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OKC Thunder: Kendrick Perkins opens up about his best friend — his grandfather Raymond Lewis

Oklahoma City Thunder: In an exclusive interview with The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City big man Kendrick Perkins talks about his grandfather, Raymond Lewis, who passed away Nov. 11.
by Darnell Mayberry Modified: November 23, 2013 at 8:04 pm •  Published: November 23, 2013

Absolutely. He never expected anything in return. He never expected nothing from me or nothing like that.

You once considered moving him to Oklahoma City to be closer to your family. Did you ever do that?

Yeah, I was trying to but he didn't want to. You know how sometimes old people get in their ways. I thought maybe I could take better care of him myself. But he wanted to be at home. He wanted to be back in Beaumont. So I couldn't make him suffer from that standpoint. He was already going through things. He first took sick when I first got traded here. He was a guy that went from being 6-3, 6-4, 220 pounds to, when I seen him about to weeks before he passed, he was like 85 pounds soaking wet.

So you've been dealing with this on and off for the past three years?

Yeah. Absolutely. But it wasn't that serious at first. It was serious, but it didn't get serious until the past six, seven months. That's when he really started going downhill. I think it was in, maybe, March or April the doctor pulled me to the side and said he didn't give him a year to live. So I kind of knew the time was coming, I just didn't know when. I'm kind of at peace of mind right now because you get tired of waking up every morning early, or waking up at 6 o'clock in the morning, or 3 o'clock in the morning looking at your phone to see if you got that phone call. So just knowing he's at peace puts me in a better place.

We often look at professional athletes and either don't know or don't care about what may be going on off the court and just want to see you guys perform on the court. But how did you cope with this and manage your professional obligations with all this going on personally?

I just had to stick with it. I just didn't want to see him suffering the way he was suffering. So I kind of psyched myself into saying I knew he was tired. Believe it or not, it was times when he was sick that I played through some games but it was times when I didn't want to play. But I just figured I can't just sit back and feel sorry for myself or just have my feelings on my shoulder. I know it's a tough time, but at the end of the day a lot of people go through a lot of things. I know the type of guy that he was. I never seen my grandpa cry in his life. So I know just the type of person he was, he wouldn't want me to just sit back and be acting like a little girl. So I had to deal with it. I got through it the best way I could.

When you missed the time from the team to be with your family, can you describe what those three or four days were like?

It was actually peaceful, man. I got time to myself just to emotionally relax. It's times where you'll carry things like that onto the court. Like, you'll be going through so much and then you go on the court and then you go on the court and if something don't go right or if something don't go your way, then all of a sudden you're ready to  explode. So it just took me time to get back and relax and get back to being the team player and the team guy and not worrying about anything else outside of this. I just was able to clear my head. I went down to see him. The time that I was away from the team, he actually passed away. So I got time to just sit down, go down and get things straight. I still haven't got over it. Every night damn near I still cry myself to sleep. The thing that I feel put me in a better place the most is I was tired of suffering. That's why I could take it better than, I guess, a healthy guy that just passed away, like sudden death. It was more so like he was really suffering. So it was, like, now I'm at a happy place that he's not suffering. Don't get it twisted, I miss him like crazy. I wish I could have him for however many years, to 100. But now I just got to be there. My grandma was real strong about the situation, too, because I guess she was tired of seeing him suffer, too. We've just been dealing with it.

What would he say about you right now, about the man he saw you become?

He's proud of me. He couldn't talk. Over the last year and a half, he couldn't say nothing. His throat started closing up and he started getting weak. He couldn't say nothing. And he'd fade in and out on his dementia. My wife bought them one of them big bobble head dolls of me. And my grandma said every night he went to bed and kissed it. Every morning he went to it and kissed it on the forehead. So that could tell you. And he left everything that he had and owned to me in his will. So that could tell you a lot about us, too.

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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