On March 16, 2018, UMBC defeated Virginia in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, becoming the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed in men’s tournament history. And with the upset, PressBox’s Sportsperson of the Year was set. This year, PressBox honors two Sportspersons of Year — guard Jairus Lyles and head coach Ryan Odom.
Lyles scored 28 points in the 74-54 win against Virginia, shooting 9-of-11 from the field and 3-of-4 from 3-point range. He also sank the game-winner against Vermont to send the Retrievers to the Tournament.
Glenn Clark talked with Lyles in March shortly after UMBC’s season ended and in November as Lyles pursued his NBA dream with the G League’s Salt Lake City Stars.
Those interviews have been edited for clarity and content.
PressBox: What does it feel like to know that you’ll always be the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament?
Jairus Lyles: It’s an incredible feeling, a very special feeling knowing that you’ve done something that nobody else has done, that no other team has accomplished. Until it’s done again, it’ll always be that special. … It’s always going to be that historical, that moment that we created.
PB: When the bracket was announced, even though Virginia was the No. 1 overall seed, was there a part of you that felt they might be the best path to allow you to do this?
JL: At first, we were like, “Damn, we got Virginia?” We knew they were the No. 1 defense in the country, so we were like, “It’s going to be a struggle all game.” But it was funny because the day before we even found out who we were going to be playing or what seed we were, we were like, “Watch [us] get Virginia. Watch [us] get Virginia.” So we kind of spoke that into existence, but once we realized who we were playing and got to practice and everything, we were like, “Yeah, we can go in here and we can win this game. We can make history.” And, you know, it happened.
PB: When did you know you were going to pull off the upset against Virginia?
JL: Coming into the game, we all had that confidence, we were all talking about it before the game. As long as we play defense, we know how hard it is for them to score, so as long as we play defense, we’ll have a chance to score because we can score with the best of them in college. We came into the game with that confidence, and I think going into halftime being tied, knowing that we were right there. When we came out for the second half and [UMBC guard Joe Sherburne] went on a [6-0] run by himself and then we were like, “Oh yeah, we got this.” If we keep it close, then I’m going to take over and we’ll win the game. So we had that mindset coming into the game.
PB: For yourself as a great scorer, did the challenge of going against the No. 1 defense get you geared up?
JL: Yeah. I watched a lot of film by myself the night before and a couple of days before just to see how they guard, the spots that we can beat them at, and I sent it to a couple of my guys, so I was studying them a lot. Happily I was successful in getting my shot off and getting other people involved. We did a great job with that.
PB: Coach Odom talked about hearing the crowd go crazy from the locker room when UMBC took the floor for the game against Kansas State in the second round of the Tournament. What was that feeling like?
JL: Even during the Virginia game, the whole crowd was rooting for us. And then once we won that game, coming out to play Kansas State, just the energy that was in the crowd — because people wanted to see another upset, you know? Once you’re an underdog, people want you to succeed no matter who you’re playing. It was a very special moment for me and my teammates and the coaches just to get that welcoming and that energy that came out.
PB: When you came to UMBC, you certainly had a vision of what you wanted to accomplish, but if somebody would have told you then that you’d go from a seven-win season in 2015-16 to not only make the NCAA Tournament but pull off the greatest moment in the history of the NCAA Tournament, what would you have said?
JL: I’d have been like, “Man, you’re crazy.” … But even during that seven-win season, I knew how good we were as a team. I had to sit out that first half [of the season]. We had a lot of young guys in the lineup starting to play, so I knew we were young, inexperienced and we didn’t really have a lot of chemistry. So I knew that next year, no matter what, we were going to be good.
PB: Coach Odom wasn’t the one who recruited you to UMBC. What made that relationship work so well with the two of you?
JL: I just think coming in, you’ve got to buy into what the new coaches want. It’s not only a new situation for the players, but it’s a new situation for the coaches, too. So I wouldn’t say it was just me — it was a team, collective effort, just buying into what Coach wants. That first year, we had a lot of ups and downs, but that next year, just creating a better relationship with Coach Odom …. and the whole coaching staff. The players just followed my lead. It took us a long way.
PB: You were such an integral part of what happened, but in winning a championship and winning a game in the NCAA Tournament, how important was it that everybody was buying into Odom?
