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From car seats to sympathy weight, Wizards players are navigating fatherhood

Austin Rivers poses with fiancee Brittany Hotard and their newborn son, Kayden. Hotard on Rivers as a father: "He just sees [Kayden] as a little him. The way he looks at him is so adorable. His eyes just light up.” (Photo courtesy of Brittany Hotard/Photo by Melinda Roth)
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Austin Rivers loves fast cars. He owns several Ferraris, but because his thirst for speed can never be satisfied, over the summer he added a black Porsche GT2RS, a turbo-charged beast with 700 horsepower and a sticker price north of $293,000.

He is so committed that he runs a second Instagram page devoted to cars and stays up late at night watching other enthusiasts share reviews and tutorials on YouTube.

But when it came to installing an infant car seat for the first time, Rivers was as dumbfounded as any other first-time father.

“An adventure,” said Rivers’s fiancee, Brittany Hotard, laughing at the memory. "I was about to pop, so that was Austin’s job to get that done.”

Over a span of several weeks this past offseason, three Washington Wizards players welcomed newborns. While Ian Mahinmi, a veteran of fatherhood, and his wife, Alexis, brought home their third daughter, Rivers and Bradley Beal became dads for the first time.

Both players celebrated the arrival of sons: Bradley “Deuce” Beal II and Kayden James Rivers. And both experienced the everyday anxiety of securing car seats and wiping away spit-up like all new fathers.

Think an all-star NBA player is immune from picking up sympathy weight? Beal knows otherwise.

“Yes, I struggled with that last year at the end of the year," said Beal, who admitted to putting on 20 pounds when his partner, Kamiah Adams, was pregnant.

When she had cravings, Beal chowed down, too. Although Beal played in all 88 games of the regular season and playoffs and enjoyed the best statistical season of his six-year career, he was hiding a 220-pound body underneath his Wizards jersey. He blamed all the carbs and dairy.

“Oh, pizza. It was always late-night pizza for me,” Beal said. “It was just pizza and ice cream. That’s all we ate — pizza and ice cream, pizza and ice cream.”

Beal said the weight went straight to his legs. But knowing he was “too heavy," Beal wasted little time in shedding the fat within the first week of the offseason. Just as disgusted with the Wizards' first-round playoff exit as he was with the junk food, he dropped back down to his normal playing weight of around 200 to 205 pounds.

By late July, Beal was more than fit enough to add another career achievement and participate in the USA National Team minicamp in Las Vegas. But Deuce’s due date was pegged for the start of the gathering of the game’s elite. Though it would have been an honor to participate, Beal chose family over basketball.

“Initially when I first got invited I was like: ‘Damn. My son will be born literally around the time of camp.' I said I won’t be able to make it," Beal recalled telling a Team USA official. “It was definitely a sacrifice. I definitely wish I could’ve been out there with the other guys, but nothing beats my son being born, for sure. Nothing.”

There have been other small daily sacrifices for Beal. Sleep, as he once knew it, is now gone.

“I don’t make her do everything. I wake up. I change him. I wake up and feed him. I wake up and do all that stuff, too," Beal said. “No matter what time of the morning it is or time in the night.”

The same goes for Rivers, whose nights at home are spent keeping Kayden entertained through tummy time, reading “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” for bedtime and dodging his son’s errant urine.

“The baby peed on me the other day," Rivers said. "I was changing him, and he just peed right upwards. It hit me — l was like, ‘Whoaaaa!’ It was so gross.”

Rivers describes Kayden as a “little me" but wants him to grow up into his own man. Although at one time he thought it would be nice to have an Austin Jr., Rivers vetoed the idea once it was determined that Hotard was having a boy. Being the son of NBA coach Doc Rivers factored into that decision.

“I didn’t want to put that on him. I grew up in a tough spot, man. I know how that is,” Rivers said. “Naming him Austin Jr. would’ve been like now he’s got to live up to my name and his grandfather’s name? And then you look at, my sister’s with Seth [Curry]. They have a baby together. So his uncle is Seth and Steph [Curry]. . . . It’s like it’s a basketball family. There’s already a lot of pressure on him as is, you know what I mean?”

Rivers may, however, pass down his love of cars, because even with an infant, he is not letting go of his babies.

His new Porsche is nicknamed “The Widowmaker” for a reason. But Rivers said he doesn’t drive recklessly, and the family isn’t hurting for baby-proof vehicles. Hotard’s Range Rover is Kayden’s primary mode of transportation, and though Rivers understands sports cars, he needed to learn how to strap a car seat into an SUV.

“Oh, gosh, it was probably like a 25, 30-minute process," Hotard said. "Hot as heck. He was sweating and frustrated.”

These days, Mahinmi should be an old pro at such tasks. With three daughters, ages 6, 3 and almost 2 months, Mahinmi believes nothing quite matches the joy of parenting girls.

“Let me tell you something: I honestly feel like this is my call," Mahinmi said during the team’s media day last month. “I take very big [pride] in what I do and I want to be a good dad. I feel like it takes something very special to raise three girls. This is my challenge."

Mahinmi continued, his voice quickening as he grew more excited talking about fatherhood.

“This is okay,” said Mahinmi, surveying the basketball court while alluding to the NBA lifestyle. “But the real challenge is how am I going to make the strongest, independent, smartest, beautiful — how am I going to make those girls become leaders? All of that! This is my call.”

Earlier in the summer before the Mahinmis welcomed baby Amina, a gender-reveal video featuring Boston Celtics star Gordon Hayward went viral. In the clip, Hayward sees pink balloons fly out of a cardboard box, signaling the couple is having a third girl, and he sounds less than enthusiastic while assuring his wife: “Daddy’s always happy.” (Hayward has since slapped the catchphrase on T-shirts for the purpose of donating some of the proceeds to a children’s organization.)

The Hayward moment, for some, captured the raw emotions of men who father multiple girls. But Mahinmi rejects the idea that his happiness is tied to having a Junior.

Some friends “were like: ‘Are you chasing a boy?’ No, I’m not chasing a boy! I’m perfectly fine with three girls. This is cool,” Mahinmi said. “To me, a woman is as equally in anything as a man, you know, and I’m pushing this. I want people to be aware about this. I feel like my girls are going to grow up in a great era for women because from now on, it’s only going to be better for them. Trust me, my girls are going to be something.”

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