Detroit — If you ask Rick Mahorn’s children to describe their father, they won’t hesitate.
Derrick II calls him a hero. Jordan nearly tears up at the thought of how giving her dad is. Blake says he’s inspiring, supportive and hilarious.
Others know Mahorn know as a straight-shooter — someone who doesn’t mince words — and that includes his intention of spending Father’s Day, like many dads, being left alone to enjoy the day. But his intentions are rooted in love.
It’s a special bond that Mahorn has with his six children, and none of them sees their father as the popular radio analyst who shares his basketball knowledge during Pistons games. Nor do they view him as the legendary Bad Boy who helped lead the Pistons to their first championship in franchise history in 1989. Some people even recognize Mahorn from his days as a coach in the NBA, WNBA, and more recently, the BIG3.
But, to the kids, he’s just dad.
Mahorn and his wife, Donyale, have four daughters — Moyah, Alexandria, Jordan and Kameron — and two sons — Derrick II and Blake.
Moyah, 40, the oldest of the bunch, is her dad’s clone, he says. She’s married and is expecting her first child, which will make Rick a grandfather for the first time. Alex, 31, is a graduate of Oakland University, just like her big sister. Jordan, 30, is a University of Michigan alumna and currently resides in Illinois. Kameron, 28, attended the College of Creative Studies in downtown Detroit.
Derrick II, 27, the older son, is finishing up his bachelor’s degree in business management at Oakland University, while the 23-year-old Blake has one semester left at Wayne State, where he is studying mechanical engineering as a backup for his budding career in the NBA.
While he doesn’t single any of them out, Rick shares a couple of special similarities with Blake, who’s an assistant equipment manager for the Pistons. It’s a unique father-son relationship, given Mahorn’s storied history with the franchise between his six seasons as a player and 21 seasons as a radio analyst. Blake shares the same passion for basketball. His path to working for the organization stems from his childhood when he was a team ball boy.
Rick admires his youngest son, not because he works for the Pistons, but because Blake has developed the mindset of earning the opportunities he receives and not resting on the fact that he’s the son of a former NBA player.
“The relationship is always going to grow, regardless of what Blake does,” Rick said. “It’s called opportunity. The way Blake embraces it, I like his work ethic.”
That mentality was passed down from Mahorn, who had two paper routes as a child in Harford, Conn., in addition to mowing lawns, shoveling snow and selling candy. Blake, too, has a history of juggling jobs. His father got him his first two jobs — as a parking attendant at the Palace of Auburn Hills and a part-time job at Costco — but Blake went and added an additional job to his plate when he decided to get a job at Nike.
“Blake, what you doing with that money from Costco?” Mahorn recalls asking his son one day during a car ride.
According to Mahorn, Blake replied: “Well, I’m stacking my money right there.”
Mahorn then asked: “So, why did you get a job at Nike?”
To which Blake said: “Because I like wearing Nike stuff, so I’m going to get the discount and with the money I make there part-time, I’m going to buy myself something. I like nice things, so I’m going to work for my nice things.”
“This dude, man. He’s like me. He hustles,” Mahorn said. “I ain’t mad at that boy at all. Nothing but respect.”
‘There was nothing but love’
There was never a dull moment in the Mahorn household when everyone was still under the same roof.
Laughter was the sound that kept the family going.
Derrick admits the house felt empty when his dad was on the road working, but he prioritized family time as soon as he returned. His fondest memory is a family trip to Disney World, when Mahorn was an assistant coach for the Detroit Shock of the WNBA. Jordan recalls Saturday morning bike rides. Blake remembers his father cracking jokes almost all the time — which, if you know Rick Mahorn, still continues today.
“Growing up in my household, there was nothing but love,” Derrick told The News. “There was always something going on, especially with so many of us that were around.”
Mahorn regularly took his family to Shock and Pistons games after his retirement from the league. One game, in particular, was on July 28, 2002, as the Shock hosted the Seattle Storm at the Palace. The family sat courtside and a photographer captured a picture of Mahorn holding the game ball while Blake innocently stared at the ball.
Jordan can recount the moment as if it was yesterday.
