Kevon Grant Looney (born February 6, 1996) is an American professional basketball player for the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association (NBA). As a freshman playing college basketball with the UCLA Bruins, he earned second-team all-conference honors in the Pac-12 in 2015. After the season, he decided to forgo his college eligibility and enter the 2015 NBA draft, and was selected in the first round by Golden State with the 30th overall pick. He won consecutive NBA championships with the Warriors in 2017 and 2018. He then won a third championship with Golden State in 2022.
|No. 5 – Golden State Warriors|
|Position||Power forward / Center|
|Born||February 6, 1996|
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Listed height||6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)|
|Listed weight||222 lb (101 kg)|
|High school||Alexander Hamilton|
|NBA draft||2015 / Round: 1 / Pick: 30th overall|
|Selected by the Golden State Warriors|
|2015–present||Golden State Warriors|
|2016–2017||→Santa Cruz Warriors|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Stats at NBA.com|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Growing up in Wisconsin, Looney was named the top high school player in the state as a senior in 2014. He also received national recognition as a five-star prospect and earned All-American honors. In his only season at UCLA, he led all freshmen in the nation in double-doubles, recording double figures in both points and rebounds in 15 games. One of the top players in the Pac-12, he was also named to their all-freshman team. As a rookie with Golden State, Looney's playing time was limited after undergoing surgery on both his hips. The next season, a strained left hip sidelined him for most of the playoffs during their championship run. Finally healthy in 2017–18, he became a regular in the Warriors' rotation as an undersized center, helping them win a second straight championship.
Looney was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Doug and Victoria Looney. As a youngster, he watched his brother Kevin, who was six years older, play pickup games. Like his brother, Looney became a Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant fan, and watched tapes of Bryant, copying his moves.
Looney was the best player on his high school team at Alexander Hamilton High in Milwaukee. He was already being recruited by colleges as a freshman, receiving offers from in-state schools Marquette and Wisconsin. In his sophomore year in 2012, he was named Player of the Year of the Milwaukee City Conference after averaging 20.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. As a junior, Looney averaged 26.1 points, 12.4 rebounds, 7.0 blocks and 3.1 assists per game, and led a team of mostly unproven players to a runner-up finish for the conference title.
In his final season he averaged 27.9 points, 12.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 8.0 blocks per game; both CBS Sports and The Post-Crescent called his averages "nearly" a quadruple-double. Though he was Hamilton's tallest player, he was also its best passer, and played mostly at point guard. Capable of handling the ball, creating his own shot, and shooting, mixtapes on YouTube hailed him as "the next KD", in reference to future Golden State teammate Kevin Durant. Hamilton went undefeated in conference play to win its first league title in four years, and Looney earned his second City Conference player of the year award. He gained national recognition, becoming just the second player in Milwaukee Public Schools history, and the sixth ever in Wisconsin, to be named a McDonald's All-American; he was a Parade All-American as well. Looney was named Wisconsin Mr. Basketball by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association, and Gatorade and the Associated Press named him their state player of the year. He was listed as a five-star prospect by Rivals.com, ESPN.com and Scout.com, who ranked him nationally as the No. 10, No. 12, and No. 15 player, respectively.
Hamilton retired Looney's No. 5 in 2018. He considered changing his number when he was a sophomore, but his close friend Wati Majeed talked him out of it. "You're No. 5, that's who you are. You can play all five positions and guard all five positions," said Majeed.
Looney announced on Halloween in 2013 his decision to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). No recruiting analysts at 247Sports.com had predicted his decision, which was a secret to everyone including his parents. Looney liked California, and called UCLA the "most beautiful campus I had ever seen." He was impressed with Bruins coach Steve Alford's vision for the team. The Bruins did not guarantee Looney a feature role as a freshman, but sold to him that he would be allowed to play both inside and outside and show his versatility, much like Kyle Anderson did for the school in 2013–14.
