Jaelen House Charts Own Basketball Journey Beyond Roots in Hoops Royalty

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The scene inside the Boston Celtics’ locker room at the TD Garden following Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals was the stuff of basketball lore. Kevin Garnett jumping around and screaming at the top of his lungs. Paul Pierce pouring beer on his teammates. Ray Allen spraying champagne with anything but a sharpshooter’s precision.

Beneath the canopy of commemorative hats, protective tarps and momentous merriment scurried the children of the then-newly crowned champs. Doc Rivers, the head coach of those Celtics, always made a point of welcoming young ones into the locker room after wins. So when Boston secured the franchise’s biggest victory in more than three decades, Eddie House, a journeyman on that squad, was sure to chaperone his seven-year-old son, Jaelen, into the party.

“We were out until like 1:00 a.m. at the arena taking pictures and just celebrating,” Jaelen recalls to CloseUp360 before taking the floor for the Ballislife All-American Game in Long Beach, California this past May. “I remember being in the locker room when they were doing the champagne. It was really cool.”

It was a family environment in a lot of places where I was at, so it was embraced that I could bring my son,” Eddie says. “And nobody ever frowned on it, which was cool because we're always on the road, so we’re not spending that much time with him, and he's growing.

“So I wanted as much time as I could get with him as possible and, of course, to expose him to that because just seeing that, being around the game, you pick up on things subconsciously.”

Among those things, Eddie insists, is the work ethic required to be successful in basketball—and that has brought Jaelen to the precipice of big-time college basketball.

“The fact of being around and seeing it, and understanding how much work you have to actually put in,” Eddie adds, “and don't take it for granted.”

Whatever the balance between nature and nurture in determining one’s life path may be, Jaelen was, at the very least, highly predisposed toward hoops.

His father played for nine teams during his 11 NBA seasons. His mother, Charlsie, is the sister of Mike Bibby, who spent time with six teams—most notably, the Sacramento Kings—across his 14 years as a pro. His grandfather, Henry Bibby, won three NCAA tournament championships playing for John Wooden at UCLA before logging nine years in the NBA, including a run to the 1973 title with the New York Knicks as a rookie.

Basketball, then, was (and still is) more than just a game in Jaelen’s family.

“It's a lifestyle, really,” Eddie says. “You a hooper, you a baller, a real one, it is a lifestyle.”

To some extent, it had to be for Jaelen. Wherever his dad played—from Miami, Los Angeles and Milwaukee; to Charlotte and Sacramento; to Phoenix, New Jersey, Boston and New York—the rest of the House family was sure to follow.

“I wanted to spend as much time with my son as possible,” Eddie says.

So Jaelen became a fixture at his dad’s home games, sprinting joyously through the stands and around the rim of the court. When Eddie and Mike played together for the Kings in 2005 and the Heat in 2010-11, little Jaelen got a double dose of family time.

The same went for when Jaelen’s dad and uncle competed against one another. Like in 2008, when Eddie’s Celtics and Mike’s Atlanta Hawks tangled in a seven-game first-round playoff series—in which Eddie’s squad had the edge—and Jaelen got to hang in the Hawks’ locker room.

It was a big locker room. It was just nice,” Jaelen recalls. “They had the game, they had ping-pong. And then like some people made like grilled cheese. I remember the grilled cheese was good.”

While perks like those are commonplace for the children of NBA players, that life isn’t without its challenges. With little notice, dad could get traded mid-season, forcing the family to uproot during the school year. New cities can yield as many exciting, fresh experiences as anxieties about fitting in and finding friends.

As Eddie sees it, though, that part of his job helped Jaelen develop his social skills and a sense of identity early on.

He's a social butterfly,” Eddie says of Jaelen. “And I think being outgoing, it helped him get out of his shell early and just be himself. No matter what, go where you're going, you're going to be you.”

Jaelen House Jovan Blacksher

Jaelen House shares a laugh with Jovan Blacksher, his teammate since fourth grade, at the Ballislife All-American Game. (Nick Koza)

Along the way, Jaelen got a first-class education in the game from people who were living it at the highest level. From the time he took a serious interest in basketball at the age of five, Jaelen had not one NBA veteran in his immediate corner—with two more waiting in the wings—to offer support without being pushy.

