Jrue Holiday, the New Orleans Pelicans guard, is one of the best two-way players in the NBA, the type who can take someone out of the game on the defensive end just as easily as he can take over a game on the offensive end.
But on this night in early February, a rookie guard for Indiana is showing no signs of caring.
When he sees Holiday, long arms and quick feet standing in front of him, if anything, he gets energized. You can almost see his engine rev. More than anything, the rookie wants to score.
See, the back of his jersey says “Holiday” too. And this isn’t the first time Aaron Holiday has tried to get a bucket against his big brother.
“It was kind of like we were at home,” Jrue Holiday told the Los Angeles Times.
All that was missing was their sister, Lauren, and brother, Justin, who was busy making plays in an NBA game a few states over.
In Memphis the very next night, Justin Holiday, pulled down an offensive rebound with 0.2 seconds left in a tie game, got fouled and sank a pair of game-winning free throws.
It’s what Shawn and Toya Holiday are used to — seeing their boys play basketball. Just now, they’re watching them in NBA arenas rather than their driveway in Chatsworth.
“It’s a blessing,” Shawn Holiday said. “A lot of people dream and have dreams to do certain things, and a lot of times, they don’t come true. So, to see their dreams come true, all three in the league, and playing against each other — we pray one day they’re all on the same team. That’d be great. It’s just unbelievable. Totally an awesome feeling.
“It’s not something you can describe. It’s just something you have to experience. It’s really unbelievable.”
Parents who watch their children play two-on-two or 21 in the front yard rarely get to see one child in big-time college basketball. The Holidays got to see all of theirs.
“It was normal to us,” Toya Holiday, said about watching her children play basketball. “They’ve always played together. That was something they did all of the time.”
Justin, the oldest, went to Washington and worked his way through Europe and NBA summer-league rosters before finding a spot with the Golden State Warriors and winning an NBA title. Jrue played at UCLA before being drafted in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers. Lauren ended up playing at UCLA. And Aaron, six years younger than Jrue, also starred at UCLA before being a first-round pick by Indiana last summer.
“It’s cool,” Jrue said. “I guess, in reality, when I think about it, I’ll be sharing it with them for a while. To be able to play against them on the highest stage, it’s pretty cool. I can probably say something that 99% of the people [in the NBA] can’t say.”
Recently, Miles, Marshall and Mason Plumlee all played in the NBA, but having three siblings in the league is incredibly rare.
They’re aware of that, and when you speak to Jrue, Justin and Aaron, a word like “blessing” is used frequently. It’s a blessing, Jrue said, that he and his siblings were raised in a household where core principles and beliefs helped define their young lives.
“Our parents did a good job of instilling values in us, being able to do something you love. And when it gets hard, don’t quit. To have faith in times where things might get hard in basketball, or maybe in life,” Jrue Holiday said. “It’s being able to have a support system. Being able to have family, to help you through whatever.”
That faith was tested when Jrue’s wife, U.S. soccer star Lauren Holiday, simultaneously dealt with a brain tumor and a pregnancy, a crisis that pulled Jrue away from basketball before the start of the 2016 season.
After his wife recovered, he returned to the team after missing 12 games.
Justin’s tests came on the basketball court, where he needed faith to handle rarely being used his first two years of college. From there, despite becoming one of the best defenders in the Pac-12 Conference, he went undrafted.
He played in Belgium, in the NBA’s development league and in Hungary before landing a full-time NBA job. Since then, he’s played for five different teams — including two stints with the Bulls — in four seasons. He was traded to Memphis earlier this season.
“It’s how our dad raised us to play the game — go out and beat whoever is in front of you,” Justin said.
The Holidays definitely have genetic advantages — both Shawn and Toya were Arizona State basketball players. But there are plenty of children of former athletes who don’t make it.
“It’s a credit more to their work ethic, drive and dedication,” Shawn said.
Now that they’ve achieved the first part of their dream — making it to the NBA — all three Holidays have their eyes set on a second dream. The hope, they all said, is to figure out a way to all play on the same team, something that could only happen in the NBA because of how much younger Aaron is.
Justin said he and Jrue tried to make it work two summers ago when Jrue signed a five-year, $125-million deal to stay in New Orleans. Justin, though, ended up signing in Chicago.
“You’d never think, growing up, that you’d even get to play against your brothers. It’s kind of shocking at first. But, obviously, you’re out there and playing. And it’s just a blessing,” Aaron said. “It’s just cool. It was a lifelong dream, something I really wanted to accomplish, was to play against my brothers in the league — maybe play with them. For now, it’s against them.
“But maybe we just have to all get on the same team.”
If they do, it’ll be just like the late summer nights in Chatsworth, all the Holidays on the same court with friends and cousins hanging out while Shawn and Toya watch.