Upon his arrival at UCLA over the summer before his freshman season, Looney suffered a hip injury playing in the gym. Bruins guard Isaac Hamilton shot the ball and fell into the right leg of Looney, who was positioning to rebound the ball. He rested for two to three weeks before the season. He did not miss a practice or game all year, but the injury hampered his lateral movement and speed. He avoided changing directions, and played more like a lumbering big man. Playing power forward for the Bruins, he was one of the top freshmen in the country in 2014–15. In the season opener, he debuted with 20 points, nine rebounds and three assists in a 113–78 win over Montana State. CBS Sports called his performance "one of the more impressive freshman debuts in UCLA's rich history." He followed up with double-doubles in his next four games, and became the first freshman in UCLA history with at least four double-doubles in his first five games.[a] Soon, pundits began projecting Looney as a freshman lottery pick should he decide to enter the National Basketball Association (NBA). He had seven double-doubles in the Bruins' first 10 games, before scoring in double digits just once during a five-game losing streak for UCLA, which included an 0–2 start to their Pac-12 Conference schedule. Looney helped the team end their streak with career highs of 27 points and 19 rebounds in an 86–81 double-overtime win over Stanford. He was one of 14 players named to the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA)'s mid-season watchlist for the Wayman Tisdale Award, presented annually to the nation's top freshman. He was also one of 16 finalists for the inaugural Karl Malone Award, given to the top power forward in Division I men's basketball.
UCLA rarely called plays for Looney, and his scoring typically came off putbacks, fast breaks, and open shots. A natural rebounder, his shooting improved as the season progressed. After making just nine of 28 of his three-point field goals in the first 24 games, Looney was 11 of 17 in the last seven games of the regular season. Still his scoring tapered off, with only one game over 15 points since his career-game at Stanford. In the 2015 Pac-12 Tournament, Looney exited mid-game after he took an arm to his left cheek during UCLA's quarterfinal win over USC. He was a game-time decision to play the next day against Arizona, when he was cleared and fitted with a protective mask 90 minutes before the contest. Though impaired by the mask, he played 30 minutes but was limited, finishing below his season averages with only five points and four rebounds. The Bruins lost 70–64, but the close match helped them secure a bid into the 2015 NCAA tournament. Looney continued to play wearing the mask as UCLA advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season.
For the season, Looney averaged 11.6 points and led the team with 9.2 rebounds per game, finishing with 15 double-doubles. Among all freshmen nationally, his double-doubles led the nation and his rebounding ranked second. His rebounds and double-doubles ranked second among all players in the Pac-12. Looney made 47.0 percent of his field goals, and 41.5 percent from three-point range. He was voted second-team All-Pac-12, and named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team. He was also named second-team all-district by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC).
Golden State Warriors (2015–present)
Hip injuries and first championship (2015–2017)
After one season with UCLA, Looney decided to forgo his remaining college eligibility to declare for the 2015 NBA draft. But his draft stock dropped over concerns with his hip. ESPN.com reported on the morning of the draft that he had undergone surgery on his hip before the 2014–15 season, and that "he probably misses the [following] season", but Looney's camp denied he had any procedure done. He had also heard that some teams did not think his success at UCLA would translate to the NBA, and some executives and scouts did not believe he played hard enough. One of 19 players to attend the draft, Looney fell to the final pick of the first round, where he was chosen 30th overall by Golden State. The Warriors, who had recently won the 2015 NBA Finals, said they had no evidence that Looney required any further treatment. Nonetheless, they were comfortable with any recovery time that he might need, given his age, potential, and the team's established core lineup. On July 8, 2015, he signed his rookie scale contract with the Warriors, and played on their Las Vegas Summer League team. On August 20, Looney underwent a successful right hip arthroscopy to repair a torn labrum.
