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Raising Fame: Sports Edition
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Raising Fame: Sports Edition

Author: Tracy Chutorian Semler and Eric Semler

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Hosted by beloved NBA parents Sonya and Dell Curry, Raising Fame: Sports Edition reveals the amazing childhood backstories of your favorite sports icons. The Currys interview the people who raised these sports legends into the idols they are today. Parents. Stepparents. Grandparents. Adoptive parents. We take you back to when Tom Brady the GOAT was just “Tommy” and not getting a single snap at QB; when Shaquille O’Neal was the unexpected newborn of a strong but scared teen mother; when Steph Curry was still hoisting his shot from his waist; when Megan Rapinoe was wearing angel wings on Halloween; and when Michael Phelps was getting kicked out of the pool for misbehaving. Hear the unforgettable stories of these iconic athletes’ childhoods. How they were raised. The highs and lows of their paths to glory. Incredible tales shared by the people who helped shape them into the superstars you know and love. 

25 Episodes
Call her mom, call her CEO. Dr. Michelle Carter most certainly sat at the head of the table in shaping the icon that her son, Vince, would become. It didn’t happen by accident, and it wasn’t always easy as a black single woman taking her place in the conference room. But step by step, the educator and mother put into place the building blocks that would allow young Vince to grow up to become Vinsanity, a slam dunk legend and also more diversely talented than people realize. And she’s still running the show. Here’s her story of raising -- and today still guiding -- the great Vince Carter.
Description: In the span of just a few months, the four Edwards children lost both their mother and grandmother to cancer. Their father wasn’t in their lives. That left the four siblings to fend pretty much for themselves. Here’s the incredible story of the two oldest siblings -- Antoine and Antoinette -- who were appointed by their mother as guardians before she passed. They were essentially still kids themselves, but they did their best to create a stable home life for “Ant-Man,” the Georgia Bulldog superstar who is projected to go first in this year’s NBA draft.
Fairy tales begin with “once upon a time” and usually involve a prince, a frog, or some fairy dust. The Williams sisters’ tale took a different route: grit, work, talent -- and a generous dose of intentional parenting. Many have heard the story of their father’s involvement in their rise to dominance in the sport of tennis. Here in a rare and candid interview, their mother, Oracene Price, gives HER perspective on their childhoods, and their athletic journeys, including some stories heard here for the first time.
He was snubbed by the school he wanted. He was benched by the school he got. Instead of lying down and giving up, Joe Burrow took that chip on his shoulder and hauled it along to a national championship, a Heisman trophy, and a shot at #1 in the NFL draft. Hear his parents’ story of raising the superstar who got knocked down but keeps getting up, and up, and up.
“Rob wants you to think he’s a dumb jock”—but that’s all marketing, says Gordy Gronkowski, better known as Papa Gronk and the father of five professional athletes, including the best tight end of all time, former Patriot Rob Gronkowski. Here’s Gordy’s story of how he once had to market himself, and later his children, and how he systematically built an athletic empire in his basement and in his kitchen, leaving almost nothing to chance in forging greatness for Rob and his brothers.
Some are late bloomers. Others peak early and burn out. Megan Rapinoe was born a superstar, and she’s shining brighter than ever, with a World Cup Golden Boot and Golden Ball and, to cap it off, the 2019 Ballon D’Or for the best player in the sport of women’s soccer. Here’s her parents’ story of raising the fiery phenom who would grow up to defy the U.S. President and inspire young athletes around the globe. Jim and Denise Rapinoe worked day and night shifts to juggle Megan’s exploding career and a busy household of siblings, including a beloved but troubled brother.
Anyone who watched Michael Phelps win Olympic gold, after gold, after gold, is familiar not just with his 24-karat smile in the water but also with the beaming face of his mother, Debbie, in the stands. In this candid interview, Debbie talks about raising the boy who would become the most decorated Olympian of all time. She speaks with great openness about the fact that raising a superstar isn’t always shiny. She puts no gloss on the early days when Michael considered quitting, and repeatedly got in trouble at the pool. And she shares some astonishing stories about the inner drive her son possessed from a very early age.
Some call the Oregon Ducks senior point guard one of the best kept secrets in college basketball…but if you’re in the Pacific Northwest, and pulling for him to win Pac-12 Player of the Year, you know he’s a local legend. His dad, a former college tight end and his mom, a former college gymnast, taught him that old fashioned grit could more than make up for his lack of size…and he proved them right when he led his high school team to four straight state championships, the first time that’s happened in the state of Oregon. Today he owns several Oregon career records, and his toughness has him splitting defenders in the paint and hitting buzzer-beating, game-winning threes with cold-blooded confidence. Hear his parents’ tale of raising this fiery, feisty competitor.
After 20 years as a New England God, Tom Brady is flying south to Tampa Bay. In this exclusive interview, his parents share their immediate reaction to their son’s huge decision...why they’re so excited about the move…their thoughts about Bill Belichick and Bruce the Florida weather might benefit their son’s “aging” bones…and what Tom’s ambitions are for this season and beyond. Then they take us back — long before Tommy became an icon…before the organic plant-based diet and 5 AM training mornings…to when he was just little Tommy riding his bike around the neighborhood, craving cheeseburgers, getting into mischief, and dealing with some major disappointments in his early athletic career. Come along for the journey of the joys, and the setbacks, of a little boy destined for greatness.