JL: You know, everybody has to be bought in for you to win championships and for you to go that far in NCAA basketball, you have to be bought in. We’re a mid-major school, so we don’t have the same talent that a high-major does or those types of schools, so we have to be bought in at every single aspect of the game — not just for practice but off the court, doing school work and getting everything done, making sure you’re not getting in trouble. That plays a long way in getting to where you want to be.
PB: You and Coach Odom have stayed in touch as you’ve gone the pro route. How important is that relationship for you?
JL: You always want to create great relationships with people that you’ve done special things with. Coach Odom’s an important person in UMBC history just like the players are. So you always want to have that relationship with your coach that goes beyond basketball because you always need somebody to lean on and somebody you can talk to about basketball, ups and downs that happen outside of UMBC when you end up graduating and going on to pursue different things.
PB: Have you had a moment where it’s struck you how significant it is to have been the first to accomplish this?
JL: I don’t think I’ve had a moment yet where I just got to appreciate it as much as I should be appreciating it. I just enjoy that it happened and enjoy that I got to be a part of history.
PB: When they make the movie about UMBC’s historic upset, what do you want to make sure they get right?
JL: I just think our togetherness, how connected of a team we were — not just on the court but off the court. There were really no rifts between the team and the coaches. So I think they’ve got to show how connected we were as a team — and how much fun we had. It wasn’t just always business with us. We were a real goofy team. I think they need to show that, too.
PB: Who do you want to play you in the movie?
JL: I would say Michael B. Jordan.
BY Press Box Online /
PUBLISHED December/19/2018 /
Press Box Online
The ‘Old Soul’ of the Nets Is Steering the Team in a New Direction
Jarrett Allen stood outside a Key Food Supermarket in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn and handed 25 local children a grocery list and a calculator. Their task was to use math, and a calculator imprinted with Allen’s name and Nets jersey number, to fill their grocery carts and stay within the $100 budget he gave them.
Plenty of N.B.A. stars have their own shoe, clothing, underwear and eyewear lines — often vanity projects for oversize fashionistas. Allen is different. And not just because his name is stretched across a calculator instead of kicks.
“Math is the future,” he said.
“He’s so different from everyone usually in the N.B.A.,” said Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, his closest friend on the team. “Everybody else is like, ‘Wow, he’s weird.’ When everyone was referencing him as weird, or just kind of different, I was like, ‘Man, that’s my guy.’ He’s extremely smart. I love having conversations with him on that level.”
In the N.B.A., one man’s weird just might be another man’s love of STEM. “It started with destroying stuff,” Allen said. “I would break things apart, then put them together. Then my dad gave us one of his super-old computers, and I’ve really been on that track since I was probably around 5.”
In high school, he built his own computer, which he still uses today. Like most 20-year-olds in the N.B.A., he loves gaming, particularly Overwatch, but he doesn’t play the ubiquitous NBA 2K. “I don’t play sports video games,” he said. “My whole life revolves around sports.”
After finishing his freshman year at Texas and declaring for the draft, N.B.A. teams had questions about his commitment. Did he love the game enough? Or did he play just because he’s tall? (He’s listed at 6-foot-11, but he’s more like 7-foot-3 with hair included.) Some N.B.A. talent evaluators would prefer their prospects have a singular interest, a life spinning on the axis of an orange ball.
Though Allen professed his love for the game during predraft interviews, he made it clear he was more than just a basketball player. The Nets saw the big picture, selected him 22nd over all in 2017, and hoped he, at center, would become the cornerstone of their rebuilding project.
Allen opened this season with back-to-back double-doubles, and added another, plus several near-misses, before sitting out two games because of an illness. In his first three games back, he averaged 17.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and nearly two blocks a game.
“He has everything you want. He’s athletic, he can run the floor, space the floor vertically, shoot, finish with both hands and protect the rim,” Dinwiddie said. “Right now, the only thing you can knock him for is not being physically imposing, but he’s only 20 years old, and all of that is going to come with time. If that’s all you’re missing in your game, you’re doing really well.”
Allen’s father, Leonard, was a standout center for San Diego State from 1981 to 1985 and held a school blocked-shot record that was broken in 2015. The Dallas Mavericks picked Leonard Allen 50th over all in the 1985 draft, but he didn’t catch on with a team. After playing in Europe, he returned home to Texas and transitioned into a career at Dell computers.
“Basketball wasn’t the main focus,” Jarrett Allen said of his childhood. “For my dad, he played his whole life. His life revolved around it. He just wanted us to be normal kids.”
