How Chicago Bulls Star Zach Lavine Is Planning On Making A Championship Win His Future

Zach Lavine
PANTS: Amiri SNEAKERS: Christian Louboutin

Photo Credit: Kirsten Miccoli

Photography: Kirsten Miccoli

Styling: Dawn Leah Estenor

Grooming: Mohammed “Moody” Jaber 

Zach LaVine keeps his feelings close to his chest. His motto is literally stitched into the jacket he bought himself after the 2014 NBA draft: “I never told you it was going to be easy—I told you it was going to be worth it.”

The sentiment, a lesson instilled by his parents, perfectly describes the 24-year-old shooting guard’s National Basketball Association journey thus far. He’s often referred to as one of the best young players in the league and the shining star of his team, the Chicago Bulls. His prowess on the court hasn’t yet translated into a winning season, but that only fuels his desire to be harder, better, faster and stronger.

Since his 2017 trade to the Bulls—three years after his 13th-overall draft pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves—LaVine has rapidly become the face of the franchise, notching a career-high this past November with 49 points, becoming just the third player in NBA history (along with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson) to make 13 three-pointers in a game.  Statistically, he’s the eighth in three-pointers made and fifth in total points. He’s averaging a career-best 25 points per game, while averaging a career-best of 4.8 rebounds per game and a career-best 1.4 steals per game But this year, it wasn’t enough to earn him All-Star status.

Instead, LaVine has agreed to participate in the NBA 3-Point Contest. Already a two-time Slam Dunk Contest champion, he hopes to be the first player to have won both competitions. Though others have participated in both, no player has won both… yet. “I’m excited to participate in the 3-Point-Contest during All-Star weekend, and I look forward to the opportunity to showcase my versatility and represent the Bulls organization, our fans and the city of Chicago,” he says, noting that while he’s disappointed to have not been named an All-Star, he’s pragmatic about it.

“I feel like I’ve played extremely well this year,” he maintains. “Obviously, I want to be an All-Star, but I know a lot of that comes from winning, and that’s the main thing I haven’t done yet in my basketball life so far.” 

Zach Lavine
SWEATSHIRT: Helmut Lang T-SHIRT: Cotton Citizen
JEWELRY: Zach’s own

Photo Credit: Kirsten Miccoli

Admittedly, his team has struggled for the past few years, but LaVine is confident that its luck will change. “[Chicago] has so much rooted here, and that’s what I’m trying to get back, that feeling and that vibe of being one of the top franchises [in the NBA],” he says. “We’ve been down a little bit the last couple of years, but we’re still fighting. We’ve got the right mindset. We’re going out there, and we’re going to get it right.”

LaVine takes his role as a leader seriously, taking on the responsibility of ushering the Bulls back to the Michael Jordan era, but doesn’t feel the pressure put upon him by fans to perform. “I don’t feel like it’s all riding on me, but I do think you have to look at yourself first before you look outward,” he notes. “If you’re doing everything you can do, then the pressure shouldn’t be as big as it may seem. You’re doing your part, you’re doing your job, and I like the building process. It’s a fight, it’s a challenge, and that’s what I’m [here] for.”

He’s definitely giving it his all, as he has done since becoming a professional player at age 19. “I’ve always considered myself to be one of the hardest workers in the NBA,” he declares. “In every offseason, I’m trying to expand on my game. Coming out of UCLA like I did, I had a pretty high draft pick and wanted to prove to myself that I was worth that [pick].”

He played among rising stars like Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones on the Timberwolves, winning the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 2015 and 2016 while being named NBA All-Rookie Second Team in 2016 before the 2017 trade that sent him to Chicago. Though it seemed shocking at the time, it had a silver lining for LaVine. “I feel like [the trade] gave me an opportunity to show my whole game as a No. 1 option, and as the player I could become,” he says. “I think

I’ve embraced that role; I’ve stepped into it well. I still continue to go out there and do things I need to get better at.”

It’s part of what makes him a leader, and (dare we say it) an All-Star. He learned a lot from former and current teammates like Kevin Garnett, Jamal Crawford and Thaddeus Young, but says that he’s not trying to play the game like anyone but Zach LaVine. “Transitioning to a leadership role, you’re not trying to be anyone that you’re not; you have to be yourself,” LaVine maintains. “I don’t think someone can tell you how to be a leader—it’s something that takes time and has its ups and downs. I think I lead by example, by my work and play. I can take accountability really well, and I feel like I’m coachable.”

Zach Lavine
T-SHIRT: Cotton Citizen
PANTS: Rhude
JEWELRY: Zach’s Own

Photo Credit: Kirsten Miccoli

Meaning: He takes criticisms in stride and doesn’t let critiques feel personal. “Taking on the role of the face of the franchise is something that’s going to come with criticisms and ups and downs, especially when we haven’t been winning,” he notes. “But I am going to bring [the franchise] back to being one of the top teams out there. I’m going to spearhead that, get to the playoffs and compete for championships. I’m here for all that; I know I can take it. I’m mentally strong enough. I’m tough enough to go through the bumps and the bruises and still be here.”