On January 4, 2016, Looney was assigned to the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State's D-League affiliate, after he was cleared to practice after rehab from his surgery. He made his professional debut on January 12 with Santa Cruz, logging a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds in 16 minutes against the Idaho Stampede. On January 24, he was recalled by Golden State after averaging 8.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in 18.2 minutes over five games. Three days later against the Dallas Mavericks, Looney was activated for the first time due to an injury to big man Festus Ezeli. He made his NBA debut that evening, becoming the 11th former UCLA player to play for the Warriors. Looney scored on his first attempt and finished with two points and two rebounds in a 127–107 win. He was given the game ball after the game. Golden State had him continue working on his conditioning, and he received multiple assignments to Santa Cruz.
Looney suffered a setback in March, when he was sidelined by inflammation in his surgically repaired hip. The Warriors finished the regular season with an NBA-record 73 wins, breaking the previous mark of 72 set by the Chicago Bulls in 1995–96. On April 22, Looney underwent a successful arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum on his left hip, which was expected to sideline him from four to six months. A similar procedure had been performed on his right hip eight months earlier. He finished his rookie year with five games played with Golden State and 12 in the D-League. The Warriors made the NBA Finals in 2016, losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in seven games after a 3–1 lead.
Looney did not play in the 2016 Summer League while he continued to rehab. Unable to play most of the previous 15 months, he came to training camp overweight. During the preseason, he battled James Michael McAdoo to be the No. 5 forward on the Warriors' depth chart. Looney started the 2016–17 season strongly. On November 26, 2016, he made his first career start in place of an injured Draymond Green. He finished with six points, three rebounds, and two assists in 18 minutes of play in a 115–102 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. But Looney grew ineffective in limited minutes and his playing time diminished. On January 13, 2017, he received a one-game assignment to Santa Cruz after an extended stretch of limited playing time. He was impressive in his D-League season debut, logging 18 points and 20 rebounds in 24 minutes. It was the first of three D-League stints for him during the season. Looney missed most of April due to a left hip strain. Golden State finished the regular season with a league-leading 67 wins and advanced to the NBA Finals, where they defeated Cleveland in five games to win their second championship in three years. Looney was inactive for all 17 playoff games, missing 12 due to his left hip.
Transition to center and second championship (2017–2018)
Healthy at last, Looney became a regular rotation player in 2017–18. He lost 30 pounds (14 kg) before the season after hiring a personal trainer over the summer, changing his training program, and adopting a modified Paleo diet. But he was one of six centers on the team, behind starter Zaza Pachulia and veterans David West and JaVale McGee, while youngsters Jordan Bell and Damian Jones appeared to have brighter futures. On October 27, 2017, Looney had nine points on 4-of-4 shooting and five rebounds in a 120–117 win over Washington. Finally able to play extended minutes without being out of breath, he helped lead an 18-point second-half comeback after Green was ejected late in the second quarter. On October 31, Golden State did not exercise its fourth-year option on Looney for 2018–19 due to his contract's luxury tax impact on their payroll, making him an unrestricted free agent the next summer. Nonetheless, he began receiving regular playing time despite not having played in seven of the Warriors' first nine games. Golden State coach Steve Kerr said the league was shifting toward a small-ball, switching style of play, and he called Looney "our best switching [center]". On November 11, in a 135–114 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, Looney had four points and three blocked shots with a plus-minus of +14 in 15 minutes while matched up mostly opposite Joel Embiid, one of the league's top centers. His playing time in December dropped to seven minutes per game after the rookie Bell passed him on the depth chart. On January 4, 2018, against the Houston Rockets, Looney had seven points and tied his then-career high with eight rebounds in 15 minutes in a 124–114 win. He played the final 6:30 of the game and was more effectively switching defensively on Rockets guard Chris Paul than Bell, who remained on the bench in the second half. After playing minimally and sitting out the last two games, he was praised by Kerr for being an "amazing example of what being a professional is about in this league." On January 12, Looney returned