On Tuesday, I had a chance to sit down with projected top-three pick Marvin Bagley III. Bagley has teamed up with Mtn Dew Kickstart and is an ambassador for the company in the lead-up to the NBA Draft on Thursday night.
We spoke about his frustration over misconceptions about who he is and his defensive reputation, why he can't offer up a fair opinion on paying college athletes, and how his potentially game-changing Puma endorsement came to be.
Plus, his father makes an appearance, which made the interview even more interesting. Here's an inside look at one of the most promising bigs of the past decade.
CBS Sports: You were projected as a No. 1 overall for so long, and then the season ended, and the conversation flipped to Deandre Ayton being the No. 1 guy. Does it bother you how that perception has changed, or do you not so much care about being taken No. 1?
Marvin Bagley III: I'm confident in what I can do. I know what I can do on the court. Putting the work in, being able to maintain it throughout the year was what I was focusing on. I don't know how it changed, I don't know what happened, but I guess people believe whatever they see or whatever's being fed to them. He's (Ayton) a good player, I'm not taking anything away from him, but at the end of the day, like I mentioned previous times, all the talk about who should go where -- one, two, whatever it is -- we eventually have to play, and that's where it settles. I don't worry about it as much, but it's just about getting ready for that moment when we step out on the court and compete.
CBS Sports: Looking back at what you did at Duke, do you feel as though your college career was satisfactory, that you got as much out of it as you wanted to show?
Marvin Bagley III: I think I could've been even better than what I did this year. I had a lot of success, accolades, things like that with winning. But at the next level I'll be able to break out of the shell a little bit and show what I'm able to do. Not that I was -- I'm not saying anything bad about where I was with the team we had. It was a unique situation with a unique team. But going into the next level, being able to play a different game than it is in college, I'm very excited about that.
CBS Sports: What is it about your game and skill set that make you believe -- the A, B, C and D things -- that make you believe you should be picked ahead of every other person in this draft?
Marvin Bagley III: I could sit here and give a lot of examples. I think I'm the best player in the draft. That's why I feel I should go number one. But like I said before, it's a lot of talk and media comes into effect. Kind of overlooks what you've accomplished, and the numbers. You have to accept it, work hard, make sure that you're ready for it when you step on the court. That's all my mindset is right now. Let it pass. Let everybody say whatever they want to say, do whatever they want to do, but once it's time for Summer League and preseason, getting into the season, that's when the talk actually will start.
CBS Sports: What were you doing on draft night in 2017?
Marvin Bagley III: I was watching the draft. After I watched the draft, I remember going to the gym and shooting around. I was at home, actually. My school, Sierra Canyon was not too far from my house, so we went up there and I got some shots up. I was hype a little bit watching it, so it made me want to get up and go to the gym.
CBS Sports: At that point did you think you would be in the draft the next year, or was it still to be determined in terms of your plan of being eligible in 2018?
Marvin Bagley III: We were in the process of figuring it out. Nothing was for sure. It was definitely an option at the time, but it wasn't something I was fully committed to or anything like that.
CBS Sports: What did you learn and take away from the college player that changed you the most, be as a person or a player?
Marvin Bagley III: Off the court, meeting new people who do a lot of different things other than sports. Coming from high school and all my other middle schools, everybody that I was around played some type of sport. But going to Duke, I met people who played sports but also wanted to do things in business and technology and different things like that. Being able to meet those people, talk to them about the things they're interested in and what they do to get better at what they like, that was a good experience for me to go and experience. That helped me to grow as a person.
CBS Sports: Since you're out college now, transitioning to being a pro, getting these major endorsement deals, you can speak to this freely and clearly: Do you think college athletes get a fair shake when it comes to any compensation?
Marvin Bagley III: My experience at Duke, I had a good experience. When you're putting a lot of work into something and you focus on winning, and winning a national championship, and doing everything you can to get that, you kind of forget about everything else. I didn't really worry about whatever the rules were or getting paid. It was me focusing in on doing whatever I could to get the team a national championship. I'm not the person to talk about that. I'm not qualified for rules and rule changes. At the end of the day it's up to the NCAA to make that call, but my experience was great and I had a good time and I got better. That's all I could ask for.
CBS Sports: If there is a misconception about you from the outside world, what do you think it is?
Marvin Bagley III: I heard people who talk about my personality, that people say they never see. I'm private. My family. Talk about my dad. I've heard a lot of crazy stuff, just because I'm focusing in on something and not letting people in as much as they'd like to be in, they kind of form these crazy thoughts and opinions about my family and about me as a person. When you're focusing in on something and getting better, on a goal, you block it out and don't really care. But at the same time, going forward, I want to show people I have a personality.
CBS Sports: You've been the most talented player on basically every team you've ever played on. Going to the NBA, that is going to change, at least initially. You'll be a rookie. From a social standpoint and person-to-person standpoint, it's something you've never encountered before. What is it about your personality that best enables you to make that transition fairly seamlessly?
Marvin Bagley III: I'm confident in myself. I'm a rookie or whatever it may be, we all step on the same floor and play the game. Same thing coming into Duke. You learn as you go but basketball, to me, it has no age. Nineteen years old and coming into a league full of grown men who've been experienced -- I mean, we have to go play. As a player, I'm not going to back down to anybody just because I'm the new guy. It doesn't mean that I'm going to come in and relax.
CBS Sports: One of the reason why some believe you've slipped from the No. 1 overall conversation is because of you not having so much consistency on defense.
Marvin Bagley III: [Scoffs]
CBS Sports: I want to know if that really bothers you, and how you let that fuel you when people say, "He's just an OK player defensively, overall."
