The Thompson Twins are ready for the NBA, but not for splitting up

Amen Thompson and his twin brother, Ausar, sat side by side amid a swirl of tourists at Carmine’s restaurant in Times Square on Monday around 10 p.m. 8 p.m. They had flown to New York that morning for the NBA draft at the Barclays Center, and now they were trying. to decide which dishes they want to share with their family. Their father, Troy, who is also their agent, ordered sautéed chicken, spaghetti with shrimp, and a Caesar salad with anchovies on the side.

Ausar tried an anchovy for the first time as he thought about the week ahead.

“It’s going to be a bittersweet moment when we get drafted,” he said. “It’s something we’ve prepared our whole lives for, but it means we’ll be apart for the first time in our lives.

“We keep acting like everything’s normal and we’re going to stay together like this forever, but it’ll be over”—he picked up his phone from the white tablecloth and looked at an app—“in two days and 23. hours and 18 minutes.”

The Twins’ preparation for the NBA began more than a decade before the Houston Rockets selected Amen and the Detroit Pistons selected Ausar in the first round of Thursday night’s draft. They grew up in Oakland, California, with Troy; their mother, Maya; and their older brother, Troy Jr., who played college basketball for Prairie View A&M. When the twins were 9 years old, they created a vision board to motivate them on their journey. It had handwritten goals, such as “become the greatest NBA player of all time” and “become a multi-billionaire” and “become 6 feet 9 inches.” It also included a child’s idea of ​​concrete steps to reach the NBA, such as “run two miles and dribble left-handed” and “eat vitamins every day, healthy food and milk.”

Before dinner on Monday, they had seen their vision board on a billboard in Times Square.

Amen jokes now that the only measurement he regrets writing is height. He and his brother measured 6 feet 5.75 inches at the NBA draft combine in Chicago last month. “I should have said I wanted to be 7 feet tall,” he said. “Then I really wanted to be 6-9 right now.”

Their preparation took off in 2021 when they were among the first players to sign with Overtime Elite, a semi-professional basketball league based in Atlanta. And it became a daily obsession starting last June, when Ausar and Amen attended an NBA draft party for their friend Josh Minott, who was selected by the Charlotte Hornets in the second round. On the way home, Ausar decided he wanted to know exactly how many days, hours, minutes and seconds there were until he too would become an NBA player.

He also wanted to know how much time he had left to be with his brother.

That’s when he searched for a countdown timer for his iPhone. He downloaded one and agreed to pay the $9.99 annual subscription fee. He scrolled through the photos on his phone and selected a photo of him and Amen celebrating on the OTE basketball court to use as the background for the timer. Then he punched in the date and time for the next draft: June 22, 2023, at 8 p.m. There were 364 days left.

When Ausar first turned on the countdown to the draft, time seemed to fly by. The brothers were 19 at the time, and when the OTE season began on October 20, there were still 245 days left.

Over the past year, Ausar has checked the app as often as once a day, but at least once a week. When he needed a little extra motivation to get up for an early alarm clock, he opened the app. He nudged his brother and kept his phone open when they had second thoughts about being late again for another practice.

They were part of OTE’s second draft class, but they were the league’s first players expected to be drafted in the first 14 picks, a segment known as the “lottery” and a designation for top talent. And so the Twins’ draft status was not only a matter of personal pride, but also a CPI to OTEs half a billion dollars business.

When the OTE season ended — the Twins’ team, the City Reapers, won the league title on May 6 — only 47 days remained. When they arrived in New York on Monday, they knew it might be their last chance to be together for a while. “The longest we’ve ever been apart is two days,” Ausar said. “I went to Florida last year and he stayed in Atlanta. He called me 30 times!”

On Tuesday, they went to the Empire State Building for a photo shoot with the other hopefuls who had been invited to sit in the green room on the floor of the Barclays Center. They are both afraid of heights and had to make sure the railing was taller than them. Even then, they were afraid to climb the ladder to an observation deck that is not open to the public. Then they hit the court to tape an episode of the “Today” show, went to two brand photo shoots and finished the day working out with the popular NBA coach Chris Brickley.

On Wednesday, they did a series of interviews arranged by the NBA and then attended a meeting with the NBA players’ union before heading to Brooklyn for an OTE draft party. In an art warehouse that had been converted into a content studio with a fenced-in basketball court, the Thompsons went through five 90-minute interviews. They eagerly answered one question about what they were working on in their game (“shooting,” they both said) and tolerated another about whether they had twin telepathy (“no” was their short answer). After Ausar hit a deep 3-pointer over the fence, they returned to their hotel to try on their suits. There were 21 hours left.

Thursday, moving day, they woke up at 9 to get touch-ups from a hairdresser in their hotel rooms, then invited four camera crews — including one from their designer and one from The New York Times — to watch them get ready. They joked about a last-minute change of their matching double-breasted suits by designer Waraire Boswell. They also teased the idea of ​​swapping places with each other when selected to see if anyone noticed. But in the end Amen wore the cream suit and Ausar stuck with navy blue.

About 30 minutes after the countdown timer expired, Amen was sitting at a long table with his family at Barclays Center when he received a phone call from the Rockets to tell him they would select him with the fourth pick. Ausar jumped up from his seat to celebrate.

“My heart was beating so fast,” Ausar said. “I was more worried about where he would be drafted than about where I would be. And I think I was happier for him than I was for myself.”

When Amen walked to the stage to shake the hand of NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Ausar’s phone didn’t ring. Troy hadn’t heard anything either. Ausar was about to open Twitter on his phone to see if any of the NBA insiders had tipped the next pick when he noticed that none of the TV cameras had moved from his table. As he watched Silver return to the podium, he sensed that he was about to be selected by the Pistons at No. 5.

When he heard his name called, he paused, almost instinctively looking for his brother, but Amen was already gone. He hugged his mother instead. Nearby, Amen was connected to a microphone for an interview and pumped his fist in the air when he heard his brother’s name. They didn’t find each other again until a few minutes later, but only had enough time for a high-five before being pulled in separate directions for interviews.

After leaving Barclays they went to another OTE party. “If I ever have a son who goes in the draft, I’m going to ask him to put up a sign at every party that says, ‘Please, no pictures,'” Ausar said, laughing. “I feel like all we did was go in, take pictures for an hour and a half and then leave.”

Finally, at 2 AM, they collapsed into Ausar’s room and had a moment to celebrate with each other. The moment they had been counting down to since that draft party a year and a day before had arrived, and it had gone better than they had first imagined. “We didn’t just make the top 10,” Amen said later. “We made the top five.”

The next morning, on their way to appear live on “Today,” they got extra good news from their father: The Rockets would first let Amen fly to Detroit to stay with Ausar until Sunday, and the Pistons allowed Ausar to fly to Houston to do Amen a favor. The countdown timer had expired 13 hours ago and time seemed to slow down again. For at least a few more days, the Thompson twins would still be together.

Leave a Comment