Duke Star Jared McCain Claps Back at 'Grown Men' Trolling Him for Painting His Nails

We sat down with Duke basketball star guard and TikTok celebrity Jared McCain about the hate he gets from painting his nails, the upcoming Duke season, his NBA future, and more.

Duke Men's Basketball / Via Instagram: @jmccain24

Some people know Jared McCain for the being one the best high school basketball players in America last year. Others may know him for being a TikTok superstar, amassing just over two million followers before playing a collegiate game. Despite all the fame and notorierty at such a young age, McCain stays grounded under the spotlight.

"I think my support system and family has helped me to just stay humble," McCain tells Complex. "Doing the TikToks and how it became popular or whatever is just another part of my personality."

Having a large following as a high school athlete has its benefits nowadays as you can profit off your own name, image, and likeness. According to an On3 article, McCain ($1.2 million) is behind only Bronny James for men's college basketball players in NIL valuations, which estimates the value of a player's name, image, & likeness. Before even committing to Duke, McCain had NIL deals lined up including a significant partnership with Champs Sports as a brand ambassador.


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With a large platform of over nearly 3 million followers across all platforms, McCain has encountered his shares of trolls. During quarantine, he picked up a hobby of painting his nails and when he's flashed it on social media, he's been met with hate from trolls.

"I like to get manicures and pedicures. I take care of my body," McCain says. "Some of these people hate, I don't know if they do take care of their body... the hate is funny because it's usually grown men most of the time and it's like you're a grown man just hating on a kid."

We sat down with Duke basketball star guard about the unecessary hate he gets from painting his nails, the upcoming Duke season, his NBA future, his NIL deal with Champs Sports and more.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. 

So how did this partnership with Champs Sports come about?
Yeah, I love telling the story because ever since I was a kid, I walk into these stores and I'm like, I see the people on the wall. I see people up on the posters and you never think of how that could be myself one day. Now it's here and it's like a dream come true. It's like a real genuine connection.

They come to me for advice on what I want to wear in a shoe or what I want to post specifically. This is a good partnership. I'm glad to be a part of it.

What excites you about anything you've done with Champs or some things you have for the future?
Probably the shoots are my favorite. Like going out there and getting makeup done and them taking pictures of you. I think that's my favorite when I did one in Philadelphia. That was my favorite because it was in a little park. I had a basketball game the night before and I flew in the morning, went to the shoot and then flew back. So I always like telling that story because it's crazy how the NIL landscape now is so different and,I'm able to do that.

That was in high school?

How did you feel doing that in high school? Did it feel like you were a pro?
That's what it feels like. It's like oh my god, I just finished the game. I'm hopping on a flight next day, coming back to play a game the next night. I really felt like a pro at that point.

You're a popular person online with the social media presence you've built. How have you handled the spotlight in high school and now being at arguably the biggest brand in college sports?
I think my support system and family has helped me to just stay humble and grounded throughout this whole process. Doing the TikToks and how it became popular or whatever is just another part of my personality. So it's kind of easy to just continue to be myself. I'm reading a book right now called 'Ego is the Enemy.' It's always like trying to stay grounded and never let my ego take over. So I think having my family around me & people around me just to humble me at some point when I need to has been key throughout this whole process.

Even to that point on ego, you came to Duke and you have four guards in you Tyrese Proctor, Jeremy Roach, and Caleb Foster who can start at any other program in the country. How hard is it to set ego aside to sacrifice to create what could be the best team in the country?
I feel like it's pretty simple. My whole life I feel like I'm at my best when I'm competing at my best against the best. I'm playing against Tyrese, Flip, Mark (Mitchell), Caleb, J, they're pros. They have pro habits. There is stuff they do that I can't do. So I'm learning from everybody each and every day and I think, obviously I believed in the coaching staff from the get go. It's gonna make the games easier because I'm playing against such high competition every day.

That's what has led me to just come to Duke and this place is amazing. I really love Duke and I love the atmosphere. I get to go to practice every day. I have the school work and then I just have fun.

The season is coming up, do you look at this season kind as a championship or bust season with the talent of this team?
I've never looked at a season like that, even in high school when I feel like we were the No. team in California or whatever. I feel like with us, it's just being able to combine the talent with the experience we have and have it all meshed together. Like I said, silencing all of our egos and coming together as a team and taking one game at a time. I'm really big on being present and always in the present moment.

