Bennedict Mathurin hasn’t yet played a single game in the NBA, but he’s already calling out LeBron James. Speaking with the Washington Post, the Indiana Pacers rookie said James will have to prove that he’s better than him.
“A lot of people say he’s great,” Mathurin told the Post. “I want to see how great he is. I don’t think anybody is better than me. He’s going to have to show me he’s better than me.”
Mathurin, who was the No. 6 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, comes into the league with several lofty goals. The rookie said he first wants to win the 2023 rookie of the year award. He’s also aiming to win MVP during his career, earn a championship and eventually make it to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Mathurin arrived at the NBA stage after overcoming a difficult path. At 12-years-old, the basketball star lost his 15-year-old brother Jeune, who died after being hit by a car.
“A car hit him,” Mathurin said. “I was at home. He just didn’t come back from school. My mom was wondering what happened. She received a call. She went to the hospital. She found him. It was hard for my mom, my sister and my whole family. We didn’t move on easily. It took a couple years to get used to it.”
Adding to the challenge of his youth, the 20-year-old grew up in a troubled neighborhood in Montreal-Nord, a Canadian borough.
“It was a pretty rough neighborhood,” Mathurin said. “It wasn’t easy. There were people who chose the wrong path. A lot of people died. Drugs. Guns. Shootings and violent stuff. I’ve always been around it. That really shaped me as a person. I learned to be grateful. My family kept me focused on the things I wanted to do. Basketball is really what saved me.”
At age 16, Mathurin attended the NBA’s Latin America Academy in 2018, which was then based in Mexico City. The academy provided a full scholarship, room and board, as well as guidance on financial literacy, diet and conditioning programs.
After developing his game for two seasons at the academy, Mathurin attended the University of Arizona. That’s where he emerged as a star and jumped on the radar of NBA scouts.