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People 2014

Nick "Swaggy P" Young: Our Favorite Laker

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Wed, May 14, 2014 at 4:00 AM
click to enlarge Nick Young, Lakers fashion icon and swingman with a traumatic past. - RYAN ORANGE
  • Ryan Orange
  • Nick Young, Lakers fashion icon and swingman with a traumatic past.
One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.

On Sunday, March 23, Nick Young smoked the Orlando Magic for 26 points. But sometime during one of his theatrical, triple-finger-saluting, Swaggy P celebrations, the Sherman Oaks home of the Lakers' swingman and style icon was robbed.

The thieves heisted almost $100,000 worth of Christian Louboutin shoes, jewelry, clothes and Louis Vuitton luggage, plus the Red October Air Yeezys the Lakers star had adopted as that month's fashion trademark.

"I'm shocked they tried to get Swaggy," Young says with surfer chill at team practice the next morning.
After all, few crimes would be more dishonorable than burglarizing the swagtuary of the West L.A. - raised star. The charismatic prodigal son with the killer crossover has achieved adoration across the metropolis since signing with the Lakers last summer. Fans wave homemade signs and chant "Swaggy P" when he's at the free-throw line. Rihanna even shouted his nickname from her courtside seat.

"Playing for the Lakers has been a dream come true," says Young, 28, his smile dimpled and high-beam bright. A pair of chartreuse Nikes electrifies his standard-issue practice gear. "I grew up watching Magic and James Worthy and Kobe and Shaq. I had the Kobe 'fro in high school. These are my roots."

The movie-star wattage conceals a traumatic past. The eldest of Young's four brothers was mistaken for a gang member and murdered in 1991, leaving a pregnant fiancée.

Raised by a truck driver father and a stay-at-home mom, Young himself spent a tumultuous semester at South Central's Dorsey High before transferring to Cleveland High, a magnet school in Reseda, where he achieved All-City Section honors. "Dorsey was all Bloods, and I used to get banged on," he says. "I had to get up out of there."

Selected 16th in the 2007 NBA draft after two All - Pac 10 seasons at USC, Young played for Washington, Philadelphia and a half-season with the Clippers. But his longtime affinity for the Lakers led him to forgo bigger offers to sign for the veteran's minimum ($1.1 million). The team's recent struggles have been well-documented; it's unthinkable to consider how dreary the season would have been without Swaggy P's effervescent play.

Even the oft-dour (now former) coach, Mike D'Antoni, admitted earlier this year that Young "rubs off on me and makes me happy. ... He starts swaggin' and gets everybody's energy up."

Young's wardrobe is straight out of a rap video: garish sunglasses, sport coats, blinding diamond earrings. GQ anointed him one of 2013's 20 most stylish athletes and featured a scantily clad layout of him and his girlfriend, callipygian Australian rapper Iggy Azalea. Despite these extracurricular activities, Young delivered one of the best seasons of his career, averaging more than 17 points per game and improving his defensive reputation.

Honing his game on the asphalt at West L.A.'s Robertson Park, the 6-foot-6-inch Young didn't play organized basketball until his junior year of high school. His flair is both the byproduct of his street-ball years and a natural fit for the Hollywood ideology that spawned "Showtime." And his nickname may be the only successful self-bestowed nickname in the history of nicknames.

"One of my homies said that I had on a swaggy outfit, and it just stuck," Young laughs. "I didn't think it would stick for this long."

One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.

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