So just taking one game at a time, improving each game and, and having leaders. Coach Scheyer says it all the time that we have to be a player-led team and I think that's always huge from the championship teams.

And even to that point, I know you're taking it one game at a time but some people compare this team to last year's Carolina team that returned everyone with high expectations. Do you feel there is pressure behind you to live up to expectations?
I think as a team I feel like it doesn't really get to us because we just expect so much of ourselves individually already. So the pressure is kind always gonna be there like in anything we do but I just don't think we focus on that. Like it's just, it's there.

We accept that it's there and I accept that there's pressure in everything I do like whether it's the social media part or basketball, there's always gonna be pressure. But I think just believing in coach Scheyer's message and trusting our coaches, trusting each other, that's just how we get over all the pressure.

Y'all sweeping Carolina this year?
That's the plan. That's the plan. I can't wait to play Carolina. Man, I can't wait. I've already been booed in Target in Chapel Hill. So I, I'm ready. I'm ready.

I saw the clip with Rasheed Wallace.
He was talking the whole camp, he was talking the whole entire camp. And of course, the one time I come back is when it was being recorded. It was funny.

Jared McCain vs. Rasheed Wallace

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One thing I wanted to talk about was the painted nails. I've seen you talk about it briefly from Duke videos and even USC star Caleb Williams recently spoke out on the topic. You've been vocal and there's obviously trolls that come for you about, how do you respond to that stuff when you see it?
I mean, at an early age I've always been told to just be myself, like I'm always just gonna be myself and as for the painted nails, I saw it during quarantine and I just started doing it. I never saw anything wrong with it like. I understand girls do it. I understand men have started to do it a little more recently, but it was just something I saw and I like to get manicures and pedicures. I take care of my body.

Some of these people hate, I don't know if they do take care of their body. So, I just like getting the color and it's always been myself. I've always been big on just being yourself in any situation possible. And never letting somebody tell you what, what you can and can't be. So doing the painted nails is kind of a part of me now. I just kind of do it whether I get to hate or not.

The hate is funny because it's usually grown men most of the time and it's like you're a grown man just hating on a kid. It doesn't affect me at all. I kind of just laugh at it.

Everyone I feel like wants to go to the NBA, but is there anything like specific that you're reaching for in just your basketball career?
Yeah, I mean, like obviously the NBA is my main goal but, I think coming into college, something that my trainer told me and a lot of people have told me is just like, don't think ahead like I said. Just be present but I just wanna get as best, get, get as good as I can while I'm here, like develop while I'm here at Duke.

Like whether that's staying 2, 3, 4 years, I'm just gonna get better with myself, mentally, physically and develop over this year. We'll see where it ends up. But I think just focusing on the physicality in the ACC and, and being able to play to my strengths, which is just shooting and just playing smart. So whatever happens happens, I'm not worried about too much, but obviously going to the NBA is my main goal and, obviously winning a national championship is a huge goal of mine too.

On the NBA topic, Duke has produced a lot of stars over the years. If you had to name your top five Duke players of all time, who are they?
Whew. I'm gonna go, I'm gonna go Kyrie. I'm gonna go JJ Redick. I didn't watch too much on Johnny Dawkins, but he wears 24, which is my number. So I feel like I got to just put him in there and he is the first big recruit, I'm gonna go with Jayson Tatum. Yellow light skin, you know, kinda look the same. I'm gonna go with Grant Hill last.

Final question, I know you just mentioned the possibility of staying two years. Next year, there's a big recruit that's possibly in the mix to join Duke. Why should Cooper Flagg come to Duke?

Man, Cooper is my guy. He's got to come to Duke. I feel like he's come to Duke. Sean Stewart is really close with him, going to Montverde with him and stuff. But I mean, I think for him, it's simple. He's the player who he is and coming to Duke will just amplify all his attributes.

I think him being Cooper Flagg like he just gotta come to Duke. It just makes sense. You know what I'm saying? UConn just doesn't really make sense. I think he's coming for a visit for countdown. So Just gonna talk to him, you know, always be in his ear and have a fun time.

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