On June 6, 2022, Darvin Ham became the 28th head coach in the history of the Los Angeles Lakers. Ham was born on July 23, 1973, and he grew up in a blue-collar family in Saginaw, Michigan. The Lakers coach is also married and has three children.
Here’s what you need to know about Darvin Ham’s family:
1. Darvin Ham’s Parents Are Wilmer Jones Ham McZee, a Teacher Who Became Mayor of Saginaw, & Howard Ham, an Air Force Veteran
Ham’s father, Howard Ham, worked on the General Motors assembly line, he told the Coastal Courier, and the future NBA coach grew up in a “blue-collar family.” While the youngster was passionate about playing sports, he told the NBA in an interview that his father was insistent on his son getting a good education.
“I was losing focus in the classroom, and my dad said I couldn’t play until I got my grades back up until they were way above average,” Ham confessed. He said that was around the time he made the switch from football to basketball. “I’d lost the appetite for football based on seeing other guys that were getting bigger by lifting weights, but I was just a lanky kid.”
In fact, Ham said he nearly joined the military but it was his father who encouraged him to go to college instead. Howard Ham and his two brothers, Ham’s uncles, all served in the United States Air Force while Ham’s uncle on his mother’s side served as a military police during the Vietnam War, he told Andscape.
“I had verbally committed to the Air Force and my dad was like, ‘Nah, I want you to try college, man. If college doesn’t work out, then you can go to the armed forces,'” he revealed. Ham shared in an interview with MLive that his father Howard Ham died in a car accident in 1992 when Ham was 19 years old.
Ham’s mother, Wilmer Jones Ham McZee, was a schoolteacher and adult educator, Ham told Coastal Courier, and she previously shared in an interview with Mid-Michigan Now that it was so important for her children to get degrees and she was very proud of Ham for getting his bachelor’s degree.
Ham McZee is an accomplished woman herself and was elected the first Black female mayor of Saginaw. She served as mayor from 2001-05 and as mayor pro tem from 2005-07. While describing his family’s situation growing up, Ham told Andscape, “We had everything we needed. We weren’t poor, but we weren’t rich either. You remember those middle-class-type situations? One paycheck away from being in the projects.”
When discussing his childhood, Ham has often spoken about his older brother, DeRonnie Turner, as someone who got him into basketball. Turner, four years older than Ham, played basketball at Savannah State for two seasons in the early 1990s, Coastal Courier reported.
Turner graduated with a business degree and then obtained a master’s degree at the University of Phoenix, the publication wrote. He now works as a human resources policy and employee relations investigator for General Motors, according to his LinkedIn.
Turner told the Courier that Ham always dreamed of being a coach and the two had discussed it when they were younger. He recalled his younger brother going to Savannah State to visit him while on break at college. “The basketball coach would see him during our pickup basketball games and would try to recruit him to come play for Savannah State, but he wanted to play Division I basketball,” he shared.
2. Darvin Ham Grew Up in a Household With a Strong Faith & Was Close With His Grandparents
Ham has also spoken about his grandparents with deep respect and shared that he grew up in a household with “strong, spiritual faith, belief in God and his Son, Jesus Christ,” he shared in his introductory press conference with the Lakers.
Ham’s maternal grandmother was Evalena Jackson Jones, born in 1924 in Ludowici, Georgia. His maternal grandfather, Woodrow Wilson Jones Sr., was from Mississippi and the family moved to Michigan around 1945, Ham explained. While speaking with NBA about his family’s reaction to him getting photographed for the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1996, he said his parents and grandmother were “amazed.”
“All the things my grandma has seen over the years … where we come from as a family, it was mind-boggling the opportunities we have today, (epitomized) by the cover,” he explained. “They were sharecroppers, and were a part of the Great Migration pilgrimage coming up from the south, my grandfather from Mississippi and my grandmother from Georgia,” he shared. “They were making $1 an hour all of a sudden after getting paid 15 to 20 cents as sharecroppers. It just goes to show you how far we’ve come.”
Ham shared that he still has cousins in Ludowici, Georga. One of them, Harland “Champ” Gibbs, told Coastal Courier that Ham and his brother DeRonnie Turner spent their summers in Georga when they were kids and that’s where they all learned to play basketball together. After Ham was announced as the new Lakers coach, Gibbs said the whole family was “so proud.”
