s when he started getting really good. He has athleticism and a great upside. He has a great future because he works. When guys like that who are that gifted work on their game, it can get scary. I wish the best for him.”
On Sunday, Grant and Oladipo will face each other as the Sixers take on the Magic in Orlando. Oladipo is averaging 18.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in two games against the Sixers this season (he missed one because of an injury). Grant is posting 10.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks against the Magic in three games. The Magic have won two of the three games.
Every time Grant and Oladipo play, there is an excitement of being on the big stage together.
“It’s amazing,” Grant said. “Just to know what we went through to get here, all the work we put in. We always weren’t the best players growing up, but we worked hard and we got to where we are.”
Oladipo and the Grant brothers work out together in the offseason back home in the Washington D.C. area. When they reconvene in the summers, they can share their experiences of life in the NBA after years of imagining what reaching that goal would be like.
"We always talked about it,” Grant said. “We all had the same work ethic. We all wanted to be in the gym all the time in order to get where we are right now. ... Just to see it come true is surreal.”