Gradey Dick Wants People To Know That He Is ‘Not Just A Shooter’

The Toronto Raptors first-round pick talks using social media for fun, that elusive Drake follow, and making his mark in his new city.

Brian Babineau / NBAE via Getty Images

Gradey Dick isn’t your typical first-round draft pick.

The 19-year-old out of Wichita, Kansas was drafted thirteenth overall by the Toronto Raptors in the 2023 NBA Draft in late June, but you would have thought he went much higher based on the level of attention he has gotten since then. Dick has already been interviewed by some of the biggest media personalities in the world while having his draft-day suit and his last name be the subject of several internet memes, including from rapper Fat Joe himself. 

The former McDonald’s All-American and Gatorade National Player of the Year can play, too. Dick was a standout freshman at Kansas last season, earning Big 12 All-Freshman honours after averaging 14.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists while shooting 40.3 percent from three. He did enough in his lone college season to declare for the NBA Draft and catch the eye of the Raptors, who have been searching for the kind of shooting prowess that Dick can provide. 

But the excitement around Dick both has to do with a lot more than just his play. Dick is already a social media star with hundreds of thousands of followers, including Raptors Global Ambassador Drizzy Drake. He also signed a marketing deal with Adidas Basketball and plans on continuing to make content that showcases admittedly goofy personality. 

𝐆𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐲 𝐃𝐢𝐜𝐤.

the most interesting rookie in the league.#KUbball x @Raptors

— Kansas Men’s Basketball (@KUHoops) June 23, 2023
Twitter: @KUHoops

Complex Canada caught up with Dick during NBA Summer League in Las Vegas to talk about his transition to the NBA, how he uses basketball as a refuge, music, movies, social media, and what he likes about Toronto. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

You said after your first game of Summer League that it was an “eye opening” experience for you. What did you mean by that? 
I think it's just the feeling of actually being in the NBA. But I’m really just understanding that it's basketball at the end of the day and not trying to make it too much of a nervous experience because it's exciting—it’s exciting to be out here on the court. So not really eye opening as in I was blown away by anything I wasn't ready for—I tried to be as prepared as possible coming in. 

You’re known for your shooting prowess, largely considered the best shooter in the draft despite having just one college season under your belt. How did you become such a good shooter?
It was really just because of how early I learned the mechanics. My mom, Carmen, played college hoops at Iowa State before going pro, as well as my older sister, they taught me how to shoot at an early age and I learned to be consistent with whatever I do. And in basketball that meant learning to be consistent with those mechanics, and that just brought the shooting up.

I know you played a lot with your three older siblings growing up. Did you ever surprise them or your friends with your shooting ability from a young age?
I mean growing up, obviously I shot it well but I think I caught people off guard more so with my all around game—stuff I've been trying to show people here at Summer League. Just the versatility of my game, the finishing around the rim, stuff like that. So nothing really that surprising other than showing people that I'm not just a shooter and that I can do a lot of different things on the court. 

You also played other sports growing up, including baseball. What position did you play?
I was a shortstop.

And did you find there were any transferable skills between baseball and basketball? 
Yeah, for sure. My dad, Bart, one of his big principles was just taking advantage of all the positives that come from playing a bunch of different sports. So I take different things from different parts of sports and translate them into other sports. With baseball, I would say lateral quickness and hand-eye coordination, those two things are definitely huge in basketball as well. So baseball definitely helped me develop those skills. 

Is playing basketball the place that you feel most comfortable? 
Yeah, I would say so. I’m so used to playing basketball since i was a little kid so it's one of those things where it's my peace, and whenever the world gets to be too much, or too much noise—especially here in a place like Vegas—it can be a distraction for a lot of people, but I just understand that if I ever feel that kinda overwhelming feeling, then just getting on the court and getting work in, that’s kinda where I get peace of mind. 

