Donald Watts: A Son’s Passion

September 14, 2023

Growing up with an NBA star taught Donald Watts untold lessons. Donald is now a full-time caretaker for his father, Sonics legend Slick Watts, who suffered a devastating stroke two years ago. Donald recounts his childhood, the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that prevented him from playing in the NBA, and his commitment to youth and community. He also discusses the importance of the year-old Sonics Legend Fund, a charitable program to help pay the expenses of former Sonics who need assistance.

Transcript:

[MUSIC PLAYING] Hi, I’m Jonathan Sposato, owner and publisher of Seattle Magazine.

This episode, we are talking to Donald Watts.

Leaning on a rich basketball history, the son of former Seattle SuperSonics legend Slick Watts, Donald has turned a successful basketball career into a wide platform, which includes work as a radio TV personality, Fox Sports Northwest TV, Color Commentator on Root Sports, KGR Radio Husky, Hong’s co-host, frequent guest host of other numerous radio shows.

He is a motivational speaker, and he gives his gift of reaching kids through teaching basketball.

And he is one heck of a guy with an important message today.

And as always, I’m also joined by Rob Smith, executive editor in chief and all-around great guy, and a mean basketball player himself, I might add.

I’m so excited to talk with the both of you and have this really great conversation about a wide range of things.

So Donald, thank you for being here.

Hey, thank you for having me.

Long days, I’m tired, but you guys lifted my spirit.

I’m feeling awfully important here today.

Oh, all right.

And you’re lifting ours.

You’re lifting ours.

I’m on the great Seattle magazine.

Hey, I’m excited.

That’s right.

That’s right.

So we’ll have fun talking.

So I’ll start off with the first question, which is this concept of– I call it fame twilight.

And it can mean different things.

It could mean that maybe a long time ago, you had a certain career, and now your career is in a different place.

It could be that maybe you are related to someone famous.

It could be that you are famous within a certain category.

Like you’re an amazing neurosurgeon, and all the doctors know you, but nobody else in the general public knows you.

So I kind of think about this concept of fame twilight.

All I can think about is your father, Slick, was.

And at the age of 56, I remember my dad and I watching your dad play.

Oh, you’re aging yourself now.

Yeah, I’m totally aging myself.

I know it’s not to my advantage.

But I remember when my dad and I would buy Sonic’s courtside seats for $36.

Can you believe that?

They were once $36 a piece.

And that was a splurge.

That was like paycheck day.

He’s got a couple of extra bucks, and we would go.

But we’d watch your dad play.

And he was a phenomenal player.

And then I was delighted by the fact that years later, like maybe, I don’t know, I was in my 20s, and I was working at Microsoft.

And I’d work out at the pro club.

Pro club in Bellevue.

Yes, and every afternoon after work, I’d come in at like 637 o’clock, and your dad would be sitting there with downtown Freddie Brown watching TV.

And I would say hi to them all the time, and they would recognize me.

It was just so much fun.

And they were just great personalities.

So this concept, tell our listeners.

I mean, you are a very accomplished guy in your own right.

But early on, maybe when you were a kid and a teen, what was it like growing up with such a famous father?

I mean, it was fun.

It was exciting.

You get in the habit of being late everywhere you go.

And not only was he famous, but he also signed every autograph, stopped and smiled and had a conversation with everybody.

He had a couple of sayings that he would say.

It’s just, as a kid, it drives you crazy.

He’s like, I’m all about the people.

The people made me.

The people made me.

So that was his– He always had an appreciation.

He would actually talk bad about guys who didn’t appreciate, who were famous, and didn’t realize that their checks.

And the things that they got came from people, right?

From people’s appreciation of them.

And he would have some not-too-kind words to say about famous people whose ego got in the way of embracing people, right?

He always, himself, always felt a connection with the people.

And he felt like anybody who reached a certain status should try to honor their position in that way, by embracing people, give them a smile, give them an autograph, whatever it is that can make people feel good.

That was just who he was and how he was.

You talked about your own son, who’s 19, I think.

Yeah, Isaiah Watts.

Isaiah Watts.

All right, Isaiah Watts.

