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'His family is what motivates him': New Bull Coby White plays basketball for others, including his late father

K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Basketball

Minutes after realizing his boyhood dream of making it to the NBA, Coby White was answering questions about playing for the Bulls when a reporter informed him that his North Carolina teammate Cam Johnson had been drafted 11th to play for the Suns.

Over the next 50 seconds, White used the words "wow" six times, "crazy" four times, "happy" twice and "love" once.

The video clip, oozing sincerity and selflessness, went viral. But it didn't at all surprise those who know White best. They say the natural leader almost always is thinking about playing for somebody else.

"How can anybody do any better than what he did there?" said Roy Williams, North Carolina's Hall of Fame coach. "He's going to be an NBA player and he goes wacko talking about Cam and how hard Cam worked.

"I've always said it takes a special person to really rejoice and enjoy other people's successes. And you saw that last night with Coby talking about Cam. The Bulls are getting a really, really talented player. They're also getting a great teammate."

It's not hard to see the person who has the biggest impact on White's joyful court demeanor. Just look at his pink shoes from any of the highlights of his lone season playing for Williams' Tar Heels. White wears them to raise awareness for the American Cancer Society.

--Sponsored Video--

Better yet, read White's potent and poignant essay titled, "For My Father," on The Players' Tribune. Published three days before the Bulls used the No. 7 pick on White in hopes of accelerating their rebuild, the essay powerfully details how much he misses his father, Donald, who died of liver cancer in August 2017.

White writes that the "FMF" tattoo on his arm stands for "For My Father" and the Roman numerals below it represent the day the man everybody called "Doc" died. Donald White played basketball for North Carolina Central from 1970 to '73.

"We talked a lot about it, and he kind of used it as motivation," said Rob Salter, who coached White for four varsity seasons at Greenfield School in Wilson, N.C. "And basketball was kind of his escape route because he was doing something he loves. He always wanted to please his dad. That's his drive. His family is what motivates him."

It's no wonder, then, that White's family -- mother Bonita and older siblings Tia and William -- surrounded him for a celebratory group photo in New York after his selection. The joyful shot also featured extended family members, close friends and Salter, crouching low in front.

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