“The ball rolled out of bounds. Blake gets up, gets the ball and takes it over to my dad because he thought that it was supposed to go to him (laughs). His face was like, ‘Yeah, it’s yours.’ My dad was just laughing and gave it back to them.”
Basketball has been an integral part of his life, but Mahorn never pressured his children to pursue the sport. Although, he recommended that they try any sport that piqued their interest to ensure health.
Derrick played basketball occasionally, but he loved soccer growing up. Blake played youth-league basketball, along with football and soccer. Jordan, who stands at 5-foot-10, was the one who walked in her father’s footsteps, playing basketball from elementary school until her senior year at Rochester High. She wore the No. 44 in her final season to honor her dad.
“My last year, I just wanted to have that connection to my dad to just end on a high note and show him how much he inspired me,” Jordan said. “He’s just a wonderful father. I am beyond grateful to have gotten so lucky in who my dad is.”
Mahorn wasn’t the type of father that went into detail with his children about what he did on the basketball court, Jordan says. However, his resume is quite extensive. The 6-10 big man is a four-year letter winner and proud graduate of Hampton Institute, an HBCU now known as Hampton University. He left a three-time NCAA Division II and NAIA All-American and he owned 18 school records, which landed him in the school’s Hall of Fame in 2009. Hampton retired his jersey in February.
Mahorn was drafted in 1980 by the Washington Bullets and was traded to Detroit in 1985. He was part of the original “Bad Boys” team during the 1988-89 season, nicknamed “the Baddest Bad Boy of them all,” by longtime Pistons announcer George Blaha. It was an ode to his reputation as one of the most physical players from that era.
Mahorn’s daughters once found a box of VCR tapes that captured his playing days with the Pistons, specifically the team’s inaugural championship series from the 1989 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I just remember watching my dad play and my first thought was the uniforms have changed drastically,” Jordan said. “Then I saw my dad on the court and just watching how he played, I just felt very prideful.”
Some define athletes and celebrities by their sport or lifestyle, but no matter what Mahorn’s job is, his children’s perspective is from a different lens.
“When kids look at you, they don’t look at you as that Bad Boy, that dude. They look at you as daddy,” Mahorn said. “They don’t look at you for your occupation. The only thing they want is your affection and your love.”
‘My road dog’
Tuesday was the heart of the NBA offseason, but even now, you can typically find Blake at the Pistons Performance Center preparing the players’ workout gear, as if it’s a game night in December.
Most of the team was already back in Detroit to attend Monty Williams’ introductory press conference as the Pistons’ newest head coach, but the players are also using this time to improve their game.
Blake, who just finished his fifth season with the Pistons, received a promotion to assistant equipment manager around midseason, when Jenae Lodewyk transitioned into a new role within the team. Blake previously held the titles of equipment coordinator and team attendant.
The main adjustment to his newest job title is the increased amount of travel compared to when he first started working with the team. As a team attendant, his responsibilities were limited to making sure the players had water and eventually helping the opposing team’s locker room without much travel.
Now, Blake is nearly on every road trip with the team. On some days, the Pistons land either in a different city or back home in Detroit in the wee hours of the morning and Blake has to help carry heavy equipment bags to the hotel or back to the practice facility. However, he’s not alone on those road trips. He gets to share it with his father.
“He’s pretty much my road dog,” Blake said. “It feels weird when I’m on a trip without him, like Dallas when they got stuck for five days (in January due to a severe snowstorm). That was the one trip I took off (laughs).”
Like most good fathers, Mahorn wanted to provide his children with everything they needed. Blake recalls his dad feeding him and surprising him with toys or new clothes and shoes. So, when Blake received his full-time job with the Pistons, he wanted to return the favor. Before he ventures out to explore different cities, Blake typically orders his father something to eat while they’re on the road. It’s his way of giving back.
“Sometimes, where he’s like, ‘My treat,’ or he’ll say, ‘Pops, what do you want to eat? I’ll DoorDash you some food,’” Mahorn said. “I see a maturity about him and how he handles himself around people. It makes me smile when people come to me and say, ‘I didn’t even know that was your son.’ It’s a beautiful thing.”