Basketball has been a constant in Brandon Bass quickly-changing life.
With each injury he suffered this season, he appreciated his return to the court that much more than the one before. While he has looked healthy on the floor, the Boston Celtics starting power forward was actually hampered for months.
I didnt really feel better after the All-Star Break. Im starting to feel better now, taking care of my body, lifting, eating the right things, praying, he said late in the regular season, stopping for a moment.
I dont know. Ive got somebody watching over me making sure Im alright.
The comment was made in passing as Bass moved on to address the next question, but the short break in his first answer said more than the reply itself.
Bass learned to love basketball from his parents, Aretha Bass and Charles Joseph. Joseph was a fanatic, Bass says, giving two of his sons the middle names Julius and Jordan after the hoops greats. While his mother went a different route and named Bass after his grandfather, her interest in the game was infectious.
This is when I knew my mom was having fun, Bass, 27, recalled. We were all sitting on the couch watching TV and either shed be on the phone with her friends just laughing, and I just felt good off of her laughing, or we were watching basketball. Those are the only two times. Thats when it sticks in my head so much.
The oldest of three siblings, Bass lived with his mother, brother Chris, and sister Dashia, in the rural area of Erwinville, Louisiana outside of Baton Rouge.
Aretha, a Chicago Bulls fan, quickly realized her sons had picked up on her love for the game. She purchased an indoor hoop so they could play in the house. Brandon, tall for his age, quickly tore it down. When she assembled one for his younger brother, he tore that down, too. She had no other option but to move the game outside.
My mom had this guy put this basketball goal up to 10 feet on the telephone pole, Bass said. It was a square backboard that he built with a rim and big long nails in it. We hooked that up in the middle of the yard. My mom just had us play out there. It was grass but after a while it turned into dirt, so it was a big dirt circle.
That dirt circle would become a haven for Bass and his brother. While Aretha was as big of a basketball fan as her children, she wanted them to focus on their education as well. She made school a priority and became involved in their studies, even dropping by their classes to check in on them.
She also taught them to be considerate of others. When Bass frequently visited his family in Baton Rouge, his mother would pack enough food for her and her children so their relatives would not have to provide for them.
The most amazing thing about her, she put her kids first just by the way she took care of us, Bass said with a smile. She would make groceries and leave them in the trunk so that when we went to Baton Rouge and wed be there all day, we wouldnt ask anybody for anything. We would just go to the trunk and get food. She really took care of us.
But everything changed when Bass was only nine years old.
I remember everything, he said. That day, we were making pigs in a blanket. It was wiener wrapped in a biscuit and you put it in the oven. She was on the phone with one of her best friends and she said she felt good.
Then I looked at her and she just started breathing in a funny way and looked at me weird, so I thought something was wrong. So what I did was, I ran down the street to a neighbor. But we were in the country so my next door neighbors like a block away. I ran there and asked for help and they didnt let me go back down there. They just told me that she went to the hospital, and later on that night they told me she passed.
It didnt hit me at first because I was nine. I thought she was coming back. Maybe a year later, I realized she wasnt.
Aretha Bass passed away from a heart attack at just 32 years old on January 6, 1995, a date now tattooed on her sons arm. In an instant, the happiest moments of Bass early childhood were robbed from him. The surprise visits at school, the nights cheering for Michael Jordan, they were all gone. But Bass still had his love for basketball, a gift his mother gave him that could never be taken away.
Following his mothers death, Bass and his siblings moved to New Roads to live with their father. It was there that he transferred the skills he had developed in the dirt circle of his backyard in Erwinville into organized games.
When he was ten years old, Joseph signed him up for an 11-and-under league. Bass embraced the sport. He watched highlights of historical basketball games with his father and brother, and began building the foundation of what would become his own NBA career.
Bass played as much as he could on the weekends. During the week, he rushed to complete his homework after school so he could go outside and play until the sun had nearly set.
Basketball also served as an outlet to adjust to the new phase of his life. As the new kid in town, he made friends through the sport. It also helped him cope with his mothers death.
