Kendra Shaw & Julius Randle
August 3, 2017. Newport Coast, California
On her 20th birthday, Kendra Shaw, a University of Kentucky junior, was celebrating when a friend arrived at her party with a tall stranger in tow. The petite blonde vividly remembers her introduction to Julius Randle because of his impeccable manners—“unusual for the average college guy,” she explains. “He wished me a happy birthday and thanked me for having him!” Even though they never really talked, their eyes sought each other out the entire night. The 6-foot-9-inch college basketball player did not waste time before asking Kendra to dinner, but before going, they got to know a little about each other by phone. “I had never dated a basketball player,” she says, “but he was genuine and sweet and I knew it would be okay.” A year later they were a confirmed couple, and when Julius was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers she made the move to California with him.
Two years ago, Julius surprised Kendra with a vacation. All she was told was to pack for a warm climate, so when they boarded a flight to their top bucket list destination of Santorini, Greece, she was thrilled. “I knew she would be so blown away by being in her dream destination that she wouldn’t even be thinking about a proposal,” says Julius.
Toward the end of their stay, they went out for dinner and were escorted to a balcony overlooking the water with a violinist playing. As the sun set, Julius asked her to stand up and started recounting their time together, the path they had traveled, how he couldn’t imagine life without her and sweetly avowing that her recently-learned-of pregnancy was the best news of his life. He dropped to one knee, offering up a stunning ring and asking Kendra to marry him.
An unequivocal “Yes” came from the flabbergasted Kendra. “I was so sure that he didn’t have a ring with him, because he wouldn’t have been able to get something like that past me,” she says.
Searching for a wedding venue removed from the hubbub of Los Angeles, the couple discovered The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach. “It was big and open, near the ocean and ‘very us’ feeling,” says Kendra.
The ceremony, in the open-air rotunda with shimmering views of the water, was family-centric. A flower girl pulled their then 7-month-old son Kyden down the aisle in a floral bedecked wagon. “Seeing our son come down the aisle gave me a sense of completion and fullness, making me proud that our family was becoming one,” says Julius. At the altar, the three lit a unity candle together.
The festivities started off in high spirits, with the wedding attendants entering the reception, encircling the newlyweds and improvising with freestyle dance moves. Next, Julius took Kendra in his arms for their official first dance, followed by Kendra dancing with her beloved grandfather and Julius with his mother.
Speeches included a hilarious cocktail-fueled, off-the-cuff presentation by two Lakers teammates and a “beat” to a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air tune, with new lyrics performed and written by the friend who introduced them.
Southern-style food stations near the photo booth supplemented the formal dinner, featuring down-home favorites of the couple including chicken and waffles and pecan and apple pies. “Everybody from my grandparents to Julius’ teammates was up and dancing all night,” says Kendra. “You genuinely could feel the love in the room.”
The originally planned honeymoon in Italy was scrapped at the last minute, because neither Kendra nor Julius wanted to leave baby Kyden behind. Instead they all headed for Hawaii where the couple went paddleboarding, aquabiking and reflected on the wedding during long walks on the beach.
For now, they continue to enjoy their Los Angeles lifestyle with Julius’ Lakers “dream” team, and await the 2018 summer contract negotiations that will determine whether they stay on the West Coast, or relocate to another city.
> Written by Francine Kaplan