How ‘relentless' rebounder Looney was shaped by NBA big man history originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
Dust doesn’t reside on Kevon Looney’s trophy case.
Still only 27 years old, the Warriors center already is a three-time NBA champion. Looney was named All-Pac-12 his lone year at UCLA and took home every honor a high school star can as one of Milwaukee’s most decorated prep athletes ever. But a clear, glass trophy in the shape of a Windex bottle is something Looney never expected to hold in his hands.
Looney was named the very first winner of the Windex Trophy over the summer as the NBA’s top “glass cleaner,” an award voted on by the fans.
The award obviously isn’t a main attraction in NBA circles, though it holds extra value to Looney for a variety of reasons.
“It's probably my coolest trophy that I have,” Looney told NBC Sports Bay Area in early October. “I’ve had some cool awards throughout my life playing basketball, but this one is probably the dopest one, especially it being for rebounding. It's something that I take so much pride in. It’s kind of a family thing that we do, too. My dad was a great rebounder, so to be able to carry on that tradition and have an award that he doesn't have or really didn’t know existed but I got it now, it's just something fun to have.
“I’ve told this story before where my mom used to make me clean up all the glasses in the house and wipe everything down. That was like one of my chores that I had to do, so to be able to win that award and give her the award and some free Windex, that was super cool.”
Like everyone else when the world first shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, Looney was locked in on watching “The Last Dance.” Looney’s eyes aren’t laser-focused on how many times the ball rotates through the air like Dennis Rodman explained in a viral clip from the documentary, but he does watch his teammates during pregame and postgame workouts, studying where their misses are most likely to bounce.
He has the skill down to a science in his own ways.
To Looney, the science of rebounding comes down to body position for the undersized center – being able to lean on guys, pushing them around without getting a foul call and bending the rules just enough.
The Warriors adding Dejan Milojević to the coaching staff before the 2021-22 NBA season also has been a major boost to Looney owning the glass. Looney averaged 7.3 rebounds per game his first season under Milojević, which was 2.0 rebounds more than his previous career high. Last season, he increased that number by two rebounds for a second straight year, this time grabbing 9.3 rebounds per game. Where Looney has grown the most as a rebounder in his eyes under Milojević isn’t something one would see from a scouting report or adding extra drills.
“I would just say being more relentless,” Looney said. “It’s something where I’ve kind of took it to another level. I always could get offensive rebounds, get my hand on the ball when I put my mind to it. Sometimes I would just get back or I wouldn’t go sometimes being lazy thinking, ‘Oh, Steph’s going to make this one,’ and I’d just get back.”
But that thought process didn’t sit right with Looney’s father, Doug, who finished his college career as the all-time leading rebounder at Schreiner University. Doug would text his son at halftime or give him a stern reminder after the game that he should have won more battles and to never let his guard down with a chance to grab a rebound. Milojević is the same way.
“My approach has been to just go every time and be relentless,” Looney said. “First quarter, second quarter, teams are usually boxing out. But around the third, fourth quarter, if you keep going every time, they kind of get tired and you can break their will and you’re able to get the big offensive rebounds when you need them.”
Looney's father isn’t only his own personal rebounding guru, he also has instilled the game's history into his son from the very start. If there’s one big man Looney wishes he could have taken on, it’s Shaquille O’Neal. Looney is listed at 6-foot-9 and 222 pounds. Shaq stands four inches taller, and his playing weight of 325 pounds was more than 100 pounds heavier than Looney.
All the confidence in the world can’t cloud the reality of what a physical beating it would have been guarding O’Neal. Looney admitted his second thoughts of really wanting to guard Shaq, and joked he might foul out and for sure will be holding his chest at some point. But he grew up watching O’Neal physically dominate opponents and would want to say he took on the challenge.
“He dominated with such force,” Looney said. “I’d just want to see what my approach would be to guard him, because I don’t know. I’d have to figure it out.”
Looney also grew up watching highlights and old games of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, and mentioned them as the other two he would have loved to share the court with. Chamberlain for the wild numbers he put up, both as a scorer and rebounder. Russell because the two are similar in size, and the Boston Celtics star came down with 22.5 rebounds per game for his career.
From footwork to size, defense, offense and everything else, Looney would build his ideal all-time big man with one player. His answer is nothing short of truth, yet it’s also a nod to Dub Nation. A reminder of why the fan vote for his most unique award means so much.
Yes, Looney loves the “Kevon Olajuwon” memes and even the “Moses Maloon” ones, too – for reasons he holds to his heart.
He would love to have Kareem’s skyhook or Shaq’s strength. But Hakeem Olajuwon “was the whole package, especially in today’s game.” Everything starts with Hakeem for the Warriors center.
“Definitely,” Looney said when asked if he likes his fan comparisons to Olajuwon after a big rebounding game. “Him and the Moses Maloon ones. My dad, those were the two guys he really talked to me about all the time. He made me sit down and watch Hakeem Olajuwon highlight tapes. I would go in the backyard, and he would show me the dream shake and stuff like that.
“And he would talk about Moses Malone and his rebounding. For fans to compare me to those guys, it’s hilarious but it’s also pretty cool because that’s who my dad taught me about when I first started playing basketball.”