So in what ways did your father, Slick’s, parenting, how he was as a father, influence you one way or the other as a father yourself?

Oh, man.

I mean, it has influenced me as a man.

He’s in this situation right now where my father had a stroke, and he’s living with me.

And the situation is really unfortunate.

But I’ve stepped up and taken care of him because– and I tell him, I said, man, this is not a burden for me.

I’m doing this because of who you were for me.

And it is an honor for me to be able to look after him, take care of him, give him the best life that I can for him, going forward, and give him the best chance at the fullest recovery possible.

So it just influenced me as a man as a whole.

But as a father, it made me feel like playing basketball, and I had disappointment with chronic fatigue syndrome, not being able to further my professional career.

And I had dreams of being in the Hall of Fame and being one of the best whoever played.

And so that’s tough, right?

But the anchor for me is I really– when I have my kids, I have two kids.

They’re eight days apart, two different mothers.

So very challenging situation.

But because of who he was for me, I feel like I always felt like the best thing I could be in this world is a father, right?

Like, that’s the number one top priority and how I judge myself, what I want to be judged by, is how I’ve been there and stepped up for and continue to step up for my own kids.

And that’s because that’s a direct result of the love that I felt from him.

And so I try to make sure that I live– that, like, people ask me, is there pressure to be a great basketball?

I didn’t feel that.

I didn’t feel pressure to be a great basketball player.

But if there was any pressure, and it’s a positive pressure, it was to be the best parent that I could be for my kids, because I had that experience.

And I don’t take it for granted.

Now, the Sonics Legend Fund was created in part– Legends.

Legends.

I’m here.

I’m here.

I’m here.

Coach Watts is in the building now.

Coach Watts is in the building.

Right on.

The Sonics Legends Fund is helping out your father.

He played in the NBA.

Granted, it was a very different time in terms of the salaries and things like that.

So I think there’s kind of a misperception.

There definitely is the perception.

But there also is the reality that, like, you know, he’s done pretty well.

And unfortunately, like, that’s one of the challenging things.

He has a situation where he gets sick, and all of a sudden, there’s no money.

And so the Sonics Legends Fund has been very instrumental.

And during this time where we’re trying to get things all figured out and make sure he has access to the things that he should have and is supposed to have, it’s been a terrific stopgap to make sure that he has his acupuncture, that he does his hyperbaric therapy, things that can really help him beyond the natural recovery time.

And these are things that health insurance doesn’t cover?

They don’t cover.

Yeah, they don’t cover.

And there are also things that, you know, they’ve tried to deny him having.

And they’re not things that are new to him.

They’re things that he was doing before he had a stroke.

These are– you know, he’s got acupuncture before he had a stroke.

He would do hyperbaric therapy because some of his lung issues, he has autoimmune.

I have autoimmune.

And so these are things that were a part of his lifestyle before that also are beneficial for him in his current situation that I’ve been determined to have him have so he can have the best quality of life.

And frankly, the Sonics Legends Fund is the only reason that we’re able to continue to do it.

It’s super, like, just big shout out to Sandy.

She came through.

She’s done this stuff for the Seahawks.

Her and my dad have built a relationship, her and Gus, over time.

She saw a need.

She connected with the community.

And the thing that makes me feel really good about it is that it will impact people beyond my father.

He’s not the only one who is a former Seattle Super Sonic, somebody who’s inspired the community that will fall on hard times and to know that there is a place and there’s a community and a place for Sonics fans to rally around guys once the whistle stops blowing, once the tennis shoes stop squeaking to give them the best life possible.

It just warms my heart with a heart that’s kind of broken from all the trauma that we’re dealing with.

Yeah.

And just for the benefit of our listeners, Sandy Gregory is the executive director for the Sonic’s Legend Fund.

And a little bit about the Sonic’s Legend Fund is that– Legends?

Oh, gosh.

I was waiting for Sonic’s Legend.

I was waiting after he corrected me.

Yeah.

I was waiting for that.

Fair enough.

Fair enough.

Sonic’s Legend.

Goatsbots is in the building.

Ah, I know.

Here’s how I’m going to remember it, because there are– there’s more than one legend.

