Cade Cunningham was born to be a gunslinger. His dad was a college quarterback. Cade himself was known to toss a touchdown or two but ultimately chose to sink threes as an Oklahoma State University Cowboy.
Cunningham is projected to be the NBA's next generational talent, like a LeBron or a Jordan. Cunningham is certainly new, but that won't stop him from becoming an NBA star.
The youngest of three siblings, his family helped raise Cade into the superstar he is today. Who is the potential No. 1 NBA draft pick, and who are his parents?
Cade Cunningham Early Life
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Cade Cunningham was born in Arlington, Texas, where he began his basketball career at Barnett Junior High School. He made the Bowie High School varsity team as a freshman and was named his district's MVP.
By the end of his sophomore season, it was clear that Cunningham had outgrown the competition. Cunningham began looking into prep schools that specialized in high-level high school basketball, like Sierra Canyon (home of Bronny James and Zaire Wade) in Los Angeles. Cunningham chose to stay closer to home, transferring to Montverde Academy in Central Florida before his junior year.
Cunningham dominated national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy during his first game with Montverde. He was an All-American by the end of his first season in Florida, chosen to attend the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) over the summer. Competing with the best players in the country, Cunningham won league MVP.
Montverde went undefeated during Cunningham's senior year. Under Cunningham's quarterback-like leadership, they may have been the greatest team in high school basketball history. Cunningham was named Mr. Basketball USA, Naismith Prep Player of the Year and MaxPreps National Player of the Year. Given the option between going to the NCAA or G-League, Cunningham chose the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
NCAA Career & NBA Draft
The five-star recruit had a sensational one-and-done season in orange. The Cowboys defeated rivals Oral Roberts, Wichita State and Oklahoma (twice). Cunningham led the Cowboys to the second round of the NCAA tournament, where they fell to the Cinderella Oregon State Beavers.
Cunningham was an Associated Press consensus All-American, named the Big 12 Player of the Year and Big 12 Rookie of the Year. He was named all-freshman and to the All-Big 12 Team, but Cunningham really just wanted the national championship. He'd already won abroad, so why not at home?
Cunningham was an international champion before attempting to become a national champion. The point guard won a gold medal with the 2019 USA Men's Basketball U19 World Cup Team, with assists from fellow future first-rounders Jalen Green, Evan Mobley and Jalen Suggs. Team USA dominated the FIBA U19 World Cup, held in Greece, with an undefeated 7-0 record. Their international dominance improved the draft stock of Suggs, Mobley, Green and Cunningham alike.
ESPN projects Cade Cunningham to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, followed by Jalen Green, Evan Mobley and Jalen Suggs. (Scottie Barnes of Florida State, Cunningham's old Montverde teammate, is projected at No. 5.) Cunningham is likely to be drafted by the struggling Detroit Pistons, desperate to rebound their "Bad Boys" image.
Cade Cunningham is a bad man with the rock, but his parents know him as a good kid. The youngest of three, Cunningham has a young child of his own.
Cade Cunningham Parents
— Keith Cunningham (@sirham66) November 19, 2017
Cade Cunningham's dad, Keith Cunningham, was a Texas football star at Sam Houston High School in Arlington. Then a freak ceiling fan accident ended his college career at Texas Tech University, forever altering how the former gunslinger slings. Cunningham never could stay away from sports, and the same can be said for every member of his family.
Every member except for his wife, Carrie Cunningham, that is. Though the only non-athlete in the family, Carrie's life is still affected by sport. All of her children are competitive, from her oldest, Cannen, down to Cade.
Cade calls his mom his rock and one of the most important women in his life. Carrie had a hard time letting Cade move to Florida to attend Monteverde Academy. Cade's older brother helped convince her it was the right decision.
Cade Cunningham on the influence of his parents, Keith and Carrie:
"She's my rock. If anything goes wrong, I know they'll love me regardless. To have someone like that, it's a blessing."#MarchMadness #okstate
— Lukas Weese (@Weesesports) March 16, 2021
Cade's older brother, Cannen Cunningham, is a former men's college basketball player.
After a career at SMU, he played briefly in the European professional leagues in Poland. He returned to the States and began a coaching career, landing an assistant coach spot with Mike Boynton's Oklahoma State men's basketball team. Cannen brought his little brother to Oklahoma State and mentored him during his one-and-done season.
OK State lost both Cunninghams after Cade's sensational freshman year. Brother Cannen might be his brother's keeper, but Cade usually confides in his sister.
Cade's older sister, Kaylyn Cunningham, wasn't always his best friend. Their relationship was contentious when they were younger. Cannen broke up fist-fights often, but they eventually grew to love one another.
Now, they're inseparable, and Kaylyn was seen at every Oklahoma State game, supporting her little brother while pursuing a photography degree. Kaylyn might be Cade's confidant, but his daughter is his inspiration.
Cade's daughter, Riley Cunningham, was born in 2018 while Cade was still playing for head coach Kevin Boyle in Monteverde. Riley lived full-time in Texas, split between her mother and Cade's parents, near Arlington, a four-hour drive from Stillwater, Oklahoma, home of OSU. Cunningham chose Oklahoma State over Duke and Kentucky to be near his newborn, who he still plays for today.
It seems inevitable that Cunningham will be the No. 1 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. His career will likely begin with the Detroit Pistons, a long way from home.
With his daughter still inspiring him, Cunningham has a real shot at being the Rookie of the Year and eventually an all-time great. If anyone can handle the pressure, it's First-Team All-American point guard Cade Cunningham.
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