Professional athletes don’t always have a choice about the city where they play. The almighty draft dictates that, sending over-excited young players to bask on the beaches of Miami or sulk through Minnesota winters. Wherever a player ends up, his best course of action is to embrace his surroundings to the fullest, since his contract dictates he can’t move to greener pastures for at least a handful of years. Check out the five athletes below who have taken the phrase “rep your city” to heart.
Joe Haden – Cleveland
The All-Pro cornerback, who hails from Fort Washington, Maryland, is now solidly Mr. Cleveland. He drives a Browns orange Lamborghini. He shows up at Cleveland Cavaliers games rocking an Anderson Varejao wig or a fake Baron Davis beard. And he has thrown out the first pitch at Progressive Field, sporting some weird amalgam of a Grady Sizemore and Colt McCoy jersey. In a town known for athletes who leave, Haden is one of the few who are happy and willing to stay. Fresh off signing a five-year, $68-million extension with the Browns, Haden told reporters, “I love Cleveland. I never wanted to bail out.”
Nick Young – Los Angeles
Sure. Nick Young was born in Los Angeles. Whatever. The man who says God came to him in a dream and nicknamed him Swaggy P fits in with the culture of his city like jelly fits with peanut butter. I mean, the man wore a pair of Supreme Foams on the court—like, to play basketball in. How L.A. is that? (The answer, of course, is “super L.A.”) The way Young dresses is L.A. His girl is L.A. His house got robbed while he was playing a game, prompting him to give the most laid-back, L.A. response ever: “I’m shocked they tried to get Swaggy.” After stops in Washington and Philadelphia, it’s safe to say Swaggy P belongs in his hometown.
David Ortiz – Boston Red Sox
Having spent 12 years with the Boston Red Sox, Big Papi = Boston. The bat flip after a monstrous home run. The grin that seems to stretch for miles. Spitting on the batting gloves and slapping them together. It’s all so . . . Boston. In a town obsessed with baseball, Ortiz is the prodigal son. His popularity might even surpass that of Ted Williams or Pedro Martinez, both beloved by the Boston faithful in their own right. Need proof? Look no further than April 20, 2013, when the Red Sox chose Ortiz to address the crowd at Fenway Park in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. “This is our *$%&ing city,” Oritz infamously yelled. Yes, yes it is.
Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City
In 2010, while LeBron James was appearing on national television to announce his move to South Beach, Kevin Durant quietly let the world know via Twitter that he was re-signing with Oklahoma City. The place once referred to by the never-boring Charles Barkley as a “vast wasteland” has been thoroughly embraced by the NBA MVP. He even donated $1 million to the American Red Cross last year after tornadoes whipped through much of the state. Durant is a self-described homebody, a guy who would rather stay in and play video games than be photographed by TMZ drinking a human-sized bottle of champagne—a lifestyle the citizens of Oklahoma City, a town not known for its clubs, fully embrace. A city on the rise meets a player streaking toward major stardom. It’s a perfect match.
Drew Brees – New Orleans
When your birthmark looks eerily like the state in which you play, you have no choice but serve as an ambassador for its leading city. Brees arrived in New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city, and he immediately got to work using his charitable foundations to help rebuild, focusing on repairing schools, parks and playgrounds. Not to mention, he salvaged a down-and-out Saints franchise, winning the Super Bowl four years after he touched down in the Big Easy. Brees could set an NFL record for interceptions and take the field in a Speedo, and the people of New Orleans would still forever high five him on the street.