Dunn’s upbringing bred toughness the Wolves love
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kris Dunn shed tears on national television on Thursday night, minutes after he had been selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the fifth pick of the NBA draft.His brother John cried harder."I didn't think I was going to," Joh...
MINNEAPOLIS - Kris Dunn shed tears on national television on Thursday night, minutes after he had been selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the fifth pick of the NBA draft.
His brother John cried harder.
“I didn’t think I was going to,” John Dunn said, “but once I saw him walk across the stage I was like ‘OK,’ and I cried for like 10 minutes. It’s crazy to think how far we’ve come, how far he’s come.”
Wolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden praised Dunn’s toughness - particularly on defense - plus work ethic and competitiveness at an introductory news conference.
That comes with a story.
Thirteen years ago, the newest Timberwolves point guard was living in an unheated apartment with his brother in Virginia. The two had lived with their mother, Pia, who moved the boys away from their father, John Seldon, when Kris was a baby.
That became problematic when Pia got into trouble with the law. She would be gone for days here and there, and that was before things got serious. Eventually, she was locked up for months.
That left Kris, then about 9 years old, and John, who was about 13 or 14, to fend for themselves. To make money, Kris would play basketball, often competing against kids five or six years older than him. He would put $20 or $30 on a given game, though he had no money in his pockets.
“That was probably one of the hardest things I had to do when I was little and in life, actually,” Dunn said. “Going against kids that were way older than me … and bigger, stronger. But I had to use different ways in order to beat them.”
Dunn usually won - playing with his brother’s older friends prepped him for good competition - but sometimes he lost. Debt is a problem for a kid with no money.
“Sometimes I ran away and got away,” Dunn said. “Sometimes I got caught and had to fight. That was just probably one of the toughest things I had to do.
“I had to do what I had to do,” he added. “My brother and I, we didn’t shy from it. We understood that we were going through a situation and we could easily talk about it, cry about it. Instead we just attacked it and made sure that we protected one another and did everything in our power to survive.”
Somehow, Kris and John scraped enough money together to get by.
“Making my brother be more successful, that’s what I wanted,” John said. “I would never let him fail, and I would take care of myself one way or another.”
Kris calls his older brother his first father, the one he needed until one day when two older men came knocking on the door in Virginia. One of the men was the boys’ father - John Seldon - who finally tracked down his sons and drove south from Connecticut to retrieve them and provide parenting and stability.
John Dunn said he cried throughout the entire drive back to Connecticut. Finally, he could stop being Kris’ father and start being a kid again.
Seldon noticed two things immediately after he found his boys - No. 1, Kris was scrawny. No. 2, his kids had been taught to fend for themselves.
“I don’t think children should be brought up like that when you’ve got parents,” Seldon said. “All I could show them is I wanted to get them in school and try to get them around some positive people and things like that, and that’s all we did.”
“The fact that my dad came and created a future for me and my brother, that’s one of the best feelings,” Kris said. “I love and appreciate everything about him. He’s a true father figure. One day I want to grow up to be just like him.”
Kris and John went to New London High School in Connecticut where Kris started on the varsity basketball team as a freshman, led the school to a state title as a junior and was named a McDonald’s All-American as a senior.
He went local for school, choosing to attend Providence College in Rhode Island. Dunn struggled early, dealing with shoulder surgeries and the death of his mother.
But he burst back onto the national scene with a dominant junior season in which he was named Big East player of the year and defensive player of the year. Dunn was a likely first-round draft choice but decided to go back to school, play his senior season and earn his degree. He again earned both of the conference’s individual honors, graduated this spring and likely only improved his stock.
“I thought it would have been a smart choice (to go to the draft),” John Dunn said. “But he came back, he thought it was the right move and it paid off for him. He bet on himself, and it worked out.”
Kris Dunn plans on buying his brother a house soon - payback for the time and effort John invested in Kris to help him survive when the two were kids.
“He sacrificed so much for me, and he deserves it,” Dunn said. “He didn’t have that chance to be a kid growing up. He didn’t have something that he could say is his because he always gave to me.”
Dunn knows many people who were struggling like he and his brother were early on in life. Many of those people, he said, are still suffering. Where would Dunn be if his father hadn’t found him? Not in jail, Dunn said - the two boys were too smart for that. But other than that, he doesn’t know.
He probably wouldn’t be here.
“We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs to get to this point,” Dunn said, “and the fact that my family was there with me (on draft night), it was really special. It means a lot. I think everyone (saw) that I got really emotional, and it was just because without them, I wouldn’t be here.”