Before he even played an NBA game, Nets rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson won over basketball fans. Along with his brother Rahlir, most recently in the D-League, he surprised his mother, Rylanda, with a new house.
Rylanda's birthday gift was captured in a now-viral video.
"She cried about ten times that night," Hollis-Jefferson says. "You didn't see it on camera, but she was emotional all night."
One may ask why Hollis-Jefferson would publicize such an act of generosity. This could have been a moment reserved for sons and their mother. But that would not have gotten Hollis-Jefferson's point across.
"I really wanted people to see it was more so of an inspirational thing," he says. "Also, the surprise on my mom's face was needed because a lot of people wanted to see that, but it was more so an inspirational thing. 'Hey, you can also do this.' It may be tough and it may take some time, but you can do it."
The video has garnered nearly 1 million views, not bad for the work of a 20-year-old from Chester, Pennsylvania.
Rylanda raised Rondae and Rahlir mostly on her own, as their father, Ross, bounced in and out of prison. Rylanda worked two jobs, regularly waking up at 6 a.m. to work as a dietary supervisor, coming home in the afternoon to tend to her boys after school and leaving at 6 p.m. for a bartending shift.
"When they were little, I wanted to make sure I could provide for them so they wouldn't be in the streets selling drugs," Rylanda said in April 2013. "I tried to give them everything within reason so they wouldn't need to get it on the streets."
For the former Arizona standout, getting a rookie contract and buying his mom a house is more satisfaction than a young Hollis-Jefferson could have ever imagined.
"It's definitely inspiring to younger people who are in my shoes or trying to get to where I'm at," he says. "People fight struggles every day. They understand me coming from where I'm from, it was tough, it was hard, but I stuck in there and I kept working. Anything is possible. You just got to believe in the process, believe in God and everything works out."
If Hollis-Jefferson was not on Cloud Nine enough, last week, he got to play against one of his two favorite players of all-time, Kobe Bryant (the other is Michael Jordan).
"Just to be able to play against him, it was one of the greatest feelings ever and to actually get to talk to him," he says. "And to be around him, it was an amazing feeling.
"It was real Kobe advice like I see you, man, keep working and whatever you need, I'm here for you. I want to understand how he sees the game and want to know about his process. I want to go deeper into it because I think everything about him, his work ethic, his motor, I'm not going to say it matches, but I feel like I have that same mentality."
Bryant and Hollis-Jefferson do not match in one notable area: wins. Kobe's Lakers have a 1-6 record and Hollis-Jefferson's Nets are 0-7.
"Amongst each other, we're standing close, keeping that bond and trying to build off that," Hollis-Jefferson says. "We'll have adversity. The good teams stick with it at times like that."
The Nets get their next chance at a win Wednesday night at the Rockets. Hollis-Jefferson is averaging 3.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in 18.3 minutes per game.
Hollis-Jefferson was one of roughly 30 athletes and celebrities, but the only basketball player, to attend Right To Play's Big Red Ball fundraiser in New York City on Monday. Right To Play is a global nonprofit organization founded by Norwegian Olympic speed skating gold medalist Johann Olav Koss that uses sport and play programs to educate and empower children facing adversity around the world.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.