The 26-year-old Cleveland Cavaliers forward is making a name for himself with a four-year contract extension.
Why He’s Interesting: After being traded from Los Angeles to Cleveland in 2018, Nance Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps by wearing his dad’s retired No. 22 jersey. Yet the 6-foot-9 forward made a name for himself by picking up a four-year contract extension in October. Off the court, the 26-year-old, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 16, raises awareness through his Athletes vs. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation by discussing his own harrowing experience with kids who also suffer from the disease.
Building Blocks: The 2018-19 Cavs find themselves in rebuild mode — a familiar place for Nance, whose rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers aligned with Kobe Bryant’s final year and retirement. “It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination. We’re having a hard time coming by wins. But seeing the growth of our younger guys — Collin [Sexton], Cedi [Osman] … is what you hold on to if you’re a Cavs fan right now.”
King vs. Mamba: Two years after supporting Bryant’s finale, Nance found himself riding shotgun in a LeBron James-led NBA Finals run. “Kobe was on his farewell tour, so he was really enjoying it, taking in the crowd and the atmosphere. Whereas, LeBron was on win mode. First one in, last one out. Putting up 50 in Finals games. It was a show every night.”
Country Time: While attending the University of Wyoming, Nance found himself a “country girl” — Hailey, who he married this year. “She grew up on a beet farm in the heart of Wyoming, shooting shotguns and loving America. She doesn’t have a neighbor for a mile and a half, and the closest restaurant is two-and-a-half hours away. My mom and sister are big The Office fans, so they get her, like, beet harvest queen T-shirts. Everything is beets.”