While many of his Warriors teammates wear their passion on their sleeves, Klay is a made of a different material. Quiet, intense and even mysterious, Klay is hard to read -- even his most ardent fans find him unknowable. Now in a rare interview, Julie and Mychal Thompson (himself a former #1 NBA draft pick) sit down together to talk openly with their friends Dell and Sonya Curry about raising the “other” splash brother – the quiet but gifted Klay and his two athletic brothers.
At 6’10”, 270 lbs., Duke freshman center Vernon Carey Jr. is more than just a chip off his offensive lineman dad’s block. Born when his mom and dad were teens but surrounded by caring family, Vernon Jr. and his parents grew up together. His parents’ fortunes changed when dad became a star for the Miami Hurricanes and later for the Dolphins. They taught him “Do it right, or don’t do it at all.” Listen to his parents’ story of raising the player who runs to his baby sister before autograph seekers, and who Coach K hails for his super-special poise and “more-than-a-big-man” skills on the court.
Michigan State’s Coach Izzo is a passionate leader who looks for fire in his players as a sign of their true commitment. Along comes Cassius Winston, star Spartans point guard who simmers with a much quieter intensity. When Cassius’s younger brother died in November, Izzo had to balance supporting – and pushing – his young star. Here’s his parents’ story of raising the strong, steady young Cassius through a happy childhood -- and suddenly having to find a way to hold it all together when their close-knit family was shaken to its core.
You don’t become the assist king and defensive boss of the NBA just by chance. You are RAISED to become that icon. And sure enough, as Charles and Robin Paul tell it, CP3 was shaped by some tough love and strong guidance into the superstar he is today. Listen to their story of raising the legend and his older brother, and how Chris was trained from an early age to become the assist master, philanthropist and man he is today.
She’s simply the best. The best college player, male or female, of all time. Mentored by Kobe and shattered by his loss. Setting records perhaps never to be broken. And while this is a thrill for her parents, none of it is shocking. Hear the detailed story of how Sabrina set her sights on greatness from the earliest age; how she competed fearlessly in face of bigger, older and stronger male players; how she and her twin brother hustled unsuspecting competitors for treat money in the park; how she learned to use mental fortitude to overcome stronger opponents; and how the late Kobe, whom she still texts from time to time, helped her to find that “one missing piece” for greatness.
As a little boy, Obi watched his father’s epic street ball exploits and learned his dad’s nickname, “Dunkers Delight.” As it turned out, the apple fell close to the tree. Hear his parents’ roller coaster tale of the ups and downs of raising Obi into a dunk master himself…and how that little boy went from an unexpected arrival in their lives to a Dayton folk hero and projected top NBA draft pick.
Coco Gauff’s parents knew when she was three years old that they had a phenom on their hands. They just didn’t know what kind. Fiercely competitive, highly focused and naturally athletic, Coco showed star-promise as a mere toddler. In this open and revealing interview, her parents share the story of Coco’s childhood, and how they collectively narrowed her focus down to tennis. They speak about her unconventional training regimen; about what she’s learned about tennis -- and life -- from the Williams sisters; about issues of race in her sport; and about how they’ve helped Coco to manage the cut-throat competition that is a regular part of her day-to-day.
Dwyane Wade Sr. had moved away from the crumbling life of drugs and violence that had captured the mother of his young son, Dwyane Jr. He was living with a new woman and stepsons when young Dwyane came to live in his home, an effort re-starting life with structure, discipline and lots of basketball. But things weren’t always rosy for the two men. Here’s Dwyane Wade Sr.’s story of bringing up the future hall of famer often referred to as Flash.
Dwyane Wade’s childhood was anything but idyllic. With his mother addicted to drugs and the world around him chaotic with gang violence, young Dwyane easily could have gone in the wrong direction. Despite her early challenges and inability to care for Dwyane, the amazing Jolinda Wade put her life together, became a pastor and most importantly, reclaimed her role as mother to one of the world’s most beloved athletes. This is her story of those early days, how she failed but didn’t give up, and how her famously generous son forgave and embraced her, and grew up into the man and athletic icon we now know.
Imagine if your kid laid out all of his goals and dreams when he was just 13 years old. And made every one of them happen. Imagine if he said he was going to do it all for you, so you could stop working and enjoy life. Imagine if he loved music, and started rapping -- about you. Imagine if most of the kids he lived around were into drugs and gangs and getting into trouble. But your kid kept his head down, worked his tail off, and made good. Imagine raising Damian Lillard. Gina Johnson tells what it was like to bring up the intense, gifted man-child who quietly predicted his own superstardom -- yet remains one of the humblest stars in the NBA today.
Lucille O’Neal, mother of the great Shaquille O’Neal, is today a wise and respected oracle whose every sentence contains a pearl of wisdom. But she was once a scared 16-year-old who found out she was pregnant by a man who had no interest in being a father, and had to face her stern religious grandmother with the news. Here is her amazing story of growing up alongside her amazing son, embarking on the journey of life together, and reaching for her own goals while helping him reach for his.