Can’t get enough of baby-faced Suns scoring machine Devin Booker (Spotlight)? Look for our Q&A outtakes with the second-year guard.

Extended Q&A with Devin Booker

Written by Lauren Loftus Category: Web Extras Issue: December 2016
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Don't let the fact that he can't legally drink fool you – Devin Booker can throw down on the court. Last summer, Booker had barely earned the right to vote when he was drafted by the Phoenix Suns out of the University of Kentucky. An impressive rookie season saw the 6-foot-6 shooting guard average 13.8 points per game, by far the brightest spot in an otherwise dismal season for the 23-59 team. Along the way, Booker became the third youngest player ever to score 30 points in one game, and the fourth youngest to reach 1,000 points total, cementing his reputation in NBA circles as the league's next great volume scorer. His plans for the big 2-0 in late October? “Beating the Golden State Warriors.” That swagger continues off the court, with a seriously slick fashion sense – he's got 10 pairs of Christian Louboutin shoes(!) – and love for good food – Mastro's and Steak 44 are faves. For all that confidence and maturity, it might be easy to forget this is a kid who can't yet grow a beard like teammate Tyson Chandler. Not that he'd want to, he insists. It's just not his style.

YOU'VE BEEN LABELED AS SOMETHING OF A FRANCHISE SAVIOR. DO YOU EVER FEAR HAVING TOO MUCH CONFIDENCE? 
You know it's a big title to carry but it's everything I've ever wanted. So I've always prepared myself to be in this moment [and] I think when I had the opportunity last year to start playing as much as I did, I was ready for it because of how I always prepared... I always felt that being confident was half the battle. If you're not going to believe in yourself, nobody's going to believe in you. And I figured that out at a young age. I knew it was all up to me. You know, your parents can want you to be something, your friends can want you to be something, but if you actually don't believe you can be that person then you [never will be]. So when I was a kid with my teachers telling me all the percentages of the people that [don't] make it to the NBA, you know I never listened to that. I had confidence in myself.

HAVING ESTABLISHED YOUR OFFENSIVE BONA FIDES, HOW DO YOU PLAN TO TAKE YOUR GAME TO THE NEXT LEVEL? 
I'd say be a two-way player. And that's offense and defense. So you know my first time around, going against a lot of the guys last year, it was new – guarding new people. I struggled at times. Just knowing people's tendencies, knowing the difference between someone that likes to go left or someone that likes to go right... Last year, I went around and played against everybody twice, so I feel like this next time around, I'll have a better understanding. 

DO YOU STILL SEE YOURSELF AS YOUNG BLOOD OR ARE YOU READY TO ASSUME A LEADERSHIP ROLE WITH THIS NEW INFLUX OF YOUNG PLAYERS?
A little bit of both. I feel like I'm a leader for the younger guys... [like] Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, Tyler Ulis – the rookies. I feel like I'm a leader to them but at the same time I'm still learning from Tyson [Chandler], Leandro [Barbosa], Jared [Dudley], everybody. You know we have a lot of great experience around the program – coaching staff and players – so I'm trying to be a sponge to that, listen to everything that they say.

SPEAKING OF TYLER ULIS – FORMER UNIVERSITY OF KENTUKY TEAMMATE – YOU GUYS ARE BFFs?
BFFs. Yes [laughs].

IS IT COOL TO HAVE HIM AROUND AGAIN?
Cool, real cool. I was really excited when we drafted him. Obviously I was pushing for him the whole last season while he was still in college, every time Kentucky played, I'd put it on the TV in the locker room. You know, watch my guy. So it's crazy how it ended up happening. I think it's going to be one of the best things that happened for him too because I'm always around him, I can let him know things he's going to go through that I went through last year so I'm going to try to help him out every step of the way.  

YOU LEFT COLLEGE AFTER ONLY ONE YEAR (OBVIOUSLY FOR EXCITING REASONS). DO YOU EVER THINK YOU'RE MISSING OUT ON THAT QUINTESSENTIAL COLLEGE EXPERIENCE?
Sometimes, I miss the college lifestyle. But I don't miss school. Even though I used to like school a lot in high school, I figured once I got to college, people went to school for their job and I was ready to go out and do my job so that's what I did. But no, my friends are still in college, I always look at them having fun, back home around their families...that's the good part. But I like my lifestyle [now] also.

WELL, WHAT IF WE WERE IN A WEIRD ALTERNATE UNIVERSE AND YOU DIDN'T PLAY BASKETBALL?
I always get this question. I've never had a Plan B honestly. Growing up, teachers would give me the percentages – of people that make it pro – it was just always my mindset that I'm never going to have a Plan B cause this is what I wanted to do. So I had one goal my whole life and I made it happen. 

