Last year, before his trade to the Lakers had even been finalized, Anthony Davis made it clear that he was going to weaponize the power of the Los Angeles market for his brand. Just a day after the news that the purple in gold had acquired him in a deal first broke, Davis had announced he’d signed an endorsement deal with Ruffles. Most athletes go after signature shoes, but Davis had broken new ground, creating his own signature chip.
Over a year later, after helping lead the Lakers to a chip of their own, Davis has a new commercial with Ruffles that will air during the NBA All-Star game, and his signature chip deal has started a trend, with Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum following in the footsteps of Davis’ Lime & Jalapeño flavored chips with his own version, Ruffles Flamin’ Hot BBQ.
On Thursday, with a little less than a week to go before the All-Star game, Davis caught up with Silver Screen and Roll to talk about how the commercial, how he’s doing — he is set to miss at least a few more weeks with Achilles and calf injuries — the way Frank Vogel runs film sessions for the Lakers, and a whole lot more.
This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Silver Screen and Roll: So the premise of this ad is things being without one of the things that makes them great, and in that spirit, I just want to start off by asking: How are you feeling? Because the Lakers have obviously missed you for the last couple of games. Do you have any sense of when you’re going to be able to target coming back, and what have you thought about how the team has looked without you?
Anthony Davis: “I’m feeling good. There’s no specific target date on a return, but we know it will be after the break. But we’re learning. This is a good learning experience for us. A good time for our role players to find their rhythms. A good time for us to work on things we need to work on heading into the break and leading into the playoffs. So we’re not really looking at (this losing streak) how the world is looking at it, we’re looking at it as a learning opportunity.”
Well I guess we should probably shift over to the ad, because that’s what you’re here to promote, and I apologize, because you’ve probably been asked this question a million times at this point, but when you entered the NBA, did you ever think that you’d have a signature chip flavor?
AD: “No. No I had not. You think of being in video games, having a shoe, and things like that. You never expect to be having a chip deal. So that was pretty cool for me, and pretty dope for me, to be the first-ever athlete with a chip deal. That was pretty cool on my end to be the first athlete to do that.”
You were the first guy to do it, but now Jayson Tatum is following in your footsteps, and other guys might at some point down the line. Does that mean anything extra to you, being a trend-setter in that way?
AD: “Nah. I guess you have the bragging rights of saying you were the first to do it, but I think it’s cool. I kind of passed it down to Jayson Tatum and now he has his own flavor, the Flamin’ Hot BBQ, which is pretty good. Not as good as mine, but it’s up there (laughs). But it’s good, and I think Ruffles did a great job putting the spots together for the All-Star game commercial. They do a good job of putting all these spots together where it’s fun and unique, and always having it centered around being yourself. Unapologetically being yourself, and owning your ridges, and owning what’s unique to you. And that’s cool. I think that’s a dope thing to talk about when it comes to people and the world, and since Ruffles are unique in their own right with the ridges, I think it’s a good way to tie it all in. And adding a guy like Jayson Tatum to the mix, I think it all makes sense.”
Honestly, I think you just gave me my headline. It’s “AD trash talks Jayson Tatum,” and then like four paragraphs down I’ll put that it was about his Ruffles chip.
No, but in the ad, you put your feet up on the table at one point, and you have on a shoe that I have never seen before. Am I just not aware of it? It looked like some sort of Air Force?
AD: “Yeah, so in the spot, one of the things was like ‘Ruffles without ridges is like a knight without armor.’ And so that kind of was (a reference to that). It was a Nike shoe custom designed to look like a knight’s armor, so that’s all it was.”
Did you get that customized, or did they? Is that a player exclusive?
AD: “Yeah, we got it customized with Dom, the shoe surgeon out here in L.A. He did that one. He also did the ruffles ridge one that I had last year as well.”
I thought that you had done maybe the most subtle signature shoe reveal of all time. You just dropped it in the middle of a Ruffles commercial, like ‘oh yeah, by the way, I have a signature shoe now.’”
AD: (Laughs) “No, no, nah, Dom, he definitely did that one.”
That’s up next after the chip deal I guess.
AD: “Right, right, right.”
So I have a random one, but it’s sort of in the spirit of the commercial, and things without what makes them great. What do you think would be stranger: Rob Pelinka without making crazy analogies, or Frank Vogel without making dad jokes?
