By Mike Dojc | Sept 9, 2017
NBA’s Kent Bazemore’s 2017 Celebrity Golf Classic, benefitting his ARMS Foundation, tees off at Dunwoody Country Club on Monday, September 18, so, we decided it was time to touch base with the Atlanta Hawks’ spark plug. Kent quickly schooled us on everything from defending DeMar DeRozan to the travails of swinging a club when you are tall. Plus, Baze revealed the keys to surviving a no-holds-barred UNO championship as well as how to become a photo-bombing ninja.
You started the ARMS foundation right in 2012 when you broke into the NBA. Why was it so important to you to start giving back right out of the gate—a lot of athletes wait a few years before starting a charitable organization?
It’s always been a passion of mine to give back and empower people. That was and is my way of using my platform. Playing in the NBA, you get put on such a pedestal. You have clout, the words you speak and the reactions –it goes a long way to reach a lot of people. The ARMS Foundation was a way for me to show kids that anything is possible and to share my life morals and beliefs.
What makes you proud about the ARMS Foundation? Is there a particular accomplishment or maybe financial milestone?
For us, it’s just the impact we have, the smiles and the tears. Obviously, raising money is the goal for most of our events, but touching peoples’ lives is what keeps us going.
When did you decide to take up golf? Was it back in your Old Dominion days and what prompted you to give the sport a go?
I took up golf my rookie year, but I didn’t get serious ‘till probably two years ago. I started taking lessons, reading a couple of books and really trying to understand the game and trying to think like a golfer.
A lot of people think that tall dudes have it easier in golf because of the longer swing arc, but are there any downsides?
Yeah, for sure, staying down and keeping your body quiet, it’s such a long arc there’s so much room for error, it’s imperative that you’ve got to keep your body still and fluid.
I know charity tourneys are primarily about raising funds for a great cause, but when you get on the golf course are you still playing to win?
Oh, of course. I’ve won two of my golf tournaments. I come to play; I’m a competitor at heart and golf is a competitive game that I love. For me to keep that edge and stay sharp, you got to throw some competition in there unless there are kids. One (tournament) I won in Virginia Beach, but kids were there, so we ended up giving them the trophy. But if it’s grown men and women, I’m trying to beat everyone.
What do you shoot, what’s your handicap?
I’m a 13.2 last time I checked. I can keep up. It’s just about playing a bit more and putting holes together for good solid stretches. That’s my Achilles heel right now, double bogeys that might sneak in there or (having to make) two chips or an errant tee shot. Those are what kill me right now.
In addition to the Celebrity Golf Classic, you also have an UNO tournament where the winner takes home one of the coolest belts in sports. When you play UNO on the Hawks plane with your teammates, do you guys have any unique house rules?
Definitely unique house rules. We add the draw twos and the draw fours from three other decks, and then obviously, we add a little more filler, but it’s no holds barred, we get at it pretty good. I’ve seen guys draw forty, fifty, sixty cards at one time, so it gets pretty bad.
My son is really big into UNO, and he loves those blank write-in wild cards on the newer card decks where you can make them mean anything you want. What do you usually put on those write-in wild cards?
We stay away from that. We tried it but it just got way too crazy, and one card that threw us for a loop was the one where you can switch hands with someone. That card was a good addition because if you have someone with forty cards and then someone with UNO, you’re like ‘oh no you don’t’ and you switch cards and the roles are reversed. It’s good to mix it up and do your own thing, that’s what I think they intended, to put your twist on it.
Is there any strategy to UNO or is all luck?
There’s definitely a strategy. You’ve got seven cards, if I have two blues, three reds, one green and one yellow, I’m trying to get rid of the green and yellow first. When my time comes around, and people start playing red it’s just a little easier to get out quicker.
I like to play my wild cards first and then it’s random after that
See, it’s fun to hold onto the wild card though because if you have two cards left and you can throw down the wild card and pick your color. When it comes back around to you, you can get out. But, if you get rid of them (wild cards), and you have red and blue cards, and people are playing greens, you need to draw from the deck, and your hand just gets bigger. The wild card gives you the opportunity to stop the bleeding or change up the pace a little bit.
In addition to your tourney, you’ve probably played in many charity golf tournaments over the years. What’s your favorite contest within the tourney?
I’d say closest to the pin. That’s one thing I pride myself on. I’m not hitting three hundred yard drives, I’m in the 275-280 range, but I really like striking irons. I like that nice crisp shot that you hit maybe ten feet away from the pin for birdie. Playing closest to the pin ups the ante, and there are so many factors: where the pin is, the wind, the grain of the hole, the undulations on the green. There’s a lot more to it than just whacking on down the middle of the fairway, which is also tough, but there’s something to be said about landing a nice ten feet from the hole [to set up] a birdie.
Are you the best golfer on the Atlanta Hawks?