Basketball helped me to continue to go, just keep going, he said. When I go back and think about it, every day we played basketball in one of my friends backyards. Thats all we played. Thats how I made so many friends in a short period of time when I was living with my dad because we played basketball every day after school.
After a year in New Roads, Bass entered yet another chapter in his life. He and his younger siblings moved again, this time to Baton Rouge to live with his aunt and her five children in an area called Easy Town, closer to the family he often visited with his mother. The change in scenery was drastic.
In Baton Rouge, its a city, its fast, Bass said. For me, going from Erwinville to Baton Rouge, it was like going from Louisiana to New York. Things were moving so fast and there was so much going on, a lot of violence, a lot of drug dealing. Nothing really positive came out of it.
The negativity only motivated him. Keeping his mothers memory in the forefront of his mind, Bass was determined to make her proud. He stayed out of trouble and focused his attention on basketball. The sport had gotten him this far, and he knew it had the potential to change his life and that of his family members as well.
There was just a lot of stuff going on that you could get into, he said. But I chose to play basketball. I felt like when I played basketball, I dont know, it was just my happiest times.
Bass became a standout at Capitol High School and earned a spot on the Louisiana State University basketball team. He played two years of college basketball before entering the NBA Draft in 2005. The hometown New Orleans Hornets selected him with the 33rd overall pick.
At 20 years old, he began embarking on the next phase of his life. This time, the sport that helped him cope with some of his darkest days was his outlet for a bright future.
One of Bass first items of business was taking care of his brother and sister. As they grew older, Bass had become a father figure to them. Even though they lived with his aunt during his teenage years, she had children of her own and Bass felt responsible to look after them.
Bass younger brother Chris had also developed a love for basketball. Bass wanted to give him the best opportunity to play for a Division 1 college program. He enrolled Chris at Lee Academy, 1,900 miles away in Maine. This season, Chris finished his fourth year on the LSU men's basketball team.
Early in his NBA career, Bass made a second tough decision to relocate another sibling. Seeking a better education for his sister Dashia, he moved her from Louisiana to live with him in Dallas, where he played two seasons with the Mavericks, and attend school there.
When Bass signed with the Orlando Magic in 2009, his sister moved to Florida with him. Upon being traded to the Celtics this winter, Bass arranged to have a family member stay with her in Florida so she could finish high school. Like her brothers, she will also attend LSU this fall.
Being successful in basketball has provided Bass with the means to offer his siblings a better life.
Its always been that role, ever since I was young. But making those decisions, it was tough. It was tough, said Bass. I felt like what would make my mom happy is me helping my brother and my sister.
After stepping in as a father figure for his brother and sister over the years, Bass has two children of his own -- Brandon Jr., four, and Bella, less than a year old. He shares the love his mother gave him with them.
It just makes me want to be the best dad I can possibly be, he said.
Even now as a parent himself, Bass mother is never far from his thoughts when he takes the court. From college through his third year in the NBA, he placed her photo in his sock for inspiration during games. After damaging too many pictures, he simply carries her memory with him each night.
I do feel like I owe my career to her, he said. Just to be honest with you, whenever I have a great game, I feel like shes really smiling because she used to get so excited when Jordan used to have these great comeback games. She was so excited over how he played and how he scored. Whenever I have great games, I really feel like shes happy.
Bass remembers his mother during the tough times, too. He immediately thought of her when he hyperextended his left knee in April. After lying on the court in pain, he was able to stay in the game, avoiding an injury scare.
Her not being able to be here to watch me play is sad, he said. But I know shes watching me from above.
Bass was only able to spend nine years with his mother. Yet during that short time, she sparked a passion in him that inspired him to chase a dream and achieve it.
Because of that, he can provide his family with the consistency he did not have growing up, but that he knows his mother would have wanted for him.
My moms always close to me, he said. I feel like she is. I want her to be able to watch me because I feel like she introduced me to the game and right now Im playing. I think shes smiling and shes proud of me right now.