Kris Dunn Went Through Hell And Back
Kris Dunn Went Through Hell And Back
“I’m not doing this just for me. I’m doing this for my brother, my dad, my brother’s daughter, my niece. I’m doing it for my sister, for my stepmom — the whole family, the whole nine yards.”
With the fifth pick of the 2016 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select Kris Dunn from Providence College.
Probably the most beautiful words in Kris Dunn’s life.
A mother in trouble:
Kris was only a small child when his mother decided to take him and his brother and left Kris’ father in a hurry, without telling him a word. They left Connecticut and moved to Virginia. John Seldon, Kris’ father, came home to find an empty apartment – no wife, no kids, no note. In the years following their disappearance, he tried in vain to locate his family.
Pia Dunn, Kris’ mother tough, started getting into trouble more and more, eventually ending up behind bars on a regular basis – Theft, fraud, DUI’s.
By the summer of 2003, Kris and his older brother John, had grown used to her absences, a string of jail stints. They started to care for themselves as John, who was 13 and Kris, who was 9, recognized that they were on their own.
Stealing, hustling, surviving, reuniting:
They didn’t tell anyone that they were on their own for over five months, because they were fearing a possible separation in foster care. Once they stopped going to school, people started knocking at their door. Whenever they were at home and heard someone knocking on their door, they tried to be as quiet as possible and ignored the people who knocked. John and Kris started selling their Nike sneakers and brand name jeans at a discount but also started to trick dice, trying to win games of craps and 7–11 in a nearby park, which they managed to perfect. Kris played older boys one-on-one at a basketball court for $20, without even having the money to pay in case of a loss. As you can imagine, he barley lost. If he did lose though, he had to run away or sometimes even fight the other kids. During most nights, they fought teenage drug dealers and shook them down for cash.
“It was literally hell. There probably wasn’t one day we smiled.”
Then, finally, after 9 long years, Kris and Johns’ father managed to locate his boys. As John Seldon tried to gain entry to the appartment, Kris tried to hit him with a hot sauce bottle, not knowing that he was his father. He was too young when they left to remember him. His brother pushed Kris away, telling him that this was indeed their long lost father. After their father found them, he brought them back to Connecticut. The move to Connecticut also was a move back to a life with structure and security. This was the main reason for Dunn to become a future NBA player.
Dunn once said about his childhood:
“My highs were through the roof, and my lows were through the floor,”
The highs and lows continue:
After reuniting with their father and starting to live as a family, with John’s new wife, her 10 year old son and their two infant daughters, Kris’ life started to change for the better. At New London High, he was the starting point guard as a freshman and led the team to a state title game as a sophomore. He became a little star in his home town who had to give out autographs to hundreds of people. Then scouts from UConn, Kentucky and plenty of other big colleges started to attend his games.
It was Providence head coach Ed Cooley though, who was able to make the best impression when talking to Dunn.
“I needed somebody who’s gonna keep me fighting in life and never forget my pain and struggle. I knew he was gonna be that person.”
So he went to play for Providence. This unfortunately wouldn’t stop the lows from happening. His freshman season was overshaddowed by a torn labrum in his right shoulder. As a sophomore he only was able to play four games before suffering a second injury to the same shoulder, leaving his career in jeopardy. Shortly after, Dunn’s mother died. It was basically only days from his second severe shoulder injury and the news that his mother had passed away at the age of 50. So Dunn was coping with two things: The possible idea of life without basketball, and the death of his mother.
“Those are two things that you love that have been taken away. I love basketball, and I love my mother. To have those two things taken away, it was devastating. You’re looking at life a whole different way. It could be sunny out right now but in my eyes it looked like it was cloudy. It was dark. I had nothing to live for.”
It was coach Cooley who helped him through this hard time in his life. He was the one who could reach him, because Cooley had to live through a similar childhood of his own.
“He saw in me a person who went through the same things he went through. There was a message in there for me: No matter what adversity you go through, you can overcome it. Him telling me his story, hearing it from his actual mouth, was just unbelievable for me. His background and him being able to overcome it and become the person he is today. It hit me, because I went through that. I went through that pain and that struggle. I wanted to be around somebody who’d been through that situation. Who gets why you’re mentally frustrated sometimes. And to show me the ropes of how to be successful, to become a better person, to not be mad all the time. To not always think about the past. Try to create a future for those around you.”
He came back the year after, stronger and better than ever. He was focused to be a game-changer and he became just that. Averaging 15.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.7 steals per game, leading the Big East in assists per game and steals per game. Had he declared for the 2015 NBA Draft, he would have already been a lottery pick last year – instead, he saw some holes in his game that he thought needed fixing first, before entering the draft, so he came back for another college season.
He didn’t only want to be drafted, but wanted be ready to succeed in the NBA. He also wanted to get his college degree so he could show his two younger sisters about the importance of college life. And he wanted to finish this chapter of his life. He improved his game even more, becoming the best defensive guard in the NCAA, declared for the 2016 NBA Draft and was taken 5th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. The next chapter is yet to be written, but with his drive and skillset, it wouldn’t be too crazy to see him succeed in the NBA next season.
His coach Cooley promised him three things during their first meeting four years ago: that he would become an All-American Player, that he would become a national player of the year and that he would become an NBA lottery pick. Three for three, not too shabby coach, not too shabby.
“His joy for playing now is terrific. I see it every day. It’s like that girl that walks into the club that knows she’s the best-looking: You’re going to get a lot of attention. He’s just locked in, his approach, his practices, everything.”
During his first year in the league, Kris Dunn showed glimpses of his talent, but also struggled a lot. On June 22, 2017, Dunn was traded to the Chicago Bulls, where he will have the chance to be a starting point guard for the first time in his, still young, career.
Based on his lifestory, he will be ready. At age 23, he has been through more than most people will have to go through in their entire lifes.