You’re like many legends.

There you go.

Many Sonic’s Legends fund.

Very good.

So a word about them.

You know, that fund was created to assist former Sonic’s players in need of financial assistance, connecting them with caring support and critical resources like medical care and housing.

Sonic’s Legends currently receiving funding include Gus Williams, star member of the Sonic’s Team, 1979 NBA Championship Team, and of course, Slick Watts, the ever-popular guard whose trademark headband still resonates today amongst long-time Sonic’s fans.

So just a fantastic organization.

And there is, of course, a way that if you’re out there, listeners, that you want to help, go to sonicslegendsfund.org.

And right on the home page is a donate online.

And in fact, I’m going to do that in a minute.

While Rob, you ask the next question, I will, on behalf of Seattle Magazine, make a donation to the Sonic’s Legends fund.

But I also want to talk a little bit about what happened, if you can, in April of 2021.

What happened to Slick?

He had a stroke.

He had a stroke.

He was somewhere between the house and going to walk– I don’t know if he was leaving the house and to go to the dog park what he does normally in the morning or if he was returning to his house from the dog park.

But he had a stroke.

He was found outside in between his two vehicles, probably like a 49-degree rainy day.

And he was on the concrete down.

And they live out in Union Hill in Redmond.

And he had been out there for a while.

So by the time he got to the hospital, there wasn’t any treatment that they could do.

They just had to watch the stroke.

And so yeah, that’s the thing.

And then from there, we went to a cute rehab, and then came home to my house.

And then I’ve been caring for him ever since.

That’s right.

And I understand that there’s a GoFundMe that’s somebody else set up.

And it is the Power to the People Fund for Coach Watts.

And so if you find that on GoFundMe.com, Power to the People Fund for Coach Watts, you can also lean in and help out.

I see that there’s a number of names that I recognize who are good friends who have already given.

And in Seattle Magazine, and Jonathan and Rob will also be making a donation today to that.

I appreciate that.

And Power to the People, something my dad used to say all the time.

He’s an educator in the Seattle School District for over three years.

That’s right.

He was walking the building.

And Power to the People, he said to the kids, Power to the People, Power to the People.

I’m going to hit the donate now.

And I got to beat Brian Robinson, that guy.

I got to give more to that guy.

I love competition.

In fact, one of my buddies was one of your dad’s colleagues.

Said he was a fantastic guy.

He was really thrilled that he was friends.

He could call Slick Watts a friend.

So do you battle the misperception that somebody who played in the NBA, somebody who was very well known in the NBA, needs his kind of assistance at this point?

Yeah, I think so.

I think there is a– how could that be kind of a deal?

But his salary at the school district was more than his NBA salary.

I mean, we’re talking about $36 court side tickets.

It ain’t like it is today.

And I’m going to tell him when I get home, too, hey, man, I heard you could watch you play for $36 court side.

That was a long time ago, man.

Court side.

Right on the floor.

He’s going to have a few choice cuss words for that.

So how old were you when you first beat him in basketball?

You guys used to play one-on-one?

Oh, yeah, absolutely.

We used to play one-on-one.

When I first beat him, I think I was 14 years old.

And that’s the last time we played.

No more, huh?

That was it.

I remember what he said, too, because it was to the point where I could have beat him before, but he had these Jedi mind tricks.

And he would start like stumping.

And I would just start laughing, because the way he played defense, and he’d come back and beat me.

Then I finally beat him.

And his comment was, yeah, you’re too big.

I stole the ball from you, and it hurt.

So I’m done with you.

That was the last time we played.

Now, we’ll say that when my grandson– I mean, when his grandson, my son, was young, he liked to get out there and play against him a little bit when he was young, young.

And then he got to be six or seven and when he could beat him.

Yeah, yeah.

I remember a fun time at the gym when actually when my son beat him for the first time and was excited.

And then we had another friend, Jawan Gonzalez, who’s kind of like an adopted son for us, one of my son’s best friends.

And Jawan said something to my dad.

He was like, oh, he said, my turn, I’ll beat you.

My dad turned around.

He said, oh, boy, I’ll just raise up on top of you.

And I’m like, raise up.

