Step inside Scoot Henderson’s world. The first thing you might notice, right as you get to the front doors of the Next Play 360 training center in Georgia, is a giant photo decal of him on the window. He’s wearing his white G League Ignite uniform and holding a basketball. From a certain angle, it looks like he’s charging full speed ahead on the court, maybe even directly at you.
The facility, which is run by the Henderson family, is where we filmed Scoot’s “Day in the Life” video just two years ago. Back then, Scoot was rockin’ a fro and dominating at Carlton J. Kell High School as the No. 1 ranked point guard in the Class of 2022. He became the youngest pro hooper in the United States when he signed a two-year deal with the G League Ignite as a junior. Then, at 18, he inked a multi-year endorsement deal with PUMA that was reportedly the richest shoe contract ever signed by a non-draft-eligible player.
It’s April and Scoot is now 19. He just played two years with the NBA G League Ignite, where he averaged 14.3 points his first season, and then appeared in 19 games this year before he was shut down for the remainder of the season. The Marietta native has come a long way from just seeing his name “on social media sites” as a highly touted prospect. He’s being projected as a lottery pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Mock drafts have him going as high as top three.
When his reps offer us the chance to watch a private workout with his trainers, we get to see what all the attention has been about. There’s a few PUMA reps in the gym with us, but otherwise, no videos or photos are allowed. It feels quite literally like a moment to remember: watching a shirtless Scoot, who now has slickback braids and a fresh cut, driving to the basket. When you see how explosive and insanely athletic he is, you understand why he’s earned comparisons to Russell Westbrook. When he takes off and dunks the ball, he just stays up there for a moment, hanging on the rim.
Suddenly it hits you. There’s no need to wonder what the future of basketball will look like when it’s standing right in front of you.
Later, Scoot reveals what he envisions for his own destiny. “I see a big house. Family. NBA. All-Star. Rings. MVPs, DPOYs, Rookie of the Year. Whatever I can achieve, I know what it takes to get there. I know it’s not an easy route at all, but I think I’m the man to do that.”
Looking around the gym, Scoot’s motto, “ODD,” is plastered on the wall. It stands for “Overly Determined to Dominate.” He says he made it up on the spot one day.
“I’m like, Dang, I need a slogan. Like, it really came about [based on] my journey to where I am now: it was unorthodox and unheard of and very odd. So I’m thinking of ‘odd’ and I’m like, Hmm, some O-words that just describe me. I work hard, so I just came up with ‘overly determined to dominate.’ That’s kind of just how I view my competition, I want to be overly determined to dominate the competition. Not just that, it applies to life as well—to dominate that day.”
Anyone close to Scoot will tell you that he’s ready in every aspect of the word. Ready for the spotlight and the responsibility. Ready for the League. Ignite teammate and veteran Pooh Jeter, who has known Scoot since he was 17, repeats it over the phone. “He’s so mature at this age, and just ready,” Jeter tells us.
After dominating in the G, Scoot has only gotten more prepared. Physically, he’s ripped—Jeter brings up a running joke about whether Scoot puts muscle milk in his cereal. He can handle the moment, too. When he matched up against Victor Wembanyama and the Metropolitans 92 in an exhibition game, he hit a three right over the 7-4 French anomaly in the first quarter. Later, he scored on a reverse layup, showing everyone that he’s lethal with the ball in his hands from anywhere on the floor. “He just took off after that,” Jeter says. “The whole world was talking about Scoot.”
The Ignite has proven to be the perfect launching pad for Scoot’s career. Not every 17-year-old can handle leaving home and moving all the way to Nevada, not to mention dealing with the attention and pressure that comes with being a top NBA draft prospect. And yet, Jeter has noticed how Scoot is moving like a pro now, too. He leaves his phone in the locker room during practice, is one of the first people in the gym and has learned how to handle things like injuries or coming off the bench. “I’m just feeling prepared,” Scoot says.
“Everything I’m doing right now and leading into the draft, the biggest goal in my life right now is getting there. And I feel pretty prepared. I’m training right now, getting my mind right, my breathing right. I was a pro for two years, so I just feel prepared [for] my dream. And I think I’m ready.”
His family has seen the shift in him, too, especially older sister China (Scoot is the second youngest of seven siblings). She remembers when he was little and would wake at 6 a.m. before football games singing his team’s song, “We Will Rock You,” and stomping his feet to the rhythm. Fast forward to now and Scoot is still always dialed in, whether on the court or discussing business with the family.
“[His mindset] is completely different compared to myself at that age, and just your average 18, 19-year-old,” China says. “So to kind of see him transition from when he first came on at 16, 17,
and then to now, it’s like, OK, now you’re speaking about grown adult things. Now you want to be put into certain rooms. At first, [his] focus was, OK, I just need to make it to the NBA. Now you see yourself as an entire entity, [and it’s like], How can I leverage this relationship versus this relationship? Just those conversations are kind of mind blowing to me.”