WAS IT ALWAYS A FOREGONE CONCLUSION, THEN, THAT YOU'D PLAY... GIVEN YOUR INNATE TALENT AND YOUR DAD [FORMER NBA GUARD MELVIN BOOKER PLAYED PROFESSIONALLY IN EUROPE FOR MORE THAN A DECADE]? 
That helped out when I was a young kid, just getting the chance to visit him overseas and seeing how he took care of his family by playing a sport that he loved, it made me want to grind that much harder. Just seeing how he was able to take care of his mom, take care of me, all his family. He made sacrifices obviously – he sacrificed his time, he was playing overseas so I only got to see him like two months out of the year. But I knew if I can make this my dream at home in the states, then that would be the lifestyle I wanted to live.

IS THAT IMPORTANT TO YOU TOO? BEING ABLE TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR FAMILY? 
Yeah, for sure. That's half the reason I do it. Just to put smiles on people's faces. Not only my family but my friends too. Just everybody being excited, being excited to come watch games... being a role model in the community, people looking up to you, just how you can change people's lives in a positive way.

ALRIGHT, LET'S GET INTO SOME PERSONAL QUESTIONS!
Uh oh...

YOUR INSTAGRAM IS A VERITABLE FASHION LOOK-BOOK... MAYBE NOT SURPRISING SINCE YOUR MIDDLE NAME IS ARMANI. WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR FASHION INSPO?
It started visiting my dad in Italy. That was before everybody went with the more tapered look, skinny-leg pants – I feel like I was one of the first to do it cause I went over to Europe and saw them doing it and I liked their style. So with my dad, I like to kind of think of him as my stylist. He doesn't understand some of the things I do, but at the same time it's a newer generation so, you know, we can kind of go off the wall. I like to experiment a lot, have fun with it – but I don't experiment as much as some people, like my teammate P.J. Tucker, he goes off the wall. Russell Westbrook [of Oklahoma City], he goes off the wall sometimes. But everybody has their own style. That's why I like fashion – you can be yourself with it... that's who I was named after – Giorgio Armani – and I actually had a chance to meet him, when I went over to Italy to watch my dad play. 

TELL US ABOUT THE DRAKE JERSEY. 
That was a big moment. Drake is someone I idolize, outside of basketball. It's always good to idolize someone outside basketball – witness greatness in something I don't do. So he's kind of like a big brother to me. I met him while I was at Kentucky. He came to our team scrimmage called Big Blue Madness. Ever since then our relationship kicked off. Been to a few of his concerts. Been to Toronto for a few of his concerts. He's always shown love. At first, I just thought it was the first time around but now every time I run into him he shows a lot of love. Him coming out in my jersey kind of topped everything off. 

HOW LONG WOULD IT TAKE YOU TO GROW A TYSON CHANDLER-STYLE BEARD? 
How old is Tyson? [34] I don't think it's in my genes. My dad doesn't even grow that much facial hair. So I don't think ever. Nor do I want it. Nah, not for me.

YOU'RE FROM MICHIGAN BUT HAVE LIVED IN THE SOUTH AS WELL. WHAT WERE YOUR INITIAL THOUGHTS ON COMING TO PHOENIX? 
It was hot, that was my first thought. Right when I got off the plane [last June], it was like 115. It was tough, but everyone kept telling me, “Just wait...” They were right. Nine months out of the year, the weather's perfect, man. I can imagine myself living here forever, buying a house here... I don't know about the summer. Summers are tough, but luckily our season matches up where we can be out of town during the summer. But the weather's nice, the people are really nice, there's a lot to do, but at the same time it's definitely low key. 

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREETIME?
I'm a food guy, I like going to nice restaurants. I love Steak 44... The Mission in Old Town. Obviously Maestro's, Ocean Club, City Hall, Evolve. So there's a lot but it's hard because Tyler [BFF Ulis] doesn't like going out to eat so it's kind of  mismatched. I have to drag him with me sometimes when we go out even though he ends up loving it when we get there. He just never wants to go with me. He's a homebody, he loves ordering food. I tell him he makes too much money for that now. He orders some pizza. I'm like 'C'mon man.' 

SO ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED IT WON'T BE A WHITE CHRISTMAS SINCE YOUR FAMILY IS COMING OUT HERE FOR THE HOLIDAYS?
I just love being around family... I went from getting presents from Santa to being Santa really quickly, which I'm fine with.. It's about making people smile.