Growing up in Round Rock, Tex., Allen was blissfully unaware of the intensity of elite youth basketball. “I didn’t know about that whole crazy A.A.U. scene,” he said.
Allen and his older brother Leonard played basketball in church and community rec center leagues for fun. “We were clueless about organized basketball, at least on an elite level,” said his mother, Cheryl. “We didn’t even know it existed, and I’m glad we were oblivious to that world.”
Free from the demands of travel team sports, Allen pursued other interests. “Jarrett from an early age has always had an interest and curiosity about the world around him,” Cheryl Allen said. “That is why his transition to Brooklyn has been an easy one. I’d like to think that not starting elite basketball so young helped. He was able to be a kid as long as possible before becoming consumed by it, which unfortunately happens.”
At the end of Allen’s sophomore year in high school, it became clear that college basketball might be an option. “I didn’t know the college scene was that big. I didn’t know the N.B.A. was that big,” he said.
On some nights after games at Barclays Center, Allen walks home, which usually takes 25 minutes. “It’s nice to just enjoy the night,” he said.
Nicknamed the Fro, his hairstyle isn’t some tribute to Dr. J and the A.B.A. of decades past. “I’m not trying to show it off, show that I can make it round,” Allen said. “I’m not even wearing it because it’s old school. It’s just how it is. I’m just wearing it because it’s my hair. I’ve had it for five years. I’m in too deep now.”
His hair was one of many topics that came up when he did an “Ask Me Anything” online chat on Reddit (he considers himself a Redditor) just before the season started. He was asked questions such as: “What is the coolest celebrity experience you’ve had since getting to the NBA/New York?”
Answer: “I got a free slice of cake for dessert at a restaurant one time.”
And: “How do you achieve that amazing Afro? How much time do you spend on it a day?” Answer: “45 seconds every morning.” Shampoo? “Herbal Essence.”
Allen continues to field questions from the intrigued, though most recently the askers were the children he had given calculators for a pre-Thanksgiving shopping trip and math lesson.
During the nearly two hours in the grocery store for his event, Allen shopped for his own groceries, helped the children with their calculations, grabbed the occasional box of penne off the top shelf for customers and answered no-filter questions.
“Can you cross Allen Iverson?” an 8-year-old boy asked.
“Given he’s about 50 years old, yes,” Allen said.
“Can you dunk on LeBron?”
“I’ve never tried,” he said.
After locating some hard-to-find items — “Where’s the crescent rolls?” — Allen checked out $40 under budget.
The feat seems to be more reflective of a lifestyle than one good day at the grocery store.
“He doesn’t have a car,” Nets forward Jared Dudley said. “He doesn’t care about materialistic things. He cares about playing basketball, family and doing what he loves to do.”
However varied that may be. So far, Allen has splurged on just one big purchase. “A part for my computer,” he said.
BY Kelly Whiteside /
PUBLISHED November/25/2018 /
The New York Times
Joel Berry chosen for USA Basketball World Cup Qualifying Team
EL SEGUNDO (20 November 2018) – South Bay Lakers guard Joel Berry II was chosen for the 12-man USA roster for the November second-round FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers, it was announced today by USA Basketball.
Berry II is currently in his first season with the South Bay Lakers and has posted averages of 8.1 points and 2.3 assists through the team’s first seven games. The North Carolina product appeared in 144 games (112 starts) in his collegiate career, averaging 12.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 27.6 minutes. Berry II won a National Championship with North Carolina in 2017 and was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
The USA will train Nov. 23-25 at the Houston Rockets’ practice facility and will continue second-round action with a pair of road games: Nov. 29 versus Argentina in La Rioja, Argentina, and Dec. 2 versus Uruguay in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Former NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy, who has led the USA to a 7-1 record in FIBA Americas World Cup Qualifying action and directed the USA to a 5-0 record and the gold medal at the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup Championship again is head coach of the USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team. Former University of Georgia head coach Mark Fox and former Georgetown University coach John Thompson III are serving as assistant coaches.
