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Nick Young's Parents Discuss His Smiling

Last week, Wiz Coach Flip Saunders said that Nick Young needs to smile less. Michael Jordan, he pointed out, wasn't known for his happy-go-lucky good cheer. Both local papers wrote stories about this. (Post here, Times here) It was an irresistible topic, because Young smiles more than Nicholson's Joker, and because his earnest response to the criticism was delivered with a five-alarm smile.

"I can't not have fun," he said. "I feel like I'm serious, I just happen to smile all the time."

Word of his alleged excessive happiness, of course, trickled back to his parents, Mae and Charles. I first met them at this same event two years ago, when they were giddily hollering for Nick from the stands. Now, I've heard of plenty of parents who wished their children acted happier (Hi, mom and dad!), but you don't often hear of parents who wish their children frowned more, and the Youngs are no exception. I asked them about Washington's second Smiley-gate of this calendar year.

"But that's what we do," Charles said.

"How can you change someone when he's born with that?" Mae asked.

In fact, the Youngs said, Nick was born with a little tooth in the front of his mouth, which sort of made his infant face into a smile. His dad said Nick has smiled his whole life, but his mom brought up the family's tragedies, including the death of Nick's older brother Charles Jr. in a drive-by shooting.

"You've got to remember, a smile is just a frown turned upside down," Charles said.

"We joke and jive about our pain," Mae said. "We joke and jive about a lot of things. We make fun of it after we went through the process. Ok, that's how we deal with it. That's how we move on."

"If you don't laugh, you'll go crazy," Charles said.

"That's not happiness," Mae said. "That's just a cover up for not wanting [people] to get into your world. That is not a real smile. Look at me, I'm doing this," she said with a fake grin, "but [people] don't know what's behind it."

They admitted that their son has a basically happy personality, but they also explained that there are different angles to his facial expressions. His mom, for example, said the two have argued plenty of times in the past, and that Nick doesn't smile then. She also said he doesn't smile when people treat him badly.

"If he didn't smile, you was gonna have to get out off the way, he's gonna seriously do something wrong, ok?" she said with a chuckle. "He's very vindictive, he don't forget nothing nobody say. So when he stops smiling, know that it's time--Nick's gonna do something real bad. As long as he's got that fake smile on his face, that means that you're all right, he'll still tolerate you."

Both parents also noted that other NBA greats have been smilers, including new Wizards assistant, Sam Cassell.

"Magic Johnson, nobody could touch him, and he kept that big Kool-Aid smile," Mae said.

'Why nobody told Magic to stop smiling?" Charles asked. "Magic always smiled. You don't hear nobody tell Magic don't smile."

"Dwight Howard--he smiles all the time," Mae added.

"Wait a minute, have you ever heard of this guy called LeBron James?" Charles asked. "You see the antics he do on the sideline? If Nick did that, y'all would run him out of Washington."

It's true. I'm no coach, but I don't want a preening, grimacing, chalk-throwing superstar in my city, anyhow. And just so no one gets any wrong ideas, the Youngs were having fun with this whole thing, as was Nick. Coaches want him to be more serious, and he wants to do the same, no matter what his face looks like.

"This is what I wanted you to know, that just because he's like that, that means he's focused," Mae said after Tuesday's game, when her son exploded for 36. "And when he smiles at somebody, that means he's taunting you, like 'You can't deal with me, you can't handle me, I can terrorize you.' That's what he's doing. He's not really smiling. See, if he's laughing out loud, that's when he's happy. Like that," she concluded, pointing to her son, who was hanging out with friends and doubled over in laughter.

By Dan Steinberg  |  July 15, 2009; 5:04 PM ET
Categories:  Wizards  
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Even given the explanation here by the parents, you have to admire someone who can smile so much. As a Wizards fan, I noticed that about Nick right away. Being a fan of the human interest side of basketball, and having seen the documentary about Nick and his family, I am very positive towards Nick; I'm the one calling "light 'em up tonight Nick" when I attend games in the lower level. And that is exactly what he did last night. The Wizards are lucky to have him; the majority of young players need time to develop, and I hope he is a Wizards when he peaks. The most negative people get some sort of kick cutting others down; that's their anchor in life to deal with. Nick and family - it's a pleasure to watch someone who enjoys basketball and life so much, and can hit such hot streaks on the court. Hoping the streaks become the rule, and for the Wizards.

Posted by: ragtop4spd | July 15, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

"Nick at Nite" can flat out ball. I've said that from the day we drafted him. Who cares whether he smiles or not. As long as he is doing his job on the basketball court, I could care less. With the new coach and staff, I believe he will be a major contributor to the Wizards as a starter or a 6th man. Barring injury Nick will be the talk of the league next season.

Posted by: garrybrown | July 15, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

More great stuff. Thanks Dan.

Posted by: sitruc | July 16, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Nick and his family are a train wreck. The other night, after getting 36 points on 19 shots, he complained about having to run off so many screens in the new offense. Now, tongue in cheek or not, they are comparing Nick's happy, smiling disposition to Magic, Dwight Howard, and Lebron....even in jest, that's just stupidity.

Posted by: jasonbehrs | July 16, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I think you read the post wrong, jasonbehrs.

Posted by: sitruc | July 17, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

Nice article - keep up the good work Nick and keep smiling!

Posted by: washwiz | July 18, 2009 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Jasonbehrs - That's the nuttiest post I've read on here. I think you're just making things up to be negative. What possibly could be stupid about comparing two people's propensity to smile? That might be the craziest, just-trying-to-be-negative-at-all-costs posts I've read. Come on, man. You can't just call something stupid because you're bitter. And Young's comments after scoring 36 was that the style of play in the new system (ie, the coming off of screens) made him tired and that he wasn't used to that. Nothing remotely trainwreck-y about the comments. And then to call his parents trainwrecks for being proud of their son? You're just trying WAY too hard to be angry, and it's not necessary at all. Maybe you should smile more.

Posted by: Urnesto | July 19, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

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