LaVine has thick skin, but he also has the benefit of an incredibly strong support network. His dad, former NFL player Paul LaVine, is his best friend (and, to this day, his trainer), as are Perrion Callandret of the G League’s Windy City Bulls and Sekou Wiggs Jr., who plays basketball in Italy. He lives with his high-school sweetheart, Hunter Mar, who, along with his pit bull, Grizzly, are there to welcome him home with open arms (and paws) every night.

“Me and my family are so close,” he says. “I’m one of the biggest family people there can be. I go home [to Bothell, Washington] pretty much the whole summertime. Me and my girlfriend go on vacation with them. Me and my dad are best friends. I talk to him pretty much after every game.”
Along with his praise, his father, Paul, a former Seattle Seahawks player, also keeps it real. “He’ll get on me still like I’m back in high school,” LaVine chuckles. “Obviously, I know what I’m doing out there, but he’ll still tell me, ‘You did this and this wrong. You’ve got to pick it up here.’ If I’m in a slump, he’ll come up and shoot with me.”

His best friends also offer constructive criticism, and LaVine is more than willing to hear it. “They’ll call me up after a game and tell me how I played or what they saw,” he says. “I like hearing what their opinions are and how they view the way I’m playing. It’s not too much encouragement, it’s just them being there and being who they are with me. We talk a lot of mess to each other, which is how you want to be treated. You don’t want to be put on a pedestal by your family and friends; you want them to treat you how they did when you were growing up… You don’t want them to let you get away with things that aren’t right or not tell you the truth because of the status that you have. I’m a basketball player, yes, but I’m Zach LaVine first.”

Zach Lavine
PANTS: Amiri
SNEAKERS: Christian Louboutin

Photo Credit: Kirsten Miccoli

But who is Zach LaVine? Surface things aside—he’s a 6’5”, 200-pound hunk from Bothell, a neighborhood of Seattle—he’s a pretty simple guy. He comes home to his Chicago mansion (easily the most expensive purchase he’s ever made) after practice every day and plays video games like Overwatch, Apex and Destiny by himself or with his childhood friends, and the occasional session of Call of Duty with teammate Daniel Gafford. He also watches movies, with his favorites being historical or based on true stories and fantasies.

“[I would say that] I’m kind, very family-oriented, fun, goofy—but serious when I need to be,” he says. “Above all, I think what my parents instilled in me is that I’m a very good young man. I’m [also] a loving boyfriend. I feel like that’s who I am first, before basketball.”
He knows exactly who he is, but he isn’t as vocal about certain things—like his philanthropy. After moving to Chicago in 2017, he decided to integrate himself into the community by giving back to it. He teamed up with Jewel-Osco to provide Thanksgiving meals for the underserved last year; took local kids to a Jumanji screening and gifted them with adidas and Bulls gear afterward; and consistently partners with After School Matters, committing charitable acts like gifting one student a puppy and helping another by giving his grandmother a home makeover.

Like everything else in his life, his benevolence can be traced back to his family. “We didn’t always have the most money to have the best Christmases or to give back,” he admits. “From a young age, I would always notice people coming up to [my dad] asking him for a $100 here, a $100 there. He always gave it, even when he didn’t have to. For seven years, my mom [CJ] worked two jobs, seven days a week, just to put food on the table and allow me to play AAU [Amateur Athletic Union basketball].”

Zach Lavine

Photo Credit: Kirsten Miccoli

Now, he’s in the unique position to also be able to give back to those he loves, as they did for him. He’s on a four-year, $78 million guaranteed contract with the Bulls, with an annual average salary of $19.5 million. With those millions burning a hole in the pocket of his Rhude jeans, LaVine purchased his parents a huge, six-acre home in Seattle, a big kids’ playground with its own basketball court, sand pit, football field, dog run and even a place for paintball. He then immediately bought a house for himself and Hunter nearby (because one day, when the NBA is in his past, he’ll be right back home in his favorite city, where he can keep all of his favorite people close).

Unlike most athletes who splash out like whoa even before the ink is dry on their contracts, LaVine has been making mostly modest purchases. He has a pair of diamond studs, matching his and hers Rolexes for himself and Hunter plus a few Breguet chains. His grand passion is cars: He currently has a Lamborghini Urus, a vintage Lincoln, a Pontiac LeMans and a new Mercedes-Benz S 63; he recently bid farewell to his favorite, a Bentley Bentayga.

But those are just things, and as much as he loves having them, they aren’t things he couldn’t live without. “I think [luxury is] all about perspective,” he notes. “It’s about what you value, and what makes you happy. A vacation with my parents or my girl doesn’t have to be expensive—the luxury is the time spent.”

And if you were to ask LaVine what he really wants, the answer would be easy and instantaneous: a win. “In the NBA, it’s the hardest thing to do, to win. It’s tough learning to win,” he maintains. “I haven’t been to the playoffs yet, and it’s my sixth year [in the NBA]. I’ve accomplished a lot individually, but winning is something I haven’t had. If I get that down, I think the sky is the limit for me.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Zach Lavine
JACKET: Burberry Brit
JEWELRY: Zach’s own

Photo Credit: Kirsten Miccoli