Dunlap is Daddy's Girl

Kevin Pelton, StormBasketball.com | June 12, 2012

Even now that she's followed her father, King, into professional sports, Seattle Storm forward Victoria Dunlap is on some level the girl that looked up to her father growing up.

"Just my entire life, my dad is like my rock," she says. "I'm a daddy's girl, so anything daddy says is right, even if it's wrong."

At the same time, his daughter brings out King's protective instincts. Like when Victoria was playing AAU basketball, and at first King was concerned about her matching up with bigger players in the paint.

Victoria Dunlap on draft day.
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images

When she was drafted in 2011, Victoria Dunlap followed her father into professional sports as the highest pick in her family.

"I was ready to take my baby home," he recalled. "I said, 'You won't beat up on my baby.' They were out there bumping and pushing and scratching and clawing. I asked the coach, 'It's getting a little rough out there. Do I need to get my daughter out of there?' He said, 'Mr. Dunlap, your daughter is in there giving as much as she's taking.' I looked up and she was rebounding, coming out with the ball."

Athletic excellence runs in the Dunlap family. King played defensive tackle at Tennessee State from 1965-68, winning a pair of black college national championships as a freshman and a sophomore. After he graduated, King was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the fifth round of the 1969 NFL Draft and began a brief pro career that ended in 1971. Dunlap's mother, Robin, was an elite athlete in her own right at Tennessee State, running track for legendary coach Ed Temple's famed Tigerbelles.

Victoria and her brothers, King V and George, grew up with a sense of what their parents had accomplished during their playing days.

"We lived in Nashville," she said, "so we went to a lot of (Tennessee State) football games, their basketball games. I've seen pictures of him throughout the whole school playing football. I knew that he was an athlete - and my mom too. So I think at a young age we all knew that they were athletic and had some experience in the professional field."

Meanwhile, their parents were also pushing the Dunlap siblings toward youth sports because of a tip King got from his own father.

"He said the best advice he could give was to keep them busy," King said. "My wife and I put them in everything they could get in. It was quite a task with three different kids going from one place to another - football, basketball, baseball, soccer."

Supporting their children in sports became a significant part of the Dunlaps' lives. At least one parent - and often both - attended every game the kids played, a tradition that continued through college, when the Dunlaps followed Victoria's career at the University of Kentucky in their RV. While working as a long-haul trucking dispatcher, King used his weeks off to ferry neighborhood kids to and from practices and games, providing snacks and encouragement from the sidelines.

Over time, each of the kids found their athletic niche. King V, who outgrew his 6-6 father to stand 6-9, 330, followed his namesake into football and the NFL. After playing at Auburn, he was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the seventh round of the 2007 Draft and has spent five years with the team as an offensive lineman. George, the youngest member of the family, just completed his sophomore year on the basketball team at Free Will Bible College.

Victoria tried a little of everything. She wanted to play football before her mom nixed the plan, tried gymnastics and won a USA Youth National Championship in the heptathlon before focusing on basketball. Starting at age eight playing with boys on the only local team and shutting down the opposition's best player on defense, Victoria emerged as a basketball star and one of the most decorated players in Kentucky women's hoops history before being taken by the Washington Mystics in the first round of last year's draft.

King is proud of the way sports have helped all his kids develop into adults, as well as their accomplishments.

"All of them are going to have their degrees on the wall," he said. "That's all I want to see. Anything extra is fine with me. Victoria, we're so proud of her. When she became an All-American, I thought my chest was going to bust wide open."

From a young age, Victoria has had a special place in her father's heart. And she used it to her advantage.

"Victoria's greatest joy was tasting my food first - she always ate off my plate first," said King. "It drove the boys crazy and her mom too. I guess because she knew she could.

"I didn't understand it when I was a kid, but my younger sister got a lot of attention from my daddy. Now that I'm an old man, I know. When I had her, that was it. Little girls somehow wrap their fathers around their fingers. I don't know."

Because he always says he doesn't want anything, Victoria has had trouble finding Father's Day gifts for King. He enjoyed books of crossword puzzles as well as the presents she made when she was younger. More than anything, her love was enough.

"My Father's Days were always enjoyable," King recalled. "Victoria was one of the reasons because she always showered me with affection. She was fighting with the boys: 'This is my daddy.'"

Before the Storm hosts the Minnesota Lynx in a special Father's Day game (6:00 p.m., ) this Sunday, Victoria will find time to call home and let her father know how much he means to her.

"I'll talk to my mom about the whole gift situation," she said. "He already knows I love him but I like to tell him as much as I can, and that I appreciate what he's done for me in my life and how he's supported me so far. He's the greatest dad ever."

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