Ham explained that his grandmother was pivotal in his pursuit of a basketball career and playing at Texas Tech. The youngster was going through a difficult year in which he’d lost his father in a car accident and then his grandfather to colon cancer.
He told MLive that the junior college camp in Indiana was the same day as his grandfather’s funeral and he didn’t want to go but his grandmother convinced him to go. “She said my grandfather loved me and knew that I loved him, but his life was over and mine was just beginning. Go,” he recalled. He said he did and that’s where he made the decision to attend Texas Tech. Ham’s grandmother Evalena Jones died in 2017, at the age of 93.
3. Darvin Ham Has Been Married to Deneitra Ham for 25 Years Now
Ham married his wife, Deneitra Ham, in 1998 and the couple recently celebrated their 25-year wedding anniversary. Ham met his wife, a Dallas, Texas, native when he was at Texas Tech. Deneitra Ham graduated from the same school in 2003. She also attended Lincoln Humanities/Communications Magnet High School and Lamar University in Texas, her Facebook bio states.
On February 7, 2022, Deneitra Ham posted on the social media platform to wish her husband a happy 24-year anniversary. She wrote that she felt “blessed to see 24” and accompanied the post with two photos of the happy couple. Ham and his wife, who is an educator, founded Urban Youth Development, a non-profit organization, in 2003. Its goal is to give back to communities and to encourage “positive youth development,” according to its website.
The organization’s social media pages show that Deneitra Ham is very involved in the activites put on by the foundation.
4. Darvin Ham Has Three Children, All Boys, & Shared That They Were All Interested in Basketball
Ham has two kids with his wife of over two decades, Deneitra Ham, and an older son from a previous relationship. His eldest son, Darvin Ham Jr., was born in 1992 when he was still in high school and he was a year old when Ham left Saginaw, Michigan, for Texas Tech in 1993.
Ham explained that playing basketball in college and pursuing it as a career was more than just a passion for him as he was motivated by the need to provide for his child. He shared in an interview that playing basketball was the way he could get a scholarship and a good education and would also allow him to play in the NBA.
After Ham began dating his now-wife, the couple welcomed their first child together, Donovan Ham, on January 3, 1997. Three years later, they had another son, Dominic Ham, who was born on January 24, 2000. While speaking with Texas Tech about his three boys, Ham said they were all interested in athletics but that he made it clear he wanted them to get an education first and foremost.
Donovan and Dominic Ham both grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and attended North Atlanta High School. They also both played basketball in college, with Donovan Ham playing at Mississippi College, where he majored in business administration. Dominic Ham is currently a junior at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee playing for the Milwaukee Panthers men’s basketball team and he’s studying communications.
As for Ham’s eldest son, he followed in his father’s footsteps and worked for several seasons as an assistant basketball coach at Northwood University in Michigan, where he graduated in 2014. He’s now an assistant coach for Cleveland Charge of the NBA G League, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Darvin Ham Jr. also made the Lakers coach a grandfather as he has three kids, Darvin Ham III, Cataleya Moore, and Cali.
5. Darvin Ham Was Very Close With One of His Childhood Friends Who He Called His ‘Godbrother’
Ham grew up in Saginaw with a tight-knit group of friends and family and shared that one person who helped shaped his life was his childhood best friend, Chaka Euell. The two were very close, he told Andscape. “I’m talking about our families are close, growing up in the church,” he explained. “He’s staying the night at my crib; I’m staying at his crib. We’re godbrothers.”
On July 24, 1990, Euell and another man, Benjamin Lee III, were murdered, beaten and shot to death. Ham got emotional as he recounted that their paths had started separating. “He went one way and I went the other,” the future NBA coach told the Times. “As we were trying to reconnect, he gets killed hours later. Literally, I talked to him three hours before he was killed.” He added, “Man, he would be so proud of me right now.”
He described having to be Euell’s pallbearer as a teenager and said it “changed [him] forever,” especially so soon after he’d also been shot himself in Saginaw, Michigan. “You talking about dark? Here we are 13, 14, 15, 16 years old and there’s gun violence and my man gets gunned down, him and another guy,” he shared. Ham said the violence in his city growing up gave him PTSD but it also shaped who he is today.