Who is Boris Diaw?

July 12th, 2016 | by Laura Thompson
Photo by Melissa Majchrzak - NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Melissa Majchrzak – NBAE via Getty Images

Last time, I scoured the interwebs looking for information on George Hill, and came away a big fan. For this post, I wanted to learn more about Boris Diaw and see what kind of character we’ll be lucky to have for the next year (or more?). Who is Boris Diaw? What makes him tick?

Born in Cormeilles-en-Parisis, Val-d’Oise, France on April 16, 19821, to Élisabeth Riffiod, a former French basketball player regarded as one of the best centers in French women’s basketball history, Diaw was interested in judo and fencing until the United States’ Dream Team rolled through Barcelona during the 1992 Olympics. I’d like to think John Stockton and Karl Malone had something to do with Diaw’s conversion to basketball, but I admit that Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird playing on the team might have been a more compelling reason if one was looking for the superstar, internationally known player.2

Diaw, now the captain of the French team, has a couple fun Jazz connections, aside from the Dream Team—and Jazz players—helping to inspire his love for basketball:

  • Selected by the Hawks in 2003, Diaw played for Atlanta for two years before being traded to the Suns for Joe Johnson
  • He’s a good friend and traveling partner with Ronny Turiaf. Not a visible Jazz connection? For me, he’ll always be the guy Jeremy Evans blocked in one of my favorite plays I’ve ever seen live.

Like his well-rounded game—he had four triple doubles in three months in 2006, his third year in the league—Diaw has varied, interesting hobbies outside of basketball. During this year’s All-Star Break, Diaw gathered a film crew and went to Hawaii to direct a short film, Easy Life. Having written the screenplay on the Spurs’ plane over two days, he was connected with Cedric the Entertainer and tapped him to star in the film. With a long-time passion for photography, cameras, and lenses, he thrived during the four-day shoot. Said Director of Photography, Chris Moseley, in a great NBPA article:

“His confidence grew and grew throughout the day, and I think by the end of the day he was feeling much more confident and making good decisions,” Moseley says. “Dealing with actors is a difficult thing, especially a known actor [like Cedric], when you’re new because it’s intimidating. You don’t want to say the wrong thing. But I think they got along really well. Then you’re dealing with kids, too. And [Diaw] has the right personality I think to try to get the most out of child actors, because they can be very difficult to deal with; their attention span is so limited. I think he did a good job on the script and a good job on casting.”

What impressed Moseley the most about Diaw’s first-time direction behind the camera? “I think that he has good sensibilities,” Moseley says. “He knows kind of what sounds right and what doesn’t, and he has a photographer’s eye as well. And I think that he has good aesthetic.”

Part of Diaw’s love for photography is maximized on his trips to African safaris, trips he’d been taking regularly since his rookie season with the Hawks. Diaw shadowed National Geographic photographer Steve Winter on a trip to India, and Winter encouraged Diaw to continue taking pictures. That experience was the catalyst to a children’s book Hoops to Hippos, True Stories of a Basketball Star on Safari, filled with wildlife photographs Diaw has taken on his trips to safaris. Diaw doesn’t limit his travels to safaris: trips to Peru, South Africa, Caribbean, Colombia, Croatia, Madagascar, Spain, and others have peppered his social calendar in recent years. What’s coming up on his bucket list?

“I will go to space at some point,” the Spurs’ veteran forward tells the NBPA in his office at his Shavano Park home, located in northwest San Antonio. “I won’t say in the next 10 years, but maybe in 30.” – NBPA Article 

Marc Stein wrote a great piece on Diaw a couple of years ago during the Spurs-Heat Finals, and shared a story describing Diaw’s deceptive athleticism, which shows an interesting side to his personality. We’ve heard about the cappuccino machine in his locker. Here’s a story where the cappuccino paints quite the picture as an accessory to a classic story.

The capper comes from Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin, who, like Quinter, was an integral part of the Suns’ front-office team when Diaw was acquired in a sign-and-trade for Joe Johnson orchestrated by then-Suns personnel chief Bryan Colangelo.

“Boris walks into the gym one day wearing flip-flops and holding his customary cappuccino, which was a staple for him every morning,” Griffin recalled. “It was during pre-draft workouts, so he sees the Vertec [machine] and asks what it is.

“We tell him it measures your vertical leap by determining how many of the bars you can touch. He asks what’s the highest anyone has ever gone, and we tell him Amare’ [Stoudemire] cleared the entire rack.

“Boris puts down the cappuccino, takes off his flip-flops and clears the entire rack on the first try. Then he calmly puts his flip-flops back on, picks up his cappuccino and walks away, saying, ‘That was not difficult.'”

Perhaps my favorite quote about Diaw is from Ronny Turiaf, as he’s discussing their friendship. “I think of him as my big brother, he’s the inspirer,” Turiaf says.

We know we’re getting a player who’s incredibly interesting and well-rounded off the court, and hopefully his on-court play will be similarly varied and inspiring.

Laura Thompson

Laura Thompson

Laura was a Jazz fan since diapers, even growing up in California. Her favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach--though possibly not in that order.
Laura Thompson

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  1. LKA says:

    So much for the run of the mill “Jock.”

  2. Paul Johnson says:

    The most interesting man in the world meets the most interesting coach in the world. Could be interesting.

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