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If this year’s class of NBA rookies were supposed to put on a boring show once Zion Williamson went down with a knee injury, no one told Tyler Herro. Instead, through twenty-eight games, the Miami Heat’s rookie has exploded through the Zion-sized hole and put on a show.
It’s not so much the numbers he puts up—though those are pretty stellar at 14 points per game on 42 percent shooting. It's the way he plays: executing dribble drives and smooth stepbacks that’ll have you finding yourself two hours in the future, bleary-eyed and deep in a highlight vortex. And then there’s also, of course, the things he does on the court that don’t involve the ball, like boldly telling an opponent, “I’m a bucket.”
The 19-year-old from Milwaukee exudes a confidence that vibrates off each item on his ever-expanding hit list: his draft suit; the recent overtime win in which he scored (in icy fashion) 16 of the Heat’s final 18 points; his friendship with infamously demanding teammate Jimmy Butler. Naturally, we had to ask where all that swag comes from. So we did, along with everything else, too: making the transition to the NBA, beating Butler to practice (and having to pick up his lunch), and eating the same pregame meal since high school.
GQ: Do you remember when you first started playing ball?
Tyler Herro: Probably like four or five at the YMCA. I played in a little league with small courts and small hoops. It was pretty fun, I guess.
When did you know you could shoot?
Seventh grade is when I met my shooting coach and he fixed my shot. I used to shoot with two hands. Really ever since is when my I started to shoot real well.
I saw the video of you handing that kid your wristband, and him completely losing his shit. What happened there?
When I warmed up, I had seen him there really early. He had my college jersey on and once the game started, he was going crazy. I didn't have time to stop and sign his jersey so I just threw him my wristband.
How did you see that video?
I seen it on social media somewhere. I didn't think I could impact someone's life like that. He DM'd me on Instagram and I ended up following him, and sending him a jersey.
I’ve got to ask you about that draft suit. How did you decide to wear that?
I figured I could only do one NBA draft, so I was like, “Well, might as well stand out, and try to leave a mark on it.” I had a designer in L.A. who helped me pick it out. I wanted to do more of like a white floral thing, but she said I would look better in the black.
What feedback did you get from your mom and your friends?
They all liked it, they said. [laughs] They definitely liked it.
Do you think they'd tell you if they didn't like it?
I was just going to say that they probably wouldn't tell me if they didn't like it. [laughs]
Were you always into style and fashion growing up?
Definitely. I always looked up to LeBron, how he came to the game. As I got older, I started wearing different clothes that I thought stated my style. But I think it was [when I started] not caring what people thought, that's when I really started to wear whatever I wanted.
I feel like that confidence that shows in your game too. When did you start developing that confidence?
I'd probably say my senior year of high school. That thing that happened with Wisconsin*, that made me more confident knowing that I can do what I want. I think that decision that I made really made me mature faster. That’s why I’m confident now.
[*Herro verbally committed to play in his home state of Wisconsin, but ended up playing college basketball for Kentucky after he later received an offer to play for the Wildcats.]
Can you hear people when they're talking shit from the stands?
Definitely. But I feed off that, and I think that's what, again, back to the Wisconsin [thing], when the fans were going at me in those [high school] games, that just prepared me for college going into those arenas and stuff like that. My numbers in college were better on the road than they were at home.
You're probably getting less hate now. Do you miss it?
Well, give it some time. Keep this up and you’ll have haters in a couple of years.
I hope so.
I know you’re a big sneaker guy—how many pairs you think you got now?
I couldn't even tell you honestly. I couldn't even guess a number. Ever since I signed with Nike I definitely got a crazy amount of shoes. And then being at Kentucky, we got everything Nike. My friend was over there the other day and he was like, “Yo, these shoes are still wrapped up. I was there when you got these like two or three months ago.”
After you signed your contract, did you have a first big splurge?
I just got a few things off the website. Moving to Miami, I had to adjust the clothes I had. [Had to get] some warm weather clothes. I have a Nike amount I can spend per year.
