How Mo Bamba Is Prepping for His Big Debut

Anything can happen in the boom-or-bust pros, but you’d be foolish to bet against the highly hyped Mo Bamba. With his shut-down defense, offensive explosiveness, and ability to take over the game at a moment’s notice, the high-flying Orlando rookie is nothing short of a sure thing (and a fun one, at that: Watch the towering center swat an opponent’s shot into oblivion and try not to be impressed).

Credit is due not only to his prodigious athletic gifts—chiefly, his headline-grabbing wingspan, which guarantees him as a premiere two-way threat for years to come—but a beyond-his-age mental makeup that informs an impressive B-ball IQ. That kind of composure bleeds through when speaking with Bamba, whose win-now attitude is a fan’s dream, especially in a sport where physical talent is nothing without the take-charge gamesmanship to match.

“I bring a level of competitive nature to the game,” this year’s sixth-overall pick reflects. “It’s definitely not low-key. It’s probably the opposite of low-key. I’m pretty up-front with how competitive I am.”

It’s no doubt the 20-year-old juggernaut will put his unwavering will to win to great effect on the court. But, as Bamba knows, results don’t happen overnight. Here’s what we learned about the road to success from the sure-fire superstar as he laces up for his debut campaign.


1. Ignore the Naysayers

“Growing up in New York and Harlem, you tell teachers you want to be a professional athlete. As a teacher, they don’t want to crush a kid’s dream, but if you look at the statistics, it’s just not very likely. I used to be told that I had a better chance of becoming the president than being an NBA player.”



2. Learn Your Role—But Be a Patient Student

“It takes a level of awareness in who you are and what you bring to your team. Often times, guys get to a different team and don’t really know their role. As soon as you learn your role on your team and stick to that, and use that as building blocks, that’s when you become an outstanding player. I’m slowly carving out that role. My teammates are already leaning on me for different things, which is pretty cool.”


3. Tackle the Unknown and Channel It Into Something Positive

“I know my first couple games as a freshman, it was just like, all right, let’s not mess up. So I’m guessing that my rookie season is going to be a lot like that. Like, what can I do to stay on the floor and not screw up? I think it’ll eventually transition to, what can I do to impact my teammates?”



4. Attention to Detail Is Paramount, Both Physically and Mentally

“It all starts with what you do before the game. I always try to get a nap in before the game, as silly as it sounds. It really is a good thing to get some sleep before a game. For warm ups, I do different kinds of stretches, try to get a hamstring stretch, shoulder mobility, ankle mobility, so I can perform optimally.

To bounce back from a loss, I watch films and think about it. Don’t think about it too much, but you definitely want to think about it. Especially in the NBA, it’s 82 games [a season], so you don’t want to dwell on something that happened two games ago.”  



5. Push the Envelope While Staying True to Yourself

“My style is pretty versatile—I can wear anything from as low as sweatpants to as high as a suit, and anything in between. I personally think your style and your fashion kind of comes with where you go, who you are, and where you’ve been.

If you look at Express, it includes a range of different types of clothes. I think what I bring to the table is a different feel of authenticity. I don’t really try to look a certain way. I wouldn’t pose in something that I don’t think I’d wear. Everything I’ve done with Express is exactly what I would actually wear on my own time.”