The NBA G League’s South Bay Lakers, the first franchise in G League history to be owned by an NBA team (Los Angeles Lakers), will return for its 12th season of competition in 2018-19. The Lakers franchise has established itself as a top producer of NBA-ready talent, totaling 30 NBA Call-Ups and developing 25 Lakers assignment players since the inaugural 2006-07 season. Last season, the Lakers returned to the playoffs for the third year in a row and saw a pair of players receive NBA Call-Ups to the Los Angeles Lakers, including Andre Ingram. The Lakers have claimed three division titles and have twice competed in the NBA G League Finals, most recently in 2015-16.
BY Noah Camerena /
PUBLISHED November/20/2018 /
Marvin Williams: ‘I just try to teach younger guys what I was taught.’
Marvin Williams is now in his 14th NBA season and he’s very comfortable in his role as one of the Charlotte Hornets’ wise leaders. With that said, he still laughs and shakes his head when he thinks about being 32 years old and nearly a decade and a half into his professional basketball career.
While Williams didn’t emerge as a star after being drafted second overall in the 2005 NBA Draft, he became a terrific glue guy and model role player who contributes on both ends of the floor. He’s the kind of veteran who could help every single team – on and off the court – and he’s highly respected by his peers around the NBA. HoopsHype sat down with Williams to talk about his career, the Hornets’ offseason additions, the development of Kemba Walker, superstitions and much more.
This team added several new players over the offseason, most notably Tony Parker. What’s it like to add a future Hall of Famer and four-time champion to the squad, and what have you seen behind-the-scenes in terms of how he’s helping everyone?
Marvin Williams: Obviously, he brings so much with his experience and his leadership. He has been incredible. He’s more than willing to help guys. He’s been talking to all of us – from the youngest guys on the team [Miles Bridges and Malik Monk, who are both 20 years old] to the oldest guy on the team aside from himself, which is myself. He’s brought a ton of experience to the team. He’s so willing to teach everyone and he’s very patient with all of us. He’s obviously been in certain situations that a lot of us haven’t been able to experience yet, so that knowledge and that wisdom really helps us. He really wants to help us get to that next level as a team. He’s so willing to help us and teach us, which has been huge.
When you first heard the news that Tony Parker was joining the team, what was your reaction? It was a pretty big surprise that he wouldn’t be finishing his career with the San Antonio Spurs. What was that moment like when you learned of the acquisition?
MW: I remember Kemba and I found out at the exact same time and we just kind of looked at each other [wide-eyed]. I honestly didn’t believe it. It was literally unbelievable at first (laughs). But then, once I found out it was true and he really was coming to Charlotte, I was extremely happy. We were extremely happy. I remember Kemba’s reaction, just the excitement on his face. Kemba was so excited. I had the exact same look on my face; I really couldn’t believe it. He’s been to the highest level in basketball, individually and collectively. He’s a true champion, man. He’s a Hall of Famer. To have someone like that here and helping our team, it really is a blessing.
You mentioned being the second-oldest player on the team behind only Tony. It’s crazy how time flies, but it seems like you’ve embraced that veteran leader role. When you talk, everyone in this locker room listens. What kind of responsibilities come with that and how are you enjoying it?
MW: I think the biggest thing for me is that I just try to teach the younger guys all of the different things that I was taught back when I was just entering the league. I teach them different things about the game, how to carry themselves on the court, how to carry themselves off the court, how to work every day in practice, how to develop a routine and just how to be a professional. Those things are important.
I was blessed to have some really good vets to learn from when I was younger: Mike Bibby, Richard Jefferson, Joe Johnson, Lorenzen Wright – rest in peace – Tracy McGrady, Jerry Stackhouse… I’ve been around a lot of great veterans who taught me so many great things that really helped me. Not only did those guys have great individual success, they made sure to teach us [younger players] how to do things the right way. They always made sure to do that. I feel like if it weren’t for those guys, there’s no telling if I’d be here [in the NBA] right now. They had such an enormous impact on me and I’m forever thankful to those guys.
With how long you’ve been in the NBA, you’ve seen many talented young players. When you look at Miles Bridges – not only in games, but also what you’ve seen behind-the-scenes – what do you think of his ceiling and what are your thoughts on his game?
MW: The sky is the limit for that kid, man. I mean, he’s a kid! He’s 20 years old! It’s crazy what he can do. He’s such a freak athlete (laughs and shakes his head). In the three months I’ve been around him, he’s done some things that I haven’t seen guys do in a long time. He’s just an absolute freak athlete. He’s special. It’s also great to see that he comes in and works hard every single day. He has a great attitude; he’s always positive. He wants to get better, man. He’s going to be really good. We’re really excited to have him on the team.
