BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- As J. Cole said in ‘Love Yourz': "There's beauty in the struggle."
For Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the struggles were countless, but the beauty that came from those struggles formed a rising star, brother, gracious son, and a class act.
By now, everybody has either seen or heard about Rondae's viral video showing him buying his mother, Rylanda Hollis, her very first home. For Hollis-Jefferson, it was a life-long goal to buy his mom a house. Not a car or vacation or anything else. But, a home. He wanted to buy her a house because he never really got to enjoy the few years he had living with her.
"I can probably count on one hand how many years I lived with my mom," an emotional Hollis-Jefferson told NetsDaily. "Everybody doesn't know that. You know, waking up and being able to say bye to your mom or even just say, ‘see you later,' is very emotional for us because we only did that for about three years. "
Hollis-Jefferson was born and raised in Chester, Pennsylvania with his brother, Rahlir. The brothers were raised with a passion for the game of basketball despite distractions and plenty of reasons for the two to slip up in the streets.
In 2010, Yahoo ranked Chester, a small town composed of just 34,000 people, No.1 for violent crime and No.9 for murder. With his father absent and mother working endless hours to provide ends meet, Rondae needed guidance in order to stay the path.
"I would definitely say my brother was my role model. By him being a few years older than me, going through college and seeing his whole process and how relaxed and poised he was about the situation," he says about his brother. "I always wanted to be like him."
Rondae's brother Rahlir played college ball at Temple University and is currently playing in the National Basketball League of Canada. Now, it's about paying back.
"When they were little, I wanted to make sure I could provide for them so they wouldn't be in the streets selling drugs," Rylanda said in a 2013 interview with Tuscon.com "I tried to give them everything within reason so they wouldn't need to get it on the streets."
But as the brothers got older and found their niche in life, they had a lifelong goal that they could finally achieve.
"We probably lived in about 15 different houses. Moving from here to here to here, so that was always our biggest thing: We gotta make sure our mom is good."
But growing up, Rylanda worried that Rondae sometimes acted up because his father wasn't present.
"The thing was, he [Rondae] wanted a relationship with his dad and being a child, he didn't know how to handle it," Rylanda said in that same interview. "At first, I thought, 'Oh my god, he needed medicine or something,' but the reality was he wanted his dad."
Like any situation, you can't understand ones pain unless you're in his/her shoes. But Hollis-Jefferson was blessed to have a strong support system with his grandfather serving as a father-like figure to him.
"My grandfather. He's like our dad. You know, he did everything for everyone and he was just trying to be our superhero."
He was a superhero indeed. While Rondae's biological father may not have been around, his grandfather taught him invaluable lessons, ones that you only learn from witnessing the pain and struggles a parent or grandparent goes through to make sure that you have a roof over your head and food on the table. Rondae had a father in his own grandfather.
"My grandfather did everything in his power to make sure that everyone in the house was good," the choked up Hollis-Jefferson told NetsDaily. "He worked overtime just to make sure we got back and situated. Just seeing things like that, it really sets the standard really high to be like, ‘yeah I wanna be like that when I get older. I wanna treat my kids like that and show them you can be a great guy, you can be a great parent.' He just inspired me so much."
Even with the endless stories of tragedy and resilience, Rondae recalls one specific incident that stands out the most.
"There are definitely a lot of experiences, but one story that I pinpoint the most is when our house, my grandfather's house, burned down. It was a tough time for us. They thought I was in the house because I didn't have a phone at the time and I was out playing, so when I get back I'm like, ‘what happened?' and they were worried that I was in the house. It was definitely a tough time for us to go through that."
As if times weren't tough enough for Rondae and his family, it's stories and moments like this that he remembers every time he puts his uniform on and ties his shoelaces tight. Every time he steps foot on the court, he gives an effort like tomorrow isn't guaranteed.
But that's been his whole life. Nothing has been guaranteed.
But with inner resilience and unconditional love from the people that mattered most-- his brother, mother, and his grandfather --the beauty in Rondae's life today may never have come to be if it weren't for those struggles he endured over the span of his 20 years of life.
Just like J.Cole said in ‘Love Yourz', "For what's money without happiness, or hard times without the people you love?"