Philadelphia has had it's fair share of sports mothers after the turn of the century. There was Ann Iverson, the mother to superstar point guard Allen Iverson. Wilma McNabb ascended to throne after sharing the screen with Donovan for a handful of Chunky Noodle Soup commercials. The crown had gone unworn for nearly a decade, but there's a new sports mother in town with the title on lock: Shawn Chapman-McDaniels, otherwise affectionately known as "K.J.'s mom".
K.J. McDaniels has made a name for himself since stepping onto the NBA scene this fall, amassing enough high flying dunks and blocks to produce a nice highlight reel. Shawn too has made a name for herself lately, although for actions some may deem as controversial. She first stepped in the limelight when she began tweeting about the Sixers plan to tank, and again found her way in the headlines for her (albeit harmless) cheering at a Magic-Sixers game in Orlando.
While her antics have drawn the ire of some and the laughs of other, McDaniels is clear she's just a sports fan like everyone else, whose son just happens to play in the NBA. Born in Mobile, Alabama, she was raised on the rivalry of Alabama-Auburn.
"If you can't go to a game and have fun, what's the point of going to be entertained?" she said. "We're not in the library, we're at a sporting event."
Those "Iron Bowl" games helped foster her love of sports, while the constant chanting and yelling comes from her days as a high school cheerleader.
"It doesn't matter what game I go to. It could be a stranger's game, or one of my girlfriend's kid's games, they're all looking at me like 'she has no control when it comes to sports.'" She has little control when it comes to supporting her kids either, but what loving mother does? McDaniels' youngest son, Dylan, plays in the school band. When Dylan had a solo during his school's concert, Shawn found herself hooting and hollering in a crowded auditorium mid-performance. While K.J. was at Clemson, Shawn traveled three-and-a-half hours to every home game to loudly root on her son.
"I was louder than all 12 of the cheerleaders at Clemson put together," she boasted. "[The players] could always tell where my voice was coming from. They would be like, 'K.J., your mom is here, I heard her.'"
It's just who she is: an encouraging parent of two who only wants to provide the best for her kids. When the Sixers drafted K.J., Shawn, an admitted fan of Allen Iverson and Charles Barkley, was unaware of the team's plans to "tank".
"When the season started and people were talking about tanking, I said, 'What's that?' Somebody explained to me what the Sixers were doing, and they weren't happy with it, and I thought they were just giving me all the negatives. But I asked a lot of questions and did a lot of research and I realized, 'Oh lord, they are doing this.'"
"When I found out, I was devastated, and didn't know where that was gonna lead K.J. I felt that was not going to help him in his future with the 76ers."
The revelation of Philadelphia's plans coupled with the little playing time K.J. was receiving at the time led to the great Twitter debacle of 2014. Shawn dropped $20 in the family swear jar and "had a day of it". "[The Sixers] have been doing this for a very long time, I haven't," she said. "I'm just going from a mother's point of view, and it doesn't seem like its very fair to say let's be losers so we can get better players." K.J. never approached his mother about deleting her Twitter page, but was more than pleased when she opted to close the account herself.
"I just wanted to explain myself and my viewpoint, but it got so ugly that it wasn't even worth me saying anything because it's going to bring negativity to the team," Shawn explained.
She traveled to Florida to watch her son just before Christmas, where her loud cheering caused one person in attendance to live tweet her actions. In Orlando, activity like that might have looked out of place. In Philadelphia, she would have fit right in with the home crowd.
"I boo referees all the time because of bad calls, I'm not the only one in the audience who does that. If K.J. messes up he'll hear from the audience. I'm a kid's mom, you're telling me I don't have a right to my own opinion, that I can't cheer for my own kid. That's asinine to me. I don't only cheer for my kid. When K.J. screws up, he hears it."
Whether right or wrong, Shawn has come to realize that how she behaves in the stands is taking away from what is happening on the court. It's the last thing she wants for her son. "When the kids aren't happy, I come to their defense," Shawn said. "And that's something I'll have to learn to lose because K.J.'s a grown man now, and that's his life. I'm just here to be support for him.
"I care about my son and his future in the NBA, so if we need to shut it down to draw some attention away from me and put it back where it belongs on K.J., then I'll do that."
Shawn is more than thankful for the opportunity her son has in Philadelphia, and knows playing in the NBA is a rare opportunity. Despite her thoughts on how the team is currently being built, playing with the Sixers has given K.J. a chance to get the playing time he likely wouldn't get on other teams. "He's getting on the job training against some of the best athletes in the world. We don't have a problem with that, and we're really grateful and appreciative to Philly for giving him that opportunity when other teams didn't."
She's in the process of toning down the cheering, going through what she describes as "training", although some think she may be unable to handle it. K.J. bet her $100 and the access to her Twitter account that she won't be able to able to stay quiet for an entire game this week. Her youngest son Dylan even put $50 against her, and K.J.'s teammates threw down some money as well. She's hoping the rest of the Sixers players will get in on the betting action "by the end of the week" so she can cash out. You could say she has a pretty good relationship with the players, despite what people may think.
"I'm the team mom and I have a lot of fun with them. After the game they'll say 'You were hard on us tonight', and I'll say 'Yeah, cause I expect better.'"
Although K.J. seems to be growing comfortable, his contract situation could have him on a new team come the fall. Shawn feels that won't be the case.
"K.J. wants to play with Embiid. He and Jerami are very close and have come inseparable. He has a ton of respect for Michael Carter-Williams" she said, "These guys are trying to build a bond. K.J. likes the guys that he's with, and feel that they can be a phenomenal team together. Philly is a great fit for him."
If it all works out, both Shawn and K.J. could be in Philadelphia for the long haul, with one dominating on the court, and one cheering loudly from the stands above.