This year, you have a new head coach in James Borrego. There’s always somewhat of an adjustment period that teams have to go through when there’s a new head coach, so what has that been like and what are your initial thoughts on Coach Borrego?
MW: It’s been awesome, man. JB has been awesome with us from day one. He was very honest with us, very upfront with us. He has a vision in terms of how he sees the team and how he wants us to play, and he’s told us all about his vision. I think the guys are really trying to buy-in to what he wants us to do. There’s obviously still work we have to do as players to get to that next level, but we all believe in him, man. We believe in him, we believe in his staff and we believe in his system. I can tell that the guys are really, really enjoying playing for him.
This is now your fifth season playing with Kemba Walker, so you’ve seen his development up close. When you got here, he was 24 years old and entering his fourth season. Since then, he’s made two All-Star teams and gotten better every year. Right now, he’s averaging career-highs in points (28.3), assists (6.2), rebounds (4.4) and field goal percentage (45.3 percent) among other things. I’m sure you’ve watched him mature as a person too, since you grow up a lot from 24 years old to 28 years old.
MW: He’s been the same game off the court, honestly. He’s still the same as when I met him for the first time five years ago. When I was first coming to Charlotte, I had heard nothing but good things about him. Then, when I finally met him, he really was great. And he’s still that exact same guy. He hasn’t changed one bit.
But on the court, his development has been really, really fun to watch. When you see how hard he works, when you see his routine every day, when you see how much he puts into this [to improve his game], he definitely deserves all of the success he’s having right now and all of the success he’s going to have in the future.
If you never played basketball, what career would you have pursued instead? I know you started getting NBA attention at a young age, but have you ever thought about that?
MW: I’ve thought about it many times, but I honestly don’t know. I’m very much a workaholic type of person, so I definitely see myself having a great job – or maybe I’d be working two jobs. I love to work; that’s how I was raised and that’s what I’ve always seen my parents do. But I don’t know what field I’d be in. I mean, I love to work with kids. Maybe I’d be working with an after-school program? Maybe I’d be a teacher? Something like that seems great.
Are you superstitious at all or do you have any pre-game ritual?
MW: I wouldn’t say I’m superstitious, but I’m very big on routines. I think I walk that fine line between being superstitious and following the exact same routine (laughs).
What’s your routine? Can you walk me through it?
MW: I lift weights every single morning before shootaround. Then, I come to shootaround and go through that. After shootaround, I’ll come back home to shower and then eat. My pre-game meal is always either grilled salmon or grilled chicken. I’ve done that for 14 years and I will not change that. With the salmon or chicken, I’ll always have white rice and either green beans or broccoli. That’s my meal literally every single game day. Then, I come to the arena, get shots up, ice, watch some film and get ready for the game.
I’m really big on routines, but I don’t need to have, like, the same socks or a certain pair of shoes or anything, which is why I say I’m not really superstitious. I wear the same pair of shoes as much as I can for comfort, but it has nothing to do with superstition. Let’s say I had 20 points tonight and then I had 2 points tomorrow. It’s not like I’d change my shoes, you know? So I don’t think I’m superstitious, but I’m definitely someone who sticks to the exact same routine.
Sometimes, unexpected things happen or you’ll have to play a day game. If your routine is screwed up, how do you feel on those days?
MW: Now, I think I’ve learned to adjust [my routine] and I know it’s going to be okay. But early in my career, it was hard. You go from having games at 7:00 or 7:30 game to, boom, now you’re playing at 2:00. Everything is a little different, you can’t get on the court at your normal time [to get up shots] like you usually would and a lot of little things are different. Now, I know what I need to do in order to get ready for games like that, so it’s not as bad anymore. But I definitely had to adjust to it when I was younger.
Have any of your teammates been really superstitious?
MW: I haven’t really come across too many superstitious guys in the NBA. But my high school coach, Casey Lindberg, was incredibly superstitious. I remember we went on a nice run, winning five or six games in a row, and we had been listening to the Nate Dogg album. One time, one of our upperclassmen forgot the album and my coach was not happy. But yeah, he was really superstitious down to the clothes he wore, which socks he wore, which shoes he wore. He and I and stay in contact to this day. He’s definitely the most superstitious person I’ve ever been around in my entire life.