Why do you think so many young players get lost in the distractions that come with the NBA? And why are you confident that you won't?
Everyone is different. Everyone has their own priorities and I know mine. My big thing is: keeping the main thing the main thing, and that's basketball. And just understanding that that's what got me here. 

I can't really speak on other people's behalf because they have their own objectives with how they prioritize things—like if they see a lot of money in their bank account that might be what they wanted. Which is perfectly fine. People play the game for all types of different reasons, so everybody is going to go at it a different way. But my way personally is just knowing that basketball is what I love to do and if I understand that I play the game that I love and I get paid for it too, that's the best thing you could possibly ask for.

What about social media… You’re very famous on Instagram and TikTok, and you’ve spoken about using those platforms as a welcomed distraction. So what’s your relationship with social media? 
I think it just goes back to what works for you personally and everyone has their different things that they get distractions from. Whether it be music or going outside to adventure to just get away from the noise. And I like all those things, too. But being on social media is one of those things where it can be negative if you make it negative, but if you know what to follow and you have a good feed and you follow the right things that are good for you personally—I have a lot of things on my feed that make me laugh and just make me happy. So, just being happy and maintaining that is most important to me.

I know Drake followed you on Instagram. What was that like? 
That was just right after the draft in Brooklyn. It was definitely cool. He’s one of those guys that with music—I've spent so much time listening to music and have been passionate about music for so long and I love everything about it—so for an artist like that who is so big time and who I've been listening to since I was little, for him to follow me, it’s one of those things where when I saw that, it was cool.

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Favourite Drake album and song?
All his old stuff is great but I always go back to Scorpion. That’s my favourite album. As for song, I would probably say “Legend.”

Legend is a good one. People in Toronto will like that. Do you like any other Canadian musicians? 
The Weeknd. Daniel Caesar. I have a lot of other stuff in my playlist but I like artists like that: Kinda that R&B, slow jams type-stuff. 

What would you do if you were not a pro athlete?
Ooooo. Probably go into some movie stuff. I love movies and TV and stuff like that. So something in that space. Maybe rating movies or something like that. Being creative and trying to create some different ideas for different movies would be cool.

Favourite movie?
I have a bunch but my favourite genre is definitely horror movies, scary movies. I just love all the classics in that genre, like The Shining, and all the old slasher-type films. 

I know you spoke about one day wanting to do the three-point contest at All-Star weekend. What are some of your other career goals?
The big thing about me and my dad is that we write down personal goals and team goals before each season. And that's something we will work on in a couple weeks before the season starts. But more so focusing on the team goals of bringing the Raptors back to a winning culture like how it's been for so long in Toronto.

I heard you extended your stay in Toronto after the draft and got to work with head coach Darko Rajakovic one-on-one. What was that like?
After the draft I got to spend about a week in Toronto, so it was cool seeing the city, seeing how beautiful it is. And really just taking it all in. And then on the court with the new coaching staff and coach Darko, I think we started building that foundation and it was definitely positive.

What's your favourite thing about Toronto so far? 
I think just how genuine the people are. Not only the people in the city but also the coaching staff and just everyone in the organization is just so—they want the best for you and it should be like that, so it's great. 

Anything you are looking forward to doing in Toronto?
I think the main thing is getting advice about good spots to eat at. Meeting cool people around the city. I went to a Blue Jays game and want to go to more Jays games and some Maple Leafs games as well, because I've never been to a hockey game before so that would be cool. And I'm really looking forward to getting into the Toronto environment of the home games and seeing all the fans and how much they love the Raptors and really feeling all that.

And lastly, there was a really cool viral Open Gym moment of you touching down Toronto and seeing your name and photo on the screen at Scotiabank Arena. What was it like seeing that and interacting with fans in Toronto? 
Yeah, that it was crazy. That was definitely a warm welcome. And it's great when you feel loved and then it's even more special when—this is my dream come true. And then I get to Toronto and I feel even more welcomed than I expected. So it's hard to put into words how much it really means.

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