You haven’t jumped in 20 years.

And then he took the ball.

He said, let me show you.

And he was actually trying to shoot a jump shot, like get up in the air.

And he shot about five of them and he wouldn’t set out.

He’s like, oh, that stuff hurts.

So does your game resemble or did your game resemble your dad?

Said you try to model your game on his at all?

Not at all.

Not at all.

He didn’t even try to model my game after his.

He said scores got paid.

So he tried to fashion me to be a scorer.

Which you were.

Yeah.

He said, don’t do that passing stuff.

I led the league in the system.

I didn’t make no money.

He’s like, Fred Brown made all the money.

I want you to be like Fred.

You be a shooter.

Now, I’m sure everybody remembers, but you were widely regarded as one of the top high school basketball players in the history of this state.

You were the Gatorade State Player of the Year.

You were Washington’s Mr.

Basketball prep athlete of the year.

You were very high in national rankings.

That was about 30 pounds ago.

And that’s a lie.

That was about 50 pounds ago.

So then you’re one of the country’s top recruits.

You decide to stay and help rebuild the University of Washington program.

You led the Huskies to two NCAA tournaments.

You helped revive what was a more abundant program at the time.

You were headed to the pros.

And then you got diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.

How difficult was that for you?

Your whole future must have changed just like that.

Yeah.

It was tough.

And I actually was dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome when I was at Washington.

And I got my junior year.

I was kind of tired of dealing with it.

And I actually had called my mother.

And I’m like, I can’t do this anymore.

I’m done.

Like, I’m ready to go into this coach’s office and just shut it down because I was struggling that bad in the brain fog and the fatigue from practices.

But we were playing in South Alabama.

I was born here.

But I grew up between here and Mobile Alabama when my parents separated.

And my mother actually convinced me.

She’s like, just look, just get to Christmas.

Right?

Get to these Christmas games.

I got a doctor.

I want you to see a natural path.

I want you to see when you’re here.

And if it doesn’t help out, if it doesn’t work, then I can support you 100% stepping back from basketball and just going to college.

So I was that close to just shutting it down.

And I went.

And we went inside Dr.

Hale at the Health Hut in Mobile, Alabama.

And he did some pressure point testing and treated me for stress on the adrenal gland.

Told me to change my diet, get off a sugar, white flour, and gave me just all these vitamins to take.

And those first three days off sugar were miserable.

I mean, I’ve never been on drugs.

But it felt like an addict.

I was jittery.

It was good.

I was at home with my mom during that time because we were on break to start that diet and that regimen.

And when I got back, I felt better.

I felt better, not all the way better.

But I felt better where I could– I had 2 and 1/2 hours a day of work in me that I could do six days a week.

And so we sat down with the coaching staff.

We adjusted my schedule a little bit.

And that’s when we took off.

From there, we ended up in the NCAA tournament, ended up in the sweet 16.

I think at one point, I was leading the Pac-12 in scoring.

I went from almost quitting in one week to the next week, being second in the league in scoring.

I think I was third or fourth in the country in free throw attempts.

With my energy, it came.

So it was something that I was managing in college.

But at that time, I also was like, man, I just want to peel.

I don’t want to do all– I want to peel.

I want to just be better and whatever.

So I was playing those mind games with myself during the off season, during that off season.

And then when it wasn’t working out, then I’d get back on my diet, my regimen, and all that stuff during the season.

So it was something that I managed through college that I wasn’t going to be able to or wasn’t able to manage as a professional.

When you think about what I was able to accomplish in college and then to do that without immune disease, like I look back on it, and it’s like, man, that’s pretty impressive.

And you still dream about what would happen if you weren’t dealing with that.

I would have been able to fulfill– I feel like I was in a position to really be able to fulfill all of my dreams.

And to this day, it’s something that I still manage.

Yeah.

Donald, I really appreciate you sharing the story of your chronic fatigue and some of the struggles that you went through when you were playing.

Also, in light of what happened to your father, what position might you take with regards to health care coverage and preventive health care in sports?

Health care is interesting.

And I guess I’ve got a bad taste in health care and the health care industry because of the things that I was going through, and they didn’t have answers for me.