“My main thing with him has always been advice,” Eddie says. “I give him advice. I give him the tools to go do what he has to do, and he has to take care of it. I always try to teach it as I could want it, [but] he has to want it. Here's your thing. You got to go get it done.”

After Eddie retired from the NBA in 2011, he and his family—including his twin sons (and Jaelen’s younger brothers) Kaden and Kalek—moved to Phoenix. In 2015, Jaelen matriculated to Shadow Mountain High School, where he played behind his cousin, Michael Bibby Jr., as a freshman.

Their coach? Mike Sr.

Jaelen would go on to win four Arizona state championships during his four years at Shadow Mountain. Shortly thereafter, the school removed Mike from its head coaching position amid an investigation into allegations that he had sexually abused a teacher there.

By that time, Jaelen had long since decided where basketball would take him next. In December 2017, during his junior year, he committed to Arizona State. Though Eddie was a Sun Devil himself, and a formidable one at that—with his No. 5 jersey in the rafters at Wells Fargo Arena after he earned Pac-10 Player of the Year honors in 2000—Jaelen insists that he “made the decision on my own.”

“I felt like it's the right fit for me,” he adds. “I love the coaching staff.”

Eddie, for his part, corroborates that he had nothing to do with his son’s college choice. And while he thinks it’s “cool” that his son will follow in his footsteps, that’s not what he finds most appealing about Jaelen heading to Tempe.

“Selfishly, as a parent, the only reason it was great for me [is] because he's a 15-minute drive away from the house,” Eddie says. “I can get to him, God forbid anything was to happen. But it's just big to go wherever he can go.”

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Me and the boys!!!#famfirst #wedemboys

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It’s another sunny spring Saturday in Southern California. Inside the Long Beach Entertainment & Convention Center, Jaelen is a picture of calm, cool composure on the court. He drains shots in the three-point contest (albeit in defeat), and gets up and down the floor with Team Elite in its 123-122 win over Team Future in the Ballislife All-American Game.

Though Jaelen, listed at 6’0”, is dwarfed by many of his highly-touted peers—including soon-to-be Georgia sensation Anthony Edwards, Duke signee Cassius Stanley, and USC-bound big men Isaiah Mobley and Onyeka Okongwu—he manages to stand out from the crowd. He’s got a certain swagger to him, sure, but really, it’s the platinum blonde braids dangling from his head that draw the most attention.

“I just like to be myself. I don't really like to hold back, I guess,” Jaelen explains. “I just wanted to try these braids out and I dyed my hair all the way.”

“It's different from what he's usually been rocking, so I like it,” Eddie says. “I think it looks clean.”

Jaelen House

Jaelen prepares to shoot during the three-point contest at the Ballislife All-American Game. (Nick Koza)

When he’s not admiring Jaelen’s tonsorial taste, Eddie is busy channeling his days as a dedicated hooper—though not vicariously through his son, as some proud parents might. Instead, while the festivities are underway, he’s busy buzzing around the crowd, making the rounds and tending to the needs of friends and relatives on both sides of the setup.

Between his own fiancé and relatives, and those of his ex-wife, Charlsie, Eddie estimates that there are 29 members and affiliates of the House and Bibby families here to support Jaelen—30, if you include Jovan Blacksher, Jaelen’s backcourt mate since fourth grade and, on this day, his opponent on Team Future.

“[Basketball] is something that is family,” Eddie says. “We've been around forever.”

The Houses and Bibbys will be around a while longer if Jaelen finds his way in that world. Though Eddie doesn’t see much of his own game in his son’s, he’s bullish on who Jaelen is as a player and person—and what the teenager could become at his alma mater.

“At this age, he's better than me,” Eddie says. “I shot better than him, though. That's the only thing.”

With all that Eddie has done to support Jaelen’s basketball journey so far, it’s only fitting that the father would help his son shore up that weakness in his game, too.

“We working on that,” Eddie says. “That's coming.”

 

Josh Martin is the Editorial Director of CloseUp360. He previously covered the NBA for Bleacher Report and USA Today Sports Media Group, and has written for Yahoo! Sports and Complex. He is also the co-host of the Hollywood Hoops podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.