I want to be the best point guard to ever play the game.
— Scoot Henderson on His Future
Spend an afternoon with the Hendersons and you can tell just how incredibly tight-knit the family is. On set, China is with Scoot the entire time, supporting him and sharing her thoughts on different outfits. But when the cameras are on, everyone just lets Scoot rock. He’s energetic and playful, like any 19-year-old; he watches The Boondocks and Rick and Morty, and prefers listening to his own music on set—he takes over the aux as soon as the shoot starts and mainly plays rap. Then there’s the Scoot that’s a bit of an old soul—he’s into reading and listening to old-school jams like Mary J. Blige’s “My Life.” While filming SLAM’s “Bag Talk,” Scoot even sings it a capella. His sisters Onyx and Diamond say that they all have an inside joke about the time Diamond called Scoot “Old Man.” Scoot will sometimes repeat it over and over again while laughing hysterically.
He’s also very into fashion and has fun trying different looks during the shoot, from going shirtless and wearing knitted shorts and black shades to pulling off an oversized mustard-colored floral jacket with his own pair of burnt orange flared pants. “That flair is kind of the same thing that I have on the court,” Scoot tells SLAM. “You just got to be confident—fashion is something you got to be confident with.”
While wearing his white G League Ignite uniform, Scoot puts on his blinged out chain that reads, “CAVEAT,” which means warning. When we ask Scoot about what kind of legacy he wants to leave in the League, he says it so confidently that it sounds almost like one, too.
“I want to be the best point guard to ever play the game. That’s the legacy I want to leave behind. I’ve always thought to myself, how they say, you know, MJ and Kobe and those guys…I just want to kind of show people that like, you can be great no matter where you’re from. No matter how old you are, you could do what you got to do, as long as you put your mind to it. And you’d be ODD.”
This is the Future Issue, but really, we’re all living in a new era of basketball where hoopers like Scoot are entire “entities,” as China puts it, meaning they’re brands with endorsement deals, shoe contracts and blue checks on social media. For Scoot, that new era means posing for photo shoots like this one and designing his own PUMA All Pro Nitro colorway (which we got a sneak peek of while on set). Scoot says the blue, red and checkerboard details all pay homage to the Marietta Diner in his hometown.
He’s also been tapping into his creativity through acting, starring in the recent biopic Shooting Stars about LeBron James and his early years at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School with his childhood best friends and teammates. Scoot, who plays Romeo Travis, says he was nervous at first. Looking at him on-screen, though, it looks like he’s done this before.
“First take I was like, Yo, I’m in a movie for real. This is crazy. It was kind of nerve-racking, but I got over it really fast.”
Every kid grows up dreaming of playing in the NBA or starring in a movie one day, but few ever actually do. Then there are the ones who believe limits don’t exist. “I always envisioned myself being a pro, being a household name,” Scoot says. “I wanted to do everything. I didn’t want anybody to limit me to anything, like, limit me to being a football player or a basketball player. Right now I’m doing whatever I can. Whatever opportunity comes, I’m taking it.”
What happens next, in the actual future, is up to him. This next generation of stars isn’t just ready for the moment; they are the moment. Scoot knows what he needs to do to capitalize on the journey ahead once he gets to the League. “I plan on dominating by learning quickly, by having confidence,” he tells us. “I think that’s just the biggest thing for rookies. You know, LaMelo [Ball] came in and did what he had to do. Ant Man [Anthony Edwards] came in and did what [he] had to do. Paolo [Banchero]—obviously [he] had the Rookie of the Year and they did what they had to do because they were confident in themselves, they were confident in the work they put in, they were confident in their environment. And that’s just how I’m gonna go in.
I’m gonna go with my own flair and my own personality, and my own culture built up, and I’m gonna go in there confident. And that’s how I plan to maneuver my way up in the NBA.”
He knows it’s not just about him though. That’s something Jeter has told Scoot as he gets ready for this next chapter. “I always say, Whatever your pick [in the draft] is, it’s what you do after that. That’s how you create that [next] generation,” Jeter explains.
When the Ignite were in L.A. for their last game against the South Bay Lakers, Jeter remembers Scoot telling him that he wanted to go with him to his 8-year-old son EJ’s baseball game. “My youngest who’s 4, instead of Whoomp there it is, he’ll be like, Scoot there it is! That’s who [Scoot] is!”
After our shoot wraps up and everyone is getting ready to leave, we notice that most of the young players trickling into the gym are wearing PUMA Stewie 1s. It’s another glimpse of the future, of Scoot’s impact. How he, and his family, are just as invested in future generations to come. “That’s always been my dream,” Scoot says. “For little kids to look up to me and just be there for anything.”
The future has never looked brighter.
Portraits: Diwang Valdez
Styling: Ian Pierno // Assistant: Kai Mac
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