It’s probably a good thing Charlotte Hornets rookie shooting guard Dwayne Bacon isn’t a vegetarian.
Reporters and headline writers have for years regularly emphasized his successes with the same puns, from “Bacon sizzles” to “bringing home the Bacon” to “saved his team’s Bacon” to – once more, with feeling – “Bacon sizzles!”
And as a standout on Florida State’s men’s basketball team, he inspired 1) a university promotion that handed out 10,000 strips of free bacon to students for one game and 2) a trio of fans who came to every home game wearing bacon costumes.
So it’s no surprise that – as part of the Hornets’ efforts to introduce one of their newest players – they’d ask, Want to interview Dwayne Bacon over bacon?
“I eat turkey bacon, regular bacon, crunchy bacon, chewy bacon ... I really love bacon, and I love it on everything,” said the 22-year-old between bites of a Breakfast Bagel at Owen’s Bagel & Deli near uptown Charlotte. “If I go to Chick-fil-A and get a spicy chicken sandwich, I always ask, ‘Can you add bacon?’ If I get a chicken sandwich at McDonald’s, I’m like, ‘Can you add bacon?’ ”
He basically posed this same question to Wendy’s on Twitter earlier this month, good-naturedly suggesting the fast-food chain add him as a pitchman.
“When I was younger, I would definitely be like, ‘I can’t wait to make it ... I could be on a Wendy’s commercial!’ ” Bacon said. He’s a natural fit, he says, because his name is Dwayne Bacon Jr. – “so I’m a real Junior Bacon.”
(Of course, Wendy’s offers another sandwich that would make an even better nickname for him: “The Baconator.”)
What else is shakin’ with Bacon? Here are eight things we learned about the rookie last Thursday while sampling the bacon-egg-and-cheese bagel sandwiches at both Owen’s on South Boulevard and Poppy’s Bagels & More on Providence Road.
1. Bacon played football (quarterback, receiver, safety) and dreamed of being in the NFL while growing up in Lakeland, Fla. That dream shifted to the NBA in the seventh grade, when he first started getting serious about basketball. Within a year, college basketball programs were showing interest. He gave up football not long after that.
2. As a senior at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., Bacon got to meet Michael Jordan at his 2015 Jordan Brand Classic, when the Hall of Famer gave a pep talk to the 2015 All-Americans – though he didn’t get any one-on-one face time. His next brush with Jordan came this past June: After having been traded to the Hornets by New Orleans, who took him with the 40th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, Bacon was getting personal text messages from the Hornets’ team owner. “Which was definitely weird,” Bacon says, “but a dream come true.”
3. And while Bacon doesn’t have that Wendy’s deal yet, he does have a coveted three-year shoe contract with Jordan Brand, which also has pacts with Hornets Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller. “I’m a second-rounder that got a chance to sign with Jordan Brand,” Bacon says. (That’s significant – you don’t see many second-rounders getting contracts with shoe companies.) “Obviously, he believes in me. Now I’ve just gotta try to do what I can do to be the best player I can be.”
4. But his botched introduction to the media after he became a Hornet got much more attention than his shoe deal. On June 23, team GM Rich Cho turned to his right to welcome the young player next to him at the podium ... and accidentally called him Dwyane Wade instead of Dwayne Bacon, leaving Cho with egg on his face. Bacon smiled about it then, and smiles about it still. “I thought it was funny from Day One. I didn’t take it in a bad way at all.”
5. He misses Florida, but has mixed feelings about his hometown of Lakeland. On the one hand, much of his family is still there and he said the city – which has produced several NFL players, including Ray Lewis – was incredibly supportive while he was making a name for himself in high school. (He is the first Lakeland-raised basketball player to make the NBA.) On the other hand, Lakeland is in a county with one of the country’s highest suburban poverty rates, so it’s not without negative influences and distractions. When he makes trips to Florida, he often ends up instead in Tallahassee, where multiple siblings live and where he enjoys visiting with old FSU coaches and mentors.
6. Bacon lives in SouthPark, near Whole Foods Market, across from the mall. The only notable place in Charlotte he’s checked out on his own time since moving in two months ago? That mall. “I’m not really a guy that does a lot,” he said, “so right now I’m back and forth from the gym and home, home and the gym.” When pressed, he just puts it even more plainly: “I haven’t done anything in Charlotte.”
7. So what exactly does he do when he’s not fulfilling team commitments? Nothing flashy. He hangs out with his godbrother, who also moved here this summer. He watches a fair amount of TV (favorite shows include HBO’s “Ballers,” Starz’s “Power,” “Love & Hip-Hop” on VH1 and “WAGS” on E!). He doesn’t cook, but fortunately the team typically provides breakfast and lunch; when he’s on his own in the evenings, his go-to place is Chipotle Mexican Grill, often followed by a late-night bowl of Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal – his second-favorite breakfast-anytime food.
8. Asked who he’s most excited to match up against as a pro, Bacon shrugs off any suggestion of being starstruck by Houston’s James Harden or Cleveland’s Dwyane Bacon – oops, we mean Dwyane Wade. But there is one celebrity he’d really, really like to meet now that he’s made the big time himself: “Kevin Bacon. Because not too many people share the last name as me.”