Coach Bud [Budenholzer] is really good, and our strength coach is solid as well. We’ll settle the score at some point this year when we all go out and play mano y mano. I’ve gotten a lot better since I’ve last seen them.
Steph Curry seems to be taking golf more seriously lately. What are the chances of you getting a Web.com Tour Card maybe a few years down the road?
I played with him the weekend right before that tournament in Rhode Island at Harrison Barnes’ wedding. He added a lot of motivation and inspiration for me to take golf more seriously. I’m not saying that I’ll play in a Web.com event but to see that he did it and how fun it was for him to do it, playing in tournament conditions because that’s what it’s all about, playing under that kind of pressure. You look at Michael Jordan, he went to play baseball for a little bit to keep the challenge, Steph is super young, he already has two MVPs and two NBA Championships so golf is something that can keep him engaged, keep challenging him mentally and widen his horizons. For me, that’s what it does, provides a different perspective, and makes you look at life a little different, your risk management and all those things. It’s just an amazing game to pick up for anyone.
If there was a Ryder Cup-style tournament pitting the NBA’s best golfers against the NFL’s best golfers who wins the tournament and why?
Oh, basketball players, and you just gave me an idea, I’m going to try to set something up. We have the touch, man. We can hit those in-between knock down shots. Larry Fitzgerald is pretty good, and Warrick Dunn can play, a lot of football guys can play, and I’m going to start something, probably, when this gets out. I can find six to eight guys in the NBA, we could meet up somewhere to play in a little weekend tournament, and we’ll see what happens.
You’re photo bombing technique, the Baze Gaze, is pretty legendary in Atlanta, do you have any tips for aspiring amateur Baze Gazers to up their photo bombing game?
It’s all about timing. You want to be a ninja. At some point in time during the year, teammates are looking for you, looking around before an interview starts going ‘where is Baze, where is Baze?’ You got to attack from different angles; it’s all about being stealthy, think about a ninja when you want to be a photo bomber, be quiet, creep around like a champ, and then use the element of surprise.
You’re an Under Armor guy, have you ever played a round with Jordan Spieth?
I have not, that’s not on my bucket list. While I’m out of season, Spieth’s in season and vice versa. I ran into him last year when they came here to Atlanta for the Tour Championships we had a chance to chat. I talk to his brother sometimes too. I like what he’s doing for the game of golf and for Under Armor, I always root for family, and he’s part of the family, so I want him to win it every weekend.
Under Armor makes awesome basketball shoes but what do you think of their golf kicks—do you like them?
Yes, I wear them all the time, I probably have every colorway in the Jordan Spieth shoe, and they also make another shoe that’s spikeless, that’s super comfortable. Being a basketball player comfort is what you want out there playing golf. Under Armor has top-notch gear. Nike has been around so long, parents and grandparents grew up with Nike, so that’s what they’re pushing with their kids, but I think Under Armor is making a huge jump at the lower level: with little league football, AAU and grabbing kids early, introducing them to the brand.
There’s been a lot of changes on the Hawks in the last year, who are some guys you’re looking forward to playing with this coming season?
All of them, this is reminiscent of my fifth year in college. You come in with a lot of guys and everyone graduates, and you’re the last guy standing, and you’ve got all these new faces and obviously, some guys that have been there as well. You are kind of the leader in the locker room, and I’m excited man. There’s a lot of work to be done this year, but we’ve got a lot of guys that work hard.
You’ve always played pretty awesome Defense. Who is the toughest guy for you guard in the East?
DeMar DeRozan, he gives me fits. His game has improved so much, his handle, his footwork, and obviously his mid-range game. He has a big body, he’s very elusive, and his confidence is by far his best addition. He’s not afraid to take over a game. He’s a player man, he’s tough.
Your sideline celebrations from back in the day are pretty legendary. When your playing partners chip in or hole a 40-foot putt is there a golf version of Bazemoring?
No man, because golf is a game where you have to stay even keeled. I think that’s what helps me. You make one of those putts; you don’t want to get too high or too low. You want to stand on the green and soak up the moment, but as soon as you step off that green and walk to the next tee box or hop in your cart, you’re looking at the scorecard seeing what you have in front of you next. I don’t take myself too seriously, but to play a good round, you’ve got to kind of think like a golfer. You saw Justin Thomas this past weekend he hit shot after shot after shot and held it together. He didn’t blow his load by cheering too hard for something. Even if it’s a huge shot, you hold back emotion as much as you can, so whatever comes out is just a small fraction of what you actually feel. It’s important to stay the course.
Have you dunked your first hole in one yet?
No, I have not. The closest I’ve been is eight inches.
It’s going to come soon.
I’m excited, I’ve been putting in the work, and that would be one of the most gratifying things, that, and probably a hole out from 140 or 130 yards, that’d be awesome.
For more information on supporting ARMS Foundation’s UNO and Celebrity Golf Tournament weekend, click here.