And frankly, some of the job disappointments I went through were pretty silly.

They sent me to a neurologist, and I go to the neurologist, and he’s like, do three push-ups.

And I do three push-ups.

And then he’s like, do three squats.

And I do three squats.

And the guy’s like, so such a small guy, like a tiny guy.

He goes, hold your arms out.

And I hold my arms out.

And he tries to push them down, and he can’t.

And he goes, oh, nothing’s wrong with you.

You’re good.

And I’m like, three– I was doing 300 push-ups a day.

Like, three is not the– So but neurologically, I was good.

So and he didn’t have– so from the standpoint that he was looking at it, there was no problem.

But it didn’t– I still was having physical endurance issues.

And when I say physical endurance issues, there were times when at the end of the week in practice, I would chew food and my jaw would cramp.

So it was like that kind of like muscle cramping and everywhere.

But I was able to do three push-ups.

So I was good.

And then you go to another person that specializes in something and they just deal with you based on that specialty.

So as far as health care, as far as I’m concerned, I like to try to deal with folks that see the body as a whole and try to get to underlying causes.

I’ve had better and more results from Eastern, from acupuncture, from homeopathy, and stuff like that.

But definitely a blend.

When my father fell, he broke his hip, went to Harvard View.

They had a new hip in them the next day.

Some of the stuff you read is like, oh, Western medicine was born for war.

It was born for emergency situations and stuff like that.

So it’s great for those kind of things.

But people have cancer and they just fill you with medication.

A lot of times they don’t even talk to you about your diet.

The acidic foods or the things that you’re eating or your environment changes that can help you minimize the impact and help you overcome.

And so I think that the health care system, like a lot of systems in this country, could stand improving and reworking.

Do athletes tend to get better both collegiately and professionally, tend to get better health care than most people, do you think?

Yeah, yeah, for sure.

For sure.

When my son springs his ankle or he has an issue and we go to the doctor and he’s like, no, that’s a regular doctor.

Like, oh, just sit out for the next four weeks and then come back and see how it feels.

I’m like, oh, that’s not how this operates.

Let’s go find us a sports medicine doctor.

We need to be back faster and we need to be back stronger.

And just sitting it out is not– we need exercises.

We need blood flow into it.

We need those kind of things so that we can recover.

We need to take vitamin C.

We need to take– fill your body with things that heal.

And you learn that stuff in the training room.

You learn that stuff when they give you a scholarship.

So you’re on $100,000 a year or whatever it is.

And they need to get you back out there.

So I definitely think we get access to better health care, the best meds, all of those things.

Because we have a university or you have a professional team that’s invested in you and is trying to get you back out there.

So you learn those things.

And then you learn how to go into the regular health care system and try to find the people that are going to push you to get better with more aggressively.

OK, so as a former athlete, then you think you have more knowledge going forward to deal with the regular health care system?

Yeah, absolutely.

And I guess I wouldn’t say I can’t speak for just any athlete.

I feel like I’m in a unique position because I was spending a lot of time with doctors and trying to figure out, trying to plug away and figure out what was going on.

I caution speaking for all athletes and their experience because I know mine is pretty unique.

But in general terms, I would say, yeah, our experience with athletics puts us in a position where we have a better understanding of our body and we’re surrounded by people who care more about our bodies because our bodies are benefiting ourselves, our future, but also other people.

Gonzaga University was a university that was really, really struggling before 1995.

And they went to the NCAA tournament now as a university.

They’re thriving.

Like that university has a brand that’s a very big, good brand, worldwide brand that’s built off the success of basketball team.

So yeah, the doctors in Spokane are happy to be helping those guys and keep them on the floor.

And there’s a lot more at stake than if just some– like a regular person has a cold.

So I definitely think there’s an advantage to it.

Now, Donald, one of the things I’m really curious about because you are doing such an incredible job inspiring all of us taking great care of your father is a lot of our listeners, our readers of the magazine, are kind of in the same place.

We’re sort of sandwiched.

We’re raising teenagers or even younger ones.

And at the same time, we’re taking care of our elderly parents.

In my case, my mother also had a stroke.