Can I ask how much it is?
I probably shouldn't say.
Is it less or more than $50,000?
What are some of the challenges of having to take those extended road trips that you didn’t take in college?
I'm a routine guy, so I would say my routine on the road is a different routine than it is at home. I'm trying to figure out a way where I can somehow get the same routine I have at home on the road.
What does your routine look like?
If we're at home, we usually have a shootaround in the morning. So I get in early, get some treatment, lift, and get some shots up before the shoot around. And them after the shootaround, get a few more shots after the shoot around and then go home. I eat the same meal every day on game day.
What meal is that?
Steak, mashed potatoes, some noodles—like buttered noodles, or chicken Alfredo—and some bread.
That's a lot of carbs.
It works for me. [laughs]
How long have you been doing that?
Probably since high school. I added steak in college. The noodles and mashed potatoes, that was high school.
Do you guys have a nutritionist for the Miami heat?
Yeah, her name is Betsy. She helps out a lot, with food before the games and breakfast every morning at the facility.
Does she give you any feedback on your pregame meal?
She said it's not good. She doesn't want me to do it, but I told her I have to.
What does she want you to eat?
She said I need to swap the steak out with chicken. So I'm thinking about doing that, because I just added steak so I can maybe take it away and see what happens.
I saw a video where you said you've never eaten any pie other than apple pie.
When did I say that?
Somebody was interviewing all the Kentucky players asking what their favorite Thanksgiving—
I think I was lying to them. [laughs] I love pie. Definitely apple pie, but sweet potato pie—really any pie. [laughs]
Okay, so you have had other pies?
Yeah. I love pie.
Do you have any superstitions?
I put my left sock on first and then my left shoe on first.
Did you interact with Drake at all while you were at Kentucky?
Yeah, definitely. He always reaches out. I was OVO Fest in Toronto this summer, so I seen him out there too.
Is Drake part of the recruiting pitch at Kentucky?
No, definitely not. I never talked to him during my recruiting pitch.
You started a foundation that deals with sports and fashion?
I'm trying to just tie it altogether, just my personality and the things that I'm interested in: style, clothes, fashion, away from basketball. [I’m] trying to get a little clothing brand started here in the next couple of months.
Have you beat Jimmy Butler to practice yet?
During the season I always had to beat him. I have to be there earlier than everybody else because I'm a rookie.
How are the rookie duties coming?
The vets actually haven't really made me do anything too crazy. I had to pick up lunch for Jimmy one day. Out of nowhere he just texted me and was like, “Yo, pick up my lunch and bring it to me.”
Are you sick of his country music yet?
No, I think it's funny. I enjoy it, it's funny hearing him listen to his country music in the locker room.
How much do you think he actually likes country music?
I don't know, he seems to know the songs, the lyrics and everything, to every song. That's what's crazy.
I'm curious when was the first time you saw his legendary work ethic?
When I was with him in Chicago over the summer. For like five days, we were getting up at five in the morning, and working out two or three times a day. That was when I was like,”Yeah, it's real.”
He he seems to have taken a liking to you. What do you think it is in you that he sees or he appreciates?
He likes the hard work that I put in. And then just not backing down from anybody.
What's the best piece of advice he's given you?
There's going to be ups and downs, goods and bads, just take it all in. There's opportunity to get better every single day.
What do you think some people get wrong about Jimmy?
The fact that people say he's a bad teammate, or that he can't win. I don't know where that's coming from. Jimmy is one of the best leaders and teammates that I've ever had. Obviously it's my first year in the NBA, but the way that he goes about things and is able to lead a group of guys is incredible.
Can you out-trash talk Jimmy?
We can go back and forth, for sure. I don't think there'll be a winner because neither of us will stop.
You went 13th in the NBA Draft. Where do you think you should have gone?
I always said after the top three, I felt like I could go number four, or I could go anywhere top five.
Your high school yearbook quote was "catch flights, not feelings”—is that true?
Catch flights, not feelings.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Originally Appeared on GQ