CJ McCollum’s journey as an NBA dad began with a ‘disgusting’ photoshoot that helped shift his perspective

With his first child, Jacobi, ready for his closeup, CJ McCollum prepared for a classy newborn photoshoot. With he, his wife and his son “twinning” in matching outfits, McCollum lifted Jacobi onto his shoulder to get into a flattering position for the photographer. Suddenly, without warning, the 2016 NBA’s Most Improved Player got a messy introduction to what parenthood would hold in store.

“He just poops through his diaper, all down my shirt and down my back,” McCollum recalled to CBS Sports. “And you know, in the early stages, it’s not a normal poop, right? It’s like a milkshake. Like, all down my shirt. It was disgusting. I think that was when I just realized, he’s just gonna poop on me and just do what he does.”

Moments like that have led McCollum, one of the league’s top-scoring guards, to seek out help in the form of a partnership with Pampers. The company’s newest launch, Swaddlers, features a Blowout Barrier that pledges to prevent up to 100% of leaks — and McCollum said the product has done more than help with logistics. It’s improved his confidence as a first-time father.

“You go through different diapers, you go through different stages of life, and sometimes you think it’s your fault,” McCollum told CBS Sports. “You feel like you didn’t do what you were supposed to do in terms of preparation, in terms of making sure that the diaper was strapped on properly. Especially when you wear nice clothes or nice shirts, you don’t want to have those types of issues in public.”

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McCollum and his wife, Elise, welcomed Jacobi James McCollum on January 10, 2022, and the new unit didn’t have long until the realities of being an NBA family hit them hard. Almost exactly a month later, McCollum was traded from the Portland Trail Blazers — where he spent the first eight seasons of his career — to the New Orleans Pelicans. Just after Jacobi’s four-week appointment, the family now had to organize living arrangements in New Orleans, find a place to work for Elise, a dentist, and everything else that comes along with changing cities.

“Obviously, timing wasn’t great … but we’ve been able to get settled in,” McCollum told CBS Sports. “My wife works here. We like our neighborhood. We like the city. We have our restaurants. … It’s been cool to have to go through hectic situations and really stress, not only in my life but my family’s life. I think it just makes you appreciate things more when you have that change.”

Even after getting settled, balancing the rigors of an NBA schedule — games, practices, training sessions, film, team activities — with being a father is no simple task. Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum recently opened up about the things he misses about his son, Deuce, when the season is in mid-swing.

“There have been a few years when I wasn’t with him for his birthday,” Tatum said. “Also, not being able to go to every school event and or basketball practice because we are on the road. Even though this is my seventh season, it’s still something that’s not easy to deal with because you never want to miss those things. They grow up so fast.”

McCollum credits his support system with helping him keep his attention on his top priorities: Family, basketball and faith. When he ventures into other areas, like his partnership with Pampers, it’s in an effort to leave a lasting legacy and help “make the world a better place.” He also said that being a father has significantly altered his outlook on life.

“I think it’s given me a better perspective and clarity on what really matters,” McCollum told CBS Sports. “I think a lot of times we have these ideas of what our life is supposed to be like, and you have these ideas of things you want to accomplish. I think when you have a kid, it shifts your perspective. It shifts what you think is important and it gives you new reasons, new hopes, new aspirations.

“You want to provide the best life, you want to be there. You want to be a part of the important moments. You want to help mold a special person who does things the right way, and I think we’re in that direction of being supportive of your kid while still having ambitions, dreams and goals of your own.”

One of those ambitions is to have a successful season with the Pelicans, who opened their 2023-24 campaign with a 111-104 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. The team’s three stars — McCollum, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram — are healthy and looking to replicate the 18-8 start they had last season before injuries struck.

McCollum feels he’s able to be the “best version” of himself on the floor alongside such talented players, and thinks they can do some “real damage” this season if everyone can stay healthy. The change of scenery may have been jarring amid the new challenges of parenthood, but McCollum and his family appear to be adapting just fine in New Orleans.

“Fluidity is great, but I think it becomes monotonous and you get comfortable,” McCollum told CBS Sports. “Sometimes the uncomfortable brings out the best in you. I think this is a situation that’s doing that.”

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