During the third quarter of a meaningless preseason game between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers on October 4, Scottie Barnes was hyped. The Sixers had just picked up their second delay of game penalty of the evening, sending the Raptors to the line for a free throw. Despite already leading by 22 points, Barnes could be seen clapping his big hands and 7-foot-3 wingspan together as he let out a scream heard in the rafters of Scotiabank Arena. 

Raptors’ fans who have gotten to observe Barnes since the team drafted him No. 4 overall in the 2021 NBA draft have gotten to know that that’s just who he is: an incredibly entertaining, hyper-focused, high-motor, maniacally-competitive 20-year-old who puts winning above all else. Individually, Barnes is averaging 16.6 points and 8.7 rebounds on 52.4 percent shooting through 9 games—leading all rookies in each category—putting himself in historically elite company. 

But when it comes to his competitive edge, Barnes stands alone. He possesses a unique desire to do anything it takes to help his team win and the confidence to get it done regardless of his youth and inexperience. 

“The passion for the game, winning: when you look at the levels he’s played at for USA Basketball—whether it’s U16, U18—he’s won at every level,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said about Barnes, who has three FIBA gold medals and two high school state championships to his name. “It’s crazy: You interview a guy like that and he mentions ‘winning’ or ‘win’ 34 times in one interview. All he talks about is winning. And this is what we wanted to bring [to Toronto].”

So, where does Barnes’ competitiveness come from? Growing up in West Palm Beach, Florida, Barnes had two brothers (and a sister)—one older and one younger—and they challenged each other everywhere they went.

“I was always real competitive,” Barnes tells Complex Canada. “Growing up I had two brothers, and we just always wanted to be better than each other. We always just tried to compete and do things against each other.”