While it wasn’t debilitating, it sort of led to some other issues.

And now at the age of 87, she has dementia and her short-term memory is really non-existent.

So we’ve had to learn how to become really strong advocates and kind of program managers of her health care in this navigating the complexity of it and sometimes a frustrating bureaucracy of it, as you also kind of alluded to.

Again, you’re such an inspiration.

What advice do you have for our listeners in terms of how to do that well?

Yeah, I guess the advice I would give is– I feel like I’m about to talk to the kids about– it’s like, hey, you have a goal.

Have an objective.

And I like to say have a mantra and then be true to it.

What do you want for your mother?

What do you want for your father in their twilight years?

And understand that you are the person, the best person, the person who’s responsible for giving them that.

And your goals for them aren’t going to be the same as other people’s goals for them, but your goals for them are what count.

And what I mean by that is when you go to a doctor and the doctor will say, hey, I think we should do X, Y, and Z.

And it’s like, well, that doctor doesn’t have to deal with the outcome of X, Y, and Z.

Like you do.

So when you’re making those choices, you’re making those decisions when in our situation, I’m my father’s guardian.

There’s a guardian of the estate.

There’s all these people and things that play.

And there’s all these opinions that come at me.

I know that my father wouldn’t serve well in a nursing home.

And the guardian of the state is concerned about money.

And to choose the nursing home, Medicaid’s got to be paid down for three to five years.

Well, I know my dad went last five months in a nursing home.

So that’s not a conversation that we can really have.

I saw him in a cute rehab when he was disconnected from family.

And I walked in there.

He was staring at the wall.

He was blank.

He wasn’t doing any of the work that they were asking him to do.

He just checked out.

Well, when I went in there, he lit up.

Hey, man, we got to do this stuff.

You want to get out of here?

Oh, OK, OK, OK.

And I saw how that changed his spirit.

Well, that’s my responsibility for him.

And I think when we’re in that place between taking care of our parents, raising kids, understanding what your goals are for your kids, making sure they’re not being neglected, what we’ve tried to do is really include– I’ve really tried to include my kids in.

And they’ve been great.

Like, and when I say great, they’ve been phenomenal as young people about being inspiring to their grandpa.

Every time we walk in the house, we get to kiss him on the head.

I get to kiss slick watts on the head.

You know, every day.

My daughter does the same thing.

My son does the same thing.

We take turns sitting down watching movies with him and stuff like that.

And we’ve committed to giving him the best life possible.

Now, the other side of that is making sure that you’re not neglecting the things that your kids need.

And that was one of the biggest struggles for me in this situation was with the financial stuff.

I put so much money into the– still haven’t gotten that back yet.

But I was missing things with my kid.

And he was understanding with my son and my daughter that my dad did for me, that we worked so hard, like his recruiting trips, his tournaments and all that stuff.

I ended up missing some of those things, which is one of the reasons– and we’ll kind of lighten it up or whatever– people are like, oh, how do you feel about your son playing for Wazoo?

You know, I’m a dog.

And he’s a cougar.

But my son’s at home.

He committed to sitting in the hall.

Now he’s at home.

So one of my missions through this GoFundMe is to get a van that we can get in the– I can put my dad in the van.

We can watch TV on the way over.

And we can be at in Pullman.

And we can be in Ellensburg as much as possible, because I know what that’ll do for his spirits.

And I know what that’ll do for my spirits, being able to watch.

I’m so happy that my kids are going to college in the state where I’ll be able to watch them and participate and watch them grow.

But part of that is because the pandemic took a big portion of our sports experience away from us.

And then when we were recovering from the pandemic, the financial resources that I had committed to my dad that I had expected to get paid back that I haven’t took yet, which another hit took that experience from me and my kids.

So having them here means that I get to get that back.

And I’m so grateful for them, for being who they are, for being here, for putting their arms around my dad.

And just grateful that he’s going to be able to be a part of that experience.

Because one of the things that when he was sick before, he had a stroke.

He was dealing with some stuff.

And you thought he was on his way out.

But he calls my son.

That’s my reason for living.

That’s my reason for living.

That’s his thing.

