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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

Kendrick Perkins knew his best friend's days were numbered.

He just didn't know when that sorrowful day would come.

The inevitable happened a day after Perkins celebrated his 29th birthday.

Raymond Peter Lewis, Sr. passed away on Nov. 11. He was Perkins' grandfather, the man who raised the Thunder's center since he was 5 years old and helped shape everything he stands for today. Lewis was 78 years old.

For the last few years, Lewis had battled dementia. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease and Parkinson's.

Perkins recently missed two games to be with his family following his grandfather's death, and he was excused from practice this past Tuesday to attend the funeral in Beaumont, Texas.

In an exclusive interview with The Oklahoman, Perkins discussed the life and legacy of his late grandfather and how he's juggled such demanding professional obligations while overcoming such a personal loss.

Q: What did your grandfather mean to you?

A: That was my best friend. He was the best man at my wedding, so that should tell you a lot. My mom died when I was 5. My grandparents took me when I was up for adoption. He was around 49 so he was a young grandfather. He took me in and just raised me. Me and him were best friends all through the years. Everywhere he went I went. He's the one that first taught me how to cut grass, to fish; we had chickens and ducks and stuff, how to do all that stuff. He's the one who taught me how to be who I am today. He put up my first basketball goal, but he also was the one who kept me in church. Words can't really express what he meant to me. It's like when I lost him, I lost a piece of my soul. But at the end of the day, I know he's in a better place.

Where do you think you would be without him?

I don't know. Well, I know I wouldn't have been with my family because I was up for adoption at the time. So they're the only people that stepped up to the plate. But I wouldn't be the guy that I am today as far as, not the on the court person but the off the court person. I think you've been around me pretty much to know my personality off the court. It's not the same guy that's on the court. Like, I don't have that anger that I play with on the court or whatever it is. I'm actually a good family, give-the-shirt-off-my-back type guy, and that's the way he raised me. So I wouldn't be that type of guy. I wouldn't know how I'd be.

What will you remember most about him?

Man, our fishing trips. That was the best times, me and him going fishing together.

Where would you two go?

Man, we were out in the Gulf of Mexico. Out there in Beaumont, right off the Gulf. He had a boat. I remember just going out there catching reds. We would prep up that night. At about 7 that night, we'd make sure all our reels and stuff were straight. Got our tackle box. Make sure the boat had gas. The boat was already on the trailer. We were all ready to ride out by about 5 in the morning every time, me and him.

What made those trips so special?

Just the time. It's just you two together. We just sitting up there seeing what kind of fish we'd catch, the biggest fish we'd come home with. The talks we had. I can remember when I was like 16 and I went fishing with him. He always used to drink Miller Lites. I kind of squeezed the question in, like, 'Pop, let me get one of them.' He was like, 'Gon' 'head, boy.' It was kind of like the first step probably to what he thought I was taking into manhood. He didn't know I was already graduated by then.

For those who didn't get the opportunity to meet him, what would you want them to know about him?

That out of all the people that knew him, you could go pick 300 people that knew him and I guarantee you that only about 10 people would have something bad to say about him. He was a guy that was at every funeral. In the church, he was the head usher. At one time, he was the guy that would go cut the older people's grass. He was, like, 74 years old before he really took sick, and he would go cut grass for an 80-year-old woman who didn't have nobody to cut her grass. The pastor said at his funeral that he was the true definition of a volunteer member of the church. Most people go to church and expect something, but he was really a volunteer and really stood by that.

So rather than going to get something, he was going to give something?

Continue reading this story on the...

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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