Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Chicago Bulls all-star Zach LaVine
Zach LaVine will earn more than $40 million dollars during the upcoming NBA season. But the big reward for the 27-year-old basketball star will be becoming a first-time father, an experience he's excited to share with his wife, Hunter.
"It's going to be a completely new experience for me," LaVine tells PEOPLE, noting that Hunter is due in a few weeks. "I think I'll be able to adjust, but you know, knowing that it's going to be more about [the baby] and my wife, and obviously my job has its demands."
Last month, LaVine signed a maximum contract extension with the Chicago Bulls, which will earn him $215.2 million dollars in five years. To prepare for the new season, LaVine has partnered with Klarna to make sure he's prepared for the demanding NBA schedule with a shoppable collection of off-season essentials. "Klarna's been great, allowing me to be myself," says LaVine. "That goes along with what I look for. Klarna aligns with what I like and what I'm looking to do and how I want myself to be seen with other brands. They've been great and we're looking forward to doing things in the future."
Although LaVine's personal and professional promotions come with greater expectations, he's excited for the new challenges. "It'll be fun to adjust the season," says LaVine. "Now, everything comes second and that's what's most important is making sure we start our family right, and making sure the baby's healthy, my wife's healthy, and getting everything on track, and then basketball."
Jerritt Clark/Getty Zach and Hunter LaVine
With the birth of his first child on the horizon, and a new NBA season shortly after that, LaVine tells PEOPLE he's looking forward to "being able to come home after good, bad, average games, whatever it may be, just to come home and be dad."
LaVine posted impressive stats last season with the Chicago basketball team, earning his third NBA all-star selection. As he prepares for his first season as a max contract player, the shooting guard thinks expectations are "around the same" as previous years. "I think that's why you get the contract, you play for that, and you are what you're worth," he says.
The Bulls star assures fans he's ready for the challenges he'll face this season. "People really don't have to worry about that side, 'cause I think for me, I have my own bucket list and checklists and things that I want to accomplish for myself," says LaVine. "You know, I continue to go out there and play the way I am, have been, continue to, to try to lead the team to wins and get deeper and deeper into the playoffs."
What most likely will change about LaVine's routine, both on the road and at-home, is time spent playing video games — which he says is one of his favorite ways to "get your mind away from basketball," before a game. "Not everybody can sit at home or sit on the road and watch film all day," he shares.
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In fact, the NBA all-star is an active gamer. "I would be on LFGs and people wouldn't know my name obviously," says LaVine, who is referring to the online term "LFG," meaning Looking For Group. "I played with people where they didn't even know it was me playing," admits LaVine. "You know, people ask, 'Oh, what do you do?' and this and that...And sometimes I'll lie. Sometimes I'll be like, oh yeah, I played for the Chicago Bulls. My name's Zach LaVine. And they won't believe me. It's fun."
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Video games have become a favorite pastime for athletes on the road, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the most competitive, is Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker, Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro, and baseball player Blake Snell, according to LaVine.
Snell in particular, who pitches for the San Diego Padres, is "probably the most competitive person I've ever seen with video games," LaVine says. "All he does is try to yell at me, so it's a fun time," LaVine jokes. "So we have a good time talking a little trash back and forth on the game."
The Bulls star mostly saves his competitive energy for the basketball court, where he admits to "some trash talk here and there." Ultimately though, LaVine thinks actions speak louder than words.
"I'll talk trash when it's fit or like when somebody says something to me," he reveals. "I'm pretty vocal on the court, I'll talk to my teammates. So I'll talk to people, even if it's not just talking trash, but I'm not someone out here just talking trash to everybody. I let my game speak for itself."
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty
He'll continue to let his game do the talking as he enters the 2022-23 NBA season on Oct. 19.
LaVine explains, "I think I'm very authentic and I think that's what fans appreciate. I'm not somebody that's trying to be something that I'm not. Obviously, I think I'm a very talented and very confident player with the work I put in."
In the meantime, LaVine is focused on "learning as much as" he can as a soon-to-be dad, especially catering to wife Hunter's needs during the final weeks of her pregnancy. Currently, his duties include fulfilling her unusual cravings and offering back massages or foot rubs.
"Happy wife, happy life," LaVine laughs.