So I know it’s going to be super inspiring to him.

And so back to the advice is just stay focused, especially during the tough times.

You need to anchor on what your purpose is, both for your kids and for your parents.

At the end of the day, it’s hard seeing them go through it.

But we’re all going to go through it at some point.

And hopefully, my wish is that my kids are watching what I’m doing for my father and won’t kick me to the curb when the time comes.

So anybody listening to this, Donald, is not going to be surprised that you also have done some motivational speaking.

And you also run Watch Basketball.

Tell us a little bit about those things.

Watch Basketball is just such a natural– when I was not able to fulfill my own dreams in basketball, the greatest place I could find satisfaction is helping other people accomplish their goals and their dreams or at least approach it.

They all don’t accomplish their dreams and goals.

It’s not a 100% thing.

But learning the process of what it means to really go for it is the best thing that I can do for my spirit and to just what can you do and be the best in the world at?

Like, what’s the best place in the world for you to be?

And for me, that’s Watch Basketball doing that.

And then motivational speaking is just something that has kind of come naturally, probably flowing from my pops.

I remember– I don’t even remember what the speech about was about.

But one of the greatest joys of my life was being the grand marshal for Special Olympics, for the Special Olympic Winter Games, and being in the Wenatchee arena with a couple thousand Special Olympic athletes and delivering the speech for that and the response that I got.

And the part that I remember most vividly is everybody coming up like, are you Russell Wilson?

Russell Wilson, what?

And this is when Russell Wilson was the man, too, now.

I was like, Russell Wilson, Russell Wilson, about half my size.

But it was awesome.

It was an awesome experience.

And whenever– you know, this is what we’re doing here, man.

Like, whenever you can share your story, good, bad, indifferent, but it can help somebody else.

I’m down for it, you know?

That’s just my nature.

I get it from my mother and my father.

Back to being in between parenting, being a son, being a parent, I really feel universally, like, that’s just who I am.

And like, I’m a vessel– my grandparents, my parents, me, and then my kids.

But it almost feels like I’m not me, like, in a good way, right?

Like, my– like, I own up to what my responsibility is for him and what he’s taught me.

And I’m passing that down to my kids.

And it just, like, just feels like that’s where we are in the universe.

And I accept that.

You know, I had goals.

I had dreams.

I still have goals.

I still have things that I’m trying to accomplish.

But those things are, like, significantly intertwined in my family.

And my feelings not to run off and leave somewhere.

And, you know, but, yeah, I had visions of, like, I’m going to get my kids out the house.

I’m going to start planting some seeds in the South and New Orleans, you know, and kind of be back and forth or whatever.

You know, when I’m empty nesting, that’s what I’m going to do.

Well, I’m not empty nesting, right?

My kids are out the house.

My dad is in the house.

I’m not going nowhere.

So– and I hope not to be going anywhere for a long, long time.

Yeah.

Well, I have a feeling, Donald, that with your energy and your charisma and your intelligence and your thoughtfulness that wherever you are in life, whether it’s the physical location or where you are in your timeline, there’s always going to be something really, really meaningful and important that you’ll be doing and contributing to the world.

So with that in mind, what are you looking forward to?

Do you have some things coming up, coming down a pipe?

Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

So one of the things we’re working on right now is getting the Watts Foundation humming.

We started the Watts Foundation in 2004.

But it’s kind of just supported kids out of our own pockets and whatever.

My father’s been everywhere and done everything for everybody.

It has a lot of equity in the community.

And I guess it’s time for us to cash that check, right?

And my dad’s been in this community for 50 years.

And September 16, we’re going to be doing a gala.

September 18, we’re doing a golf tournament.

You can find details of that.

At thewotsfoundation.org.

But it’s really about, especially in this time in my father’s twilight, given him a slice of what his life used to be, right?

He used to be at golf tournaments.

He used to be at gallows.

He used to be in the community with kids at barbecues.

He was everywhere doing everything for everybody.

And one of the really cool things that I’m looking forward to in this last year, we took him to Xavier University for him to be inducted into a school’s hall of fame.

It was his first year going into a school’s hall of fame.

And when he got out there and he got dressed up, he was in his wheelchair.

