Warriors' Lindy Waters III is driven by her Native American heritage – NBC Sports Bay Area & California

As Lindy Waters III sat by the pool on a family vacation in Mexico on the morning of the second day of the 2024 NBA Draft, he realized his life was about to change. The 26-year-old, born in Norman, Oklahoma, only knows the Sooner State.

That changed a week ago, on June 27, when Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy sent the Warriors' second-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder to sign the shooting guard who can shine behind the 3-point line.

“I wasn't really surprised, but I needed some time to process it,” Waters told reporters at Chase Center on Wednesday. “This is the first time I've ever gone through something like this. I'm thankful my family was there with me.”

Waters played alongside Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young during his youth, playing together at Norman North High School. While Young became a top draft pick in his only season at Oklahoma, Waters played four years at Young's rival Oklahoma State.

After going undrafted, Waters began his long journey to his current status in the Basketball League with the Enid Outlaws in Oklahoma. Six months later, Waters was signed by OKC Blue, the G-League affiliate team of the Oklahoma City Thunder, after impressing the organization during a tryout.

In February 2022, he signed a two-way contract for his hometown team, where Waters has spent the last three seasons between the G League and the NBA.

“It's pretty crazy that I went from where I came from, through pretty much every town in Oklahoma and then made it to the big leagues,” Waters said. “That alone gives me the confidence that I can take my talents anywhere and be successful.”

All the trials and tribulations he went through in Oklahoma have brought Waters this far. But his true role model is Waters' legacy, which he is very proud of and will now represent in the Bay Area.

Waters is an enrolled member of the Kiowa Tribe, whose headquarters are in Carnegie, Oklahoma. He is also part of the Cherokee Nation. Oklahoma has the largest Cherokee population in America – extending into the surrounding areas of Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri – followed by California.

As one of the few Native Americans to make it to the NBA, Waters' pride in his people extends beyond any single state.

“It means everything to me,” Waters said. “There aren't many people who can do something like this coming from where I live. And I know I have a huge impact on my community. Especially being from Oklahoma, I see a lot of people who look just like me. So I try to be an inspiration to them, to do the right thing and to continue to show them that these things are possible.”

The same year Waters made his NBA debut in 2022, he founded the Lindy Waters III Foundation, whose mission is to empower and support Native American youth and indigenous communities through sports, leadership programs, and health and wellness. Waters hosts a golf tournament in Tulsa that awards scholarships and also hosts basketball camps for children in North Dakota, North Carolina, and Oklahoma.

On his birthday, July 28, Waters has even planned a basketball tournament where he awards scholarships to kids going to college. Last year, 10 or 11 of them were awarded. An intertribal council named Waters “Indian of the Year” in 2018. He was a finalist for the NBA 2023-24 Social Justice Champion Award, and in March, Waters was inducted into the North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame.

“There are more important things in life than what we see on TV,” says Waters. “There's family, there's traditions, there's culture. Material things come and go. You can never control those things. But what you can control is how good a person you are.”

“I think being in touch with my family, relatives and tribes and trying to give back to my community has made me the person I am today and that carries over to the basketball court.”

Waters is ready to knock the Chase Center crowd off its feet with a deep 3-pointer. The real work comes off the court, and Waters knows he's far from done there. He strives to continue to make his guys proud.

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