AD: “Probably Frank without dad jokes. Frank always has one. It’s what he do. If he doesn’t, it’s like weird. When Frank doesn’t do his little jokes or have his little movie snippets for us (during film sessions), then you know something is wrong, right? (laughs) And I’m around Frank a lot more than I’m around Rob, so I’m used to Frank hitting us with these dad jokes and hitting us with these movie clips that relate to us somehow, all these old clips that just relate to us and what we’re going through or how we’re winning and things like that, so I would pick Frank on that one.”
What’s the most random movie clip that he’s included in a film session?
AD: “Have you seen the movie ‘Life?’ ... So Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, they’re in jail for a murder they did not commit, and they go to a house, and (Martin Lawrence) gets in the owner’s car and he’s leaving and Eddie Murphy says ‘Where the hell do you think you going?’ And so he relates it to us and when we’re playing defense, and when a guy is trying to get around us, and we’re locking a guy up and he can’t get around us because we’re playing good defense, he puts that clip right after the defensive clip. ‘Where the hell do you think you going?’ So it’s a little joke that he always gives us to get us motivated to play defense.”
(Editor’s Note — This is the best version of the clip Davis is referencing that I could find online):
Somewhat related to Frank, he said yesterday that while you’ve been out you’ve been making an extra effort to help on the bench during games, and I was just curious, how hard is it for you to be out while the team is struggling like this, and I guess No. 1, does that make it harder for you to stay out and make sure that you’re being cautious? And then No. 2, does helping on the bench and kind of giving tips to guys, does that make you think about coaching at all later down the line...
...or is that just you being a good teammate?
AD: “To answer your first question, even though it’s hard to sit out and watch the team struggle and you want to get back on the floor and play, that’s why you have the medical staff and your team around you: To protect you from yourself. You always want to make sure that you’re going out there fully healthy. This isn’t the first time that I’ve aggravated this. This is the second time I’ve aggravated this, and it’s an Achilles, so you want to be smart with it, so even though I feel ready to get back on the floor, you’ve got those guys around you to say ‘not yet. Let’s do a little bit more rehab and make sure it’s 100% healed before we go out there.’ And then to answer your second question, no. That does not make me want to get into coaching.”
Not even a little bit?
AD: “Nah, that’s just my competitive spirit. I’m just so into the game and helping the guys win that when I see things, I just need to help them. That’s just who I am, but it is not going to lead to a coaching career after I get done playing.”
Okay, so there’s the actual headline, is ‘AD rules out coaching career.’ But I have to ask about this, because this was a big thing last weekend, but while you were helping Kuz out, you got a little bit of blood on your shirt and had to change it at one point. Jeff Van Gundy had a whole clip that went viral, they were counting your clothes changes on the bench, so I’m curious: How many clothing changes do you have at Staples Center ready for this?
AD: “I have a whole closet. I have a whole closet of clothes ready to go at any time. I’m always ready.”
I got one last thing for you, this is kind of related to helping guys on defense, but more on the floor and moving forward: How much of your defensive skill do you feel like is kind of natural ability, seeing things quicker and processing things more quickly than other guys do, and how much of that is just watching tape and being aware of what teams are going to do?
AD: “I think it’s a mixture of both. Some of it is just instincts. Just being a defensive player my entire career, I just kind of know what’s going to happen and just see things before they happen and talk to the other guys, and give my input on coverages and schemes, and then it just goes back to who we’re playing. Watching film on them and breaking down their sets, and the tendencies of each player, and trying to figure out the best way possible to limit them from what they’re doing so we can win a ball game. So it’s a mixture of natural ability and instincts and watching film.”
Okay, I guess this is the actual last thing: Is there anything else you feel like I should know about the process of making this ad, about making the chips, or anything else you want to let people know about?
AD: “All-Star weekend, the ad will be showing during the game Sunday, so make sure you guys tune in and watch that, and like I said, Jayson Tatum is also having his Flamin’ Hot BBQ out, so make sure you guys go check that out, and own your ridges. Own your ridges.”
But definitely check yours out first and buy more bags of yours, right?
AD: (laughs) “Well, I mean a lot of people have mine, so you can check his out first, then you start buying the ones that you really like.”
For more information on Davis and Tatum’s Ruffles partnerships, you can check out their official press release here.