How do you view your relationship with the media? I know some players view it as adversarial, but some players feel like the media can help them get exposure and tell their story. You’ve always been a guy who’s friendly, accessible and gracious with your time, which is greatly appreciated. What are your thoughts on the dynamic between players and the media?
MW: Thankfully, I’ve had really good interactions with the media. Obviously not all of my interactions with the media have been good, but [in those cases] I just try to keep things really professional. But most of my interactions have been good. I just think athletes, in any sport, just want the media to be fair. Here’s what I mean by fair. When you’re not playing well, it’s okay when the media has some things to say about it. But then when you are playing well, you shouldn’t still be getting criticized. It should just be fair. I think that’s all you can ask for when you’re dealing with the media.
I understand that you guys have a job to do, just like we do. This is your profession. But obviously, we aren’t always able to go out and write a big story like you guys are able to do [to change the narrative or tell our side of things]. That’s why I just try to keep it as professional as I can with those guys. And, again, thankfully I’ve always had pretty good interactions with the media.
BY Alex Kennedy /
PUBLISHED November/10/2018 /
Ray Allen helps open computer lab for students in Miami
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Ray Allen recently lived out one of his dreams by being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, but Allen is still focused on making the dreams of many children come true. Allen, through his Ray of Hope foundation, unveiled a new computer lab at Fienberg K-8 Center in Miami Beach on Friday.
The former Heat guard has made it the mission of his foundation to help school children in many of the communities he played in, including South Florida, have access to new technology. With support from Loews Miami Beach Hotel, Allen is set to have his annual celebrity golf tournament next Friday at the Miami Beach Country Club. Loews Miami Beach Managing Director Alex Tonarelli was also at the event, along with Miami-Dade schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
Since 2010, the Loews Miami Beach Hotel Celebrity Golf Tournament has raised almost a half a million dollars in resources for classrooms and students across Miami-Dade County.
The Ray of Hope foundation is a non-profit organization established by Allen.
Allen hopes the kids who see him in person and on the walls of the computer lab learn they can accomplish anything they put their minds to. He spoke with the students about his basketball and life experiences and encouraged them to follow their dreams. Allen said, “it is something great for them to walk in and say, I can be like that or I can do something of that similar magnitude. And that’s what I want all the kids to feel.”
This is the fourth computer lab Allen has helped open at South Florida schools through his foundation.
BY Will Manso /
PUBLISHED October/19/2018 /
Q&A with Grant Hill: ‘HOF is very validating for me’
He stopped playing the what if game years ago.
It was too painful, both physically and emotionally, for Grant Hill to go over all of the scenarios in his mind while trying to heal his body.
An All-American and two-time national champion at Duke, Hill continued his dominance in the early years of his NBA career with the Detroit Pistons. He shared Rookie of the Year honors with Jason Kidd in 1995 and was the man expected by many to serve as the superstar bridge for the league between the Michael Jordan era and whatever came next.
A seven-time All-Star and a five-time All-NBA selection, Hill was on a trajectory that could have seen him become one of the league’s all-time greats. He piled up 9,393 points, 3,417 rebounds and 2,720 assists in the first six seasons of his career. Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and LeBron James are the only three players in league history to eclipse those numbers after their first six seasons.
“There aren’t many people who get anointed to carry the crown of being the face of the league. And when Grant Hill came in he was basically anointed by the league, players and everyone, he was anointed to be the next face of the league,” former Pistons great and Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas said after Hill was announced as one of the selections for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018. “When you talk about 6-8 guys with a handle, we see a lot of those guys now, but Grant Hill was the first guy who came into the NBA that I remember being 6-8 with a killer crossover. His crossover wasn’t like Allen Iverson’s, but for a 6-8 guy, it was like Iverson’s.”
If not for multiple ankle injuries interrupting what should have been the prime of his career, Hill might very well have put up career numbers that matched his early profile. Instead, his 19-year career — which included stops with the Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and LA Clippers — is celebrated as much for his early brilliance as it was the perseverance he showed in his post-injury years.
“I’ve said this before, but if he and Penny Hardaway hadn’t gotten hurt and had to deal with the injuries they did during their careers, the bar for imagery, in terms of the player you wanted to be like if you were 6-7 or 6-8, it would have been those two guys,” Thomas said. “We see a lot of young players like that these days, guys who see LeBron James and Kevin Durant as the players they want to model their games after, the guys they want to play like. If Penny and Grant don’t get hurt, those are the two guys back in their day that everyone wants to play like.”