And he saw everything.

He has his phasor, so he can’t really communicate that.

He understands everything.

And he lets you know.

He understands what his eyes and what a few cuss words.

But when he got back home to New Orleans and saw the people he grew up around, he lit up like a Christmas tree.

And I had to deliver his speech.

And he was at the table.

We’re sitting at the table with the president of the school who just stepped down like two years ago.

He had been there since my dad was here.

But I get up to go there, announce him, and I get up to go do the speech or whatever.

And I’m like, hey, do you want to stay here?

Do you want to come up there?

Man, he willed that chair up there so fast.

This is my moment, man.

He was right next to me.

And I have it– I mean, since before then or until now, he hasn’t moved that fast.

So looking forward to getting in a room full of fans with headbands on, dressed up, but with headbands on.

And for him to know that the community has gathered together, not only to honor him and support him, but in support of underprivileged kids, the kids that he dedicated his life to as an educator in South Seattle, in West Seattle.

He lived in Union Hill in Redmond.

And he took the trip every day.

Another funny story before we get out of here, he picks me up one day.

He calls me.

I’m working at the school.

It’s like I’m home from playing overseas or whatever.

And I’m working in the school district following in my dad’s footsteps.

Can’t help myself.

And he calls me.

And he’s like, what time is your lunch?

And I’m like, I was about 45 minutes.

He’s like, OK, well, come outside in 45 minutes.

And so I come outside, and he pulls up in this Prius.

And it was like– so I’m like, what are you doing?

He’s like, yeah, son.

He said, I got a Prius.

He’s like, then we’re driving.

And he goes, mm-mm-mm.

Slick Watch is really matured.

Can you believe that?

Slick Watch is a Prius.

And he’s like talking to himself.

He’s like, you know, this is what they driving in Hollywood.

[LAUGHTER] But that was my dad, man.

That was my dad.

That is my dad.

But I miss those conversations and just some of the stuff.

When you grow up with him, it’s not made for radio.

It’s not made for podcasts.

It’s not made really to share with anybody.

But I have those moments.

I cherish them.

Sometimes I look at them.

Or I’ll talk to him about stuff that he told me.

And he shakes his head at himself.

Some of the things that has come out of his mouth before.

So those– I mean, growing up my pops, man, those are the moments that I cherish and that I’m holding on to.

And if there’s a, you know, say a prayer for us, you know, if there’s a miracle that can be sent, I’m working for and hoping for a miracle that I’ll hear him talk all that crazy talk again.

And if not, I’ll have those to cherish for the rest of my life.

That’s great.

And Donald, I hope that you would be open to coming back and joining us again to share some of those stories.

I mean, we’ll bleep out anything that’s not appropriate.

But really, truly, thank you so much for being here.

It was just an incredible pleasure and an honor to speak with you to basketball legend Donald Watts, son of another basketball legend, Slick Watts.

Thank you, Sandy Gregory, for being here.

And what we’re going to do is we are actually going to add links when we publish this podcast.

You will see below the “Widget for the Podcast” links to the wattsfoundation.org.

And you’ll have information on this “A Night to Remember” gala, the golf tournaments, Slick’s Sunday Fund Day, a lot of great stuff, as well as links to the “Sonic’s Legends Fund” dot org, executive, chaired by Sandy Gregory, and it’s just a fantastic organization.

The great Sandy Gregory.

The great Sandy Gregory.

And last but not least, also a link to the “Power to the People” Fund for Coach Watts and that “Go Fund Me.”

You should find it in your hearts to help out a little, because we’re all living in the same community, and we’re all one big village.

So thank you so much for being here.

I’ll thank you for having me.

You’re really a blessing.

Thank you, Donald.

Thank you.

[MUSIC PLAYING] Thank you for listening to the “Seattle Magazine” podcast.

You can always find us on seattlemag.com.

Look for new episodes approximately every two weeks on our website.

A special thank you to the entire “Seattle Magazine” staff and to podcast producer Nick Patry.

Contact Lisa Lee at lisa@seattlemag.com for partnership opportunities.

Until next time, let’s keep celebrating Seattle.

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