Marvin Bagley III: I don't know where that came from. Like I said, people take whatever they hear and run with it. That's been a thing all year. I'm not saying I'm a perfect defender. Everybody makes mistakes out there, especially being new (to college) and out there playing. You're not going to be perfect on defense. People see one thing and see that, take it, put it out there. A lot of people see it, read it, they start saying it, then it just trickles down to "Oh, he's just a bad defender." I think it's all BS, to be honest, if I'm being completely honest. I don't worry about it, though. Eventually people will see. That's all I'm working for, to show people my full package, everything I can bring to a team.
CBS Sports: When you've been meeting with teams and doing interviews, has this come up -- and I'm not trying to set you up to denigrate the defense you played at Duke -- but did you say, "We ran so much zone so much last year, you did not see me and what I'm capable of on a game-to-game basis." Have you had those kind of discussions with the owners and general managers you've talked with?
Marvin Bagley III: They've mentioned it. Why were we in zone, why am I not not a good shot blocker? I tell them we had Wendell. Me coming up, I'm used to playing that spot. Like I said, the unique team we had, the unique situation we were in, everybody could move around. We had a great team, we were interchangeable. I ended up moving to the wing, far away from the basket, which I don't know how I could block a shot from the wing. That's where I don't understand where [criticism] is coming from. If you go back [to before Duke] and look at everything, you can see that I love to block shots. That's when I was around the basket, back guy communicating. When I came into Duke it was a new situation where I had to learn different positions, and I challenged myself to learn those positions. It was my first time playing on the wings, learning how to jab at a guy coming in, getting back to the corner. It was a learning process for me.
CBS Sports: Let's talk about Puma. What was it about their presentation that stood out to you, and how did they get you into the room? And what was it that they showed you or told you early on that made you intrigued?
Marvin Bagley III: When they came to us, they presented the vision they had for the brand, for myself and for what they're trying to do going forward with everything coming up. It sounded great at first. It sounded like something I was interested in. I weighed out all my options. I sat down after all that was over and made the decision to go with the Puma brand because I have a vision -- me, being creative -- I think about the future and think about what can happen. I think about the future, how things start, you can build your way up. Just like Nike, when Nike started and Jordan came and signed with Nike. Not to compare myself to Jordan at all, but with how he was able to come up, start his movement, play on the court, produce, and how that whole thing grew. That's what I saw. If I come in and produce, people start to like it a little more, see it a little more, it will grow and be a big brand on the basketball side. When they came to me with this opportunity, I couldn't pass on it.
CBS Sports: Initially, did it throw you at first? How were you approached by Puma? Did you have to be convinced to even get into the room with them?
Marvin Bagley Jr. (the father): You want me to answer that question?
CBS Sports: By all means, yes, because if you were instrumental in that, yes.
Marvin Bagley Jr.: Absolutely. Like he said, they had a vision. It was not only basketball. Puma is a lifestyle brand. Puma has a lot of things going on off the court. They got artists and music, they're all around. Marvin is an artist as well. Marvin raps. So Puma had a plan for basketball, Puma had a plan for music -- and they paid him pretty good also. That doesn't hurt. It was a vision, an overall vision, not just basketball. There wasn't a line he had to stand in, you know, as far as going to other shoe companies. He probably would have made a lot of money, but he would've been in a line. In Puma, it's kind of like, "OK, we're going to put it on your shoulders." I think he's up to the challenge.
CBS Sports (to Marvin Bagley Jr.): Since I have you, I do want to ask you a question I think a lot of people want an answer to. I'll be blunt and would love to hear your approach. Nike was able to afford you a team --
Marvin Bagley Jr.: I'm not here to discuss. Zero. [He makes buzzer noise]
CBS Sports: OK. You're a human, I'm a human, I wondered if it was --
Marvin Bagley Jr.: [Buzzer noise]
CBS Sports: No? OK. [Asking Marvin Bagley III] Are there plans for you to have a team at the grassroots level, Marvin, with Puma and is there a timeline on that?
Marvin Bagley III: That's definitely something I thought about. We're just getting started with this. That can take a long time to develop. That's definitely something I've been thinking about.
CBS Sports: You've been thinking about it, or did they say, "We want to get into the scene." Is it part of a two-, four-, six-year plan down the road?
Marvin Bagley III: Nah, they haven't approached me with that. It's been a though of mine. I've always wanted to do that, wherever I was at.
CBS Sports: In terms of the shoe, would it be a Puma prototype? Would it be the same as Deandre Ayton, or would it be your own shoe?
Marvin Bagley III: I can't answer questions about the shoe yet.
CBS Sports: Just because you don't know or because of the business side?
Marvin Bagley III: I can't disclose it yet. They don't want us to.
CBS Sports: OK, you like to rap, so: favorite artists ever. Give me a top five or six you have.
Marvin Bagley III: I like J. Cole, Logic, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Tupac, I could go on and on. There's a certain music I listen to help me live my life and get through certain things:
CBS Sports: You ever listen to Run the Jewels?
Marvin Bagley III: Nah.
CBS Sports: Man. None of you kids know Run the Jewels?
Marvin Bagley III: Never heard of that.
CBS Sports: They're fantastic, almost on the level of Kendrick. OK, you're partnering up with Mountain Dew. What led you to this endorsement opportunity?
Marvin Bagley III: They approached us with an opportunity. You see a few guys in the NBA -- Joel Embiid, Kyle Kuzma -- those guys who have fun with it. Kevin Hart, too. It's business but you can still be yourself a little bit. I'm very excited to be a part of this team-up.