to his hometown and played a career-high 23 minutes while scoring nine points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting with another eight rebounds, three assists and a block in a 108–94 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. On March 17, he had career highs of 13 points and six blocks in a 124–109 win over the Phoenix Suns. On March 27, he grabbed a career-best 11 rebounds off the bench in a 92–81 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Playing in the first postseason of his career, Looney impressed with his defensive switching. The Warriors won the first round of the 2018 playoffs 4–1 over the San Antonio Spurs. McGee was the starting center, but Looney became Kerr's favorite, playing the most (100 minutes) of all the Warriors' big men. Looney guarded LaMarcus Aldridge well, and Kerr praised his defense and ability to switch onto Spurs guards Patty Mills and Manu Ginóbili on pick and rolls. He was steadier than Bell, and former starter Pachulia did not receive any playing time the entire series. Golden State won the conference semifinals 4–1 over the New Orleans Pelicans. In the series, Looney emerged as the team's most dependable center, defending Anthony Davis adequately. In the final two games, he became the Warriors' sixth man after the team went small and started their Hamptons Five lineup with Green at center. Against the Rockets in the conference finals, Looney provided solid defense against guards Paul and James Harden. He moved into the starting lineup in Game 4 after forward Andre Iguodala was sidelined with a leg contusion. He started the final four games of the series, and the Warriors defeated Houston 4–3 to advance to the Finals for a rematch against Cleveland. The Warriors swept the Cavaliers 4–0 for their second straight championship. Looney started Game 1 before being supplanted in Game 2 by McGee. He played 39 minutes in the four games, but only three minutes in the last two after Iguodala returned. He finished the playoffs playing the sixth-most minutes (387) on the Warriors and the most among their six centers. Golden State had a 97.5 defensive rating with him playing, the best of all their rotation players.
Three-peat chase (2018–2019)
Looney re-signed with the Warriors for 2018–19. Golden State also added four-time NBA All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins with their mid-level exception, but he was rehabbing his left Achilles tendon and had no definitive timeline on when he would return. Looney began the season as a reserve, while Damian Jones was the starting center. However, Jones was ruled out for the season after tearing his left pectoral muscle. On December 3, 2018, in his first start for the injured Jones, Looney scored 14 points along with a career-high-tying five assists in a 128–111 win over the Atlanta Hawks. After starting at center for all except one of the previous 18 games, he returned to the bench when Cousins made his Warriors debut on January 18, 2019. On January 28, Looney scored a career-high 15 points, shooting 6-for-7 off the bench, in a 132–100 win over the Pacers. He ended the regular season averaging career highs in points (6.3), shooting percentage (62.5 percent), rebounds (5.2) and minutes played (18.5). In Game 2 of the Warriors' first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, following a first-quarter injury to Cousins, Looney scored a career-high 19 points in a 135–131 loss. With Cousins expected to be out for the remainder of the playoffs, Kerr started Andrew Bogut—the former Warrior who was acquired late in the season—to keep Looney in the backup role where he had excelled. The Warriors advanced to the following round against Houston, when Kerr opened the series by starting the Hamptons Five, placing Iguodola into the starting lineup and moving Green to center. Looney assumed Bogut's minutes, as he was a better defensive option against the Rockets as a backup to Green. In Game 5, he had nine rebounds, including five on the offensive end, and a key block late in the game as the Warriors won to go up 3–2 in the series despite losing Kevin Durant to a right calf strain near the end of the third quarter. Kerr called Looney their "unsung hero tonight". Golden State advanced to the Western Conference Finals, where Looney excelled for the second straight year. He was their best center in the series, and closed out their sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers with 12 points and a career-high 14 rebounds in Game 4. Kerr lauded him as a "foundational piece" of the franchise. In Game 2 of the 2019 Finals against the Raptors, Looney collided with Kawhi Leonard and suffered a non-displaced first costal cartilage fracture, near the collarbone, and was unavailable in Game 3. He was averaging 20.4 minutes per game and shooting 73 percent in the playoffs. While most of his shots were from short distance, he remained an efficient 73 percent (38 of 52) when tightly guarded. Looney returned in Game 4 to play the rest of the series, but the Warriors lost in six games.
