Day’Ron Sharpe instinctively ducked his head under the doorway and scanned the apartment. The shape was a straight line running perpendicular to him with two bedrooms and a bathroom to his left; another bedroom and bathroom to its right; and a kitchen, living room and balcony that open in bright light from large windows in front of him.
At the time, it didn’t matter that this brand new building in Downtown Brooklyn was still covered in dust. It didn’t matter that he had just taken an elevator with insulation on the walls and plywood on the floor. It didn’t even matter that the construction crew left a ladder and soda bottles in the living room, or that the fire alarm gave a low battery warning every 60 seconds. All that mattered was this: he could imagine being at home in this apartment.
Sharpe had only been house hunting for an hour, and he was already behaving like a lifelong shopper in New York City. He overlooked the apartment’s flaws and instead focused on its features. He smiled and declared, “Oh, yes, this is it.”
When most people go to work, they get at least some say in where they will live. But that’s not the case for elite NBA prospects like Sharpe, a 6-foot-11, 265-pound center from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The Phoenix Suns selected Sharpe with the 29th pick in the July NBA draft and traded his rights to the Nets. And his calendar for the coming month was as busy as the city itself. He first flew to New York to complete his physical and sign his contract. He then returned home to North Carolina to pack his bags for Summer League in Las Vegas. He spent most of August in Nevada before making another pit stop in North Carolina on his way back to New York.
Now it was August 28 and Sharpe, 19, had to find an apartment for the first time in his adult life. And he had to do it before the Nets started their training camp on September 28.
If all this felt overwhelming, Sharpe didn’t show it. He was casually dressed in gray sweat shorts, a black T-shirt and high Jordan 5s. From the back seat of his chauffeured black Cadillac Escalade, he marveled at the Manhattan skylines and mentally jotted down the restaurants people had recommended. On the way to the first apartment — a 1,600-square-foot, 23rd-floor, three-bedroom with unobstructed views of Midtown — Sharpe spotted an Ample Hills Creamery store. “That’s a huge bonus,” he said. “I’ve heard that ice cream is really good. I can’t wait to try it.”
Sharpe had several priorities for his new apartment and luckily he had the budget for it. The NBA has a pay scale for first round choices, so Sharpe will make about $2 million this year from his Nets salary alone, and more than $6 million if he does nothing but stay on the team’s roster for three seasons. In a city where almost half of all households Spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent, and nearly a quarter more than 50 percent, Sharpe’s salary is a luxury. Although his financial advisor told him not to worry about his rent, the units he considered cost no more than $10,000 a month, which amounted to about 5 percent of his gross income.
In addition to staying on budget, he wanted to be close to Nets’ practice facility in Industry City and to Barclays Center in Prospect Heights. He wanted a pet-friendly place because he plans to adopt a dog. He wanted good WiFi so he could play Call of Duty: Warzone and NBA 2K. And he wanted a three-bedroom apartment so his parents, Derrick and Michelle Sharpe, and his cousin, Tre Lassiter, could live with him.
“Family is the most important thing to me,” Sharpe said. “I wouldn’t be here without them, and I’m glad they’ll be here with me when I get my start in the NBA”
Sharpe grew up in Greenville, a city in eastern North Carolina with a population a shadow below 100,000. He’s always been a Tar Heel fan, and his childhood dream of playing basketball for them came true when he grew five feet between sixth and eighth grade and went on to go 6-foot-7 at South Central High School. . In the 10th grade, he made his first trip to New York, for a basketball tournament. He stared at the glowing billboards in Times Square and remembered thinking, “This place is… seriously Busy.”
As a junior in high school, he led the Falcons to a 30-1 record and a Class 4A state championship. He got his first sense of independent living as a high school senior when he transferred to Montverde Academy, Florida’s preparatory powerhouse. He shared a room – and a bunk bed – with Caleb Houston, who now plays for Michigan. Sharpe grabbed the top bunk so his feet could dangle from the foot of the single bed. “People think I need a huge bed,” he said, “but I’d be happy if I just had a queen now.”
Sharpe came off the bench during his lone season in North Carolina, but he was outsized in his 19.2 minutes per game. His offensive rebound rate of 18.2 was #1 in the nation, according to KenPom.com. When Sharpe announced himself for the NBA draft, North Carolina Coach Roy Williams, who retired after the season, called him “one of the best rebounders I’ve ever coached.” Sharpe’s averages per 40 minutes of 19.8 points and 15.8 rebounds indicated his potential impact had he been given more playing time. NBA teams admired his ability to pass out and his comfort in playing in a pick-and-roll offensive style that dominates the league. He thinks he will fit into the Nets’ rotation — which is thin for big men — early this season.
But before he found his place with the Nets, he had to find his place in Brooklyn.
He liked the unit on the 23rd floor, although the master bedroom, he said, was “smaller than my dorm room.” His broker, Joshua Lieberman of Douglas Elliman, laughed and told him he might have to live with that. But Sharpe couldn’t abide by their pet policy. The building manager told him he could have a dog, but it had to be on the small side. “I want a big dog,” he said. “I mean, Real big. I’m a big guy. I can’t be here with a little Chihuahua.”
Lieberman assured him that the problems with the second apartment – the one with the dust, garbage and alarm – were to be expected with new construction. On the plus side, he would be the first person to live in the unit, and one of the first tenants in the building, which includes a rooftop terrace with a dog playground, two lounges, a business center, a two-story gym with a sauna and steam room. , and a mini-cinema. Sharpe liked that he and his cousin could have adjoining bedrooms, while his parents had the master on the other side of the unit. ‘There are two,’ he said, ‘and only one of mine. As long as I have my bed and my games, I’m fine.”
The final list for the day was in Brooklyn Heights, closer to the Nets’ practice facility. The building somehow had even more amenities, including a dance room and a virtual golf simulator, but the unit only had two bedrooms and a bathroom, and Sharpe didn’t want to let his cousin sleep on the couch all season. Even an enviable view of the Statue of Liberty failed to convince him.
After the final offer, he climbed back into the Escalade and asked the driver to take him downtown to get his parents pizza. When the car stopped, he found himself back at Ample Hills. Sharpe realized he was only a mile from the apartment he had named “the one” and he said it was time to get some ice cream. At the store, the first flavor he saw was Coffee Toffee Coffee, and he ordered it without even looking at more than a dozen other options. This was a day for decisiveness.
He took the ice out into Brooklyn Bridge Park. His realtor pointed to a spot where the rapper Nas had performed in 2016, and then he showed Sharpe ESPN’s South Street Seaport studios across the water. Sharpe took a large scoop of ice cream, then leaned on the railing and looked out over the water. “mm-mm!” he said. “I think I’d like to live here.”