Nerve injuries and recent years (2019–present)
During the off-season, Looney re-signed with the Warriors on a three-year deal worth $15 million. That summer, he began feeling discomfort in his hamstrings. He was sidelined following the 2019–20 season opener after tightness in his hamstring was diagnosed as neuropathy, a disorder resulting from nerve damage outside of the brain and spinal cord. He had managed to play through the condition since his second season in the NBA, often experiencing numbness in his hands, wrists, and feet. However, he could no longer deal with the situation once it reached his hamstrings. Looney was limited to playing in just 20 games during the season, averaging only 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. On May 19, 2020, he underwent surgery to repair a core muscle injury and was expected to be ready for the start of the following season.
Looney began the 2020–21 season as a backup to rookie center James Wiseman, the No. 2 overall draft pick. However, he became the Warriors' only true center after the rookie suffered a meniscus tear and was sidelined for the season. On April 19, 2021, Looney had a career-high 15 rebounds in a win against the 76ers, and he held Embiid to 4-of-14 shooting when guarding him.
During the off-season, Looney exercised his player option to continue with the Warriors for the 2021–22 season. He was Golden State's starting center, as Wiseman remained sidelined by injuries. On January 9, 2022, Looney recorded a career-high 18 rebounds against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Able to manage the pain from his neuropathy, he played in all 82 games of the regular season, making a career-high 80 starts and averaging career bests with 21.1 minutes and 7.3 rebounds per game. In the Western Conference semifinals against the Memphis Grizzlies, Looney made his first start of the series in Game 6, grabbing a career-high 22 rebounds in a 110–96 win to clinch the series. Replacing Jonathan Kuminga in the lineup, he had 11 rebounds in the first quarter, a career high for him in any quarter, helping the Warriors outrebound the Grizzlies 70–44 in the game. Looney's 11 offensive rebounds were more than the entire Memphis team had combined. In Game 2 of the Western Conference finals against Dallas, he received "MVP" chants as he recorded a double-double with a career-high 21 points and 12 rebounds to help lead a 19-point comeback as the Warriors took a 2–0 series lead. It was his first 20-point game since college, and it was the first 20-point, 10-rebound performance by a Golden State center in the playoffs since Robert Parish in 1977. In Game 5, Looney had 10 points and 18 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end, helping the Warriors win the series 4–1 and advance to their sixth NBA Finals in eight years. He was one of their top players in the series, dominating on offensive rebounds and playing excellent defense. Looney won his third championship after the Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics in the 2022 NBA Finals.
The 6-foot-9-inch (2.06 m) Looney is most suited to playing power forward. Possessing a 7-foot-4-inch (2.24 m) wingspan, he is also a capable, small-ball center who is able to guard all five positions. His length allows him to switch assignments and defend guards. He moves fairly well on the perimeter, and is not easily lured by pump fakes. He can also defend the rim.
Looney had limited mobility after his hip surgeries. Lacking explosion, he worked on faking opponents and getting his defender off balance. After he became healthier and lost weight, he became more athletic and proficient at catching lob passes. During the summer 2018 off-season, he worked on finishing the lobs without having to land first.
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
|†||Won an NBA championship|
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In them, the Warriors pumped out a 97.5 defensive rating, the best among all their rotation players.
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Against the Hawks, Looney got a season-high 29 minutes and produced a career-high 14 points, also adding five assists, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
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'As the game goes on and opponents get tired, Loon gets more and more rebounds,' Steve Kerr said. 'Looney has become one of our foundational pieces.'
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Over the course of his fourth season, he proved himself valuable to the Warriors as a switchable defender who could move reasonably well out on the perimeter in their scheme.
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