Hill would have settled for at least a brief return to his pre-injury form. But it never happened. He was a stellar role player, great in every locker room he set foot in and one of the league’s best ambassadors off the court. He only enjoyed rare flashes of the elite athleticism that marked his early years and retired on June 1, 2013.
Hill’s Hall of Fame case was bolstered by the combination of the quality and length of his NBA career, as well as his spectacular college career. In addition to the two national titles, he also led the Blue Devils to a third Final Four during his career from 1990-94. He also earned National Defensive Player of the Year, ACC Player of the Year and first-team All-American honors as a Blue Devil.
He is the first former Blue Devils player to receive Hall of Fame honors.
The son of former NFL Pro Bowl running back Calvin Hill and Janet Hill, Grant Hill insists he’s best known to the new generation of basketball fans for his work as an analyst for Turner Sports’ NBA and March Madness coverage.
He spoke with NBA.com about his journey from the Washington D.C. suburbs to his college and pro days and now Springfield, where the Hall of Fame class will be enshrined Sept. 7:
NBA.com: Do you look back at your basketball life, from high school to Duke to the NBA and nearly two decades in the league, and feel like it went by in a flash?
Hill: It’s funny, when you’re in it and particularly for me post-injury, those last nine years, it seemed like it was a long career. I mean, particularly when you’re in your late 30s, it’s like, ‘wow, I’ve been going at this for a while.’ But then you look back when you retire and now five years removed and you kind of reflect on it all, it does seem like it all went by pretty fast. I was just getting ready to come into the league and you’re coming off your college stuff, and it just doesn’t seem like college was 20 years ago or whatever it was. It doesn’t seem like I just started playing varsity at [South Lakes High in Reston, Va.] over 30 years ago. It’s like where did the time go. You are up and you can’t run anymore and you’re middle aged, and it’s like what happened?
NBA.com: Well, let’s go back to that time, before you hit high school and the varsity. When was that time or that moment for you when you realized basketball was going to be more than just a game for you?
Hill: I think in my pre-Duke years, there were two moments when it hit me. Up until high school I played soccer, basketball and whatever and I was a fan, more a fan of college basketball. I obviously knew about the NBA but I was still just a fan. You dreamed about it. But it was one of those things where the idea of it just seemed so impossible, you know. So for me at the end of my eighth grade year I played in a national tournament, an AAU tournament — and it looked a lot different then compared to what they look like now — and our team won the tournament. And playing on that stage in St. Louis, and [Chris] Webber and [Alan] Henderson and [Jamal] Mashburn were all there representing their teams, and even at that point, even though I was really young, I held my own. I was an All-Star, I thought I should have been MVP but another guy on my team got it. But at that point you are measuring yourself against the so-called best in the country and not just in your neighborhood or your neck of the woods. So that was a huge confidence booster.
NBA.com: You said there were two moments, what was the other one?
Hill: Yes, then came my freshman year of high school. I didn’t want to play varsity as a freshman. I wanted to play with my friends but my varsity coach asked me to play and my dad told me to play, and keep in mind I started high school when I was 13 so I was young. So again, I wanted to play with my friends on the freshmen team, who by the way went 22-0 that year, so if I had played with them I might have messed them up (laughing). But I played varsity and spending that year on the varsity and that experience gave me a big boost of confidence. I started getting letters from colleges and that summer and then my sophomore year is when things really took off. Now I’m not just one of the top young players in the D.C. area, you know the DMV, but I’m holding my own and putting up numbers with the best high school players in the DMV and around the country. And I think that’s when it really hit me that I’ve got a chance to play at a major Division I school. I certainly wasn’t thinking NBA or anything like the Hall of Fame back then, you didn’t go there. But college ball certainly was on my mind and the dream was to maybe have an opportunity to play for a national championship one day in college.
NBA.com: The environment then seems so much different than what it is for the elite high school players now. The hoop dream was there, but it seems like it’s gotten bigger, if that makes sense, in the years since you were a McDonald’s All-American and going along on your journey?
Hill: It’s funny you say that. I was recently with [Jason] Kidd and we had a chance to talk and reflect on our respective careers. And it was a little different for him growing up in Oakland and the Bay Area. He was maybe around older guys and guys who had been in the league, but you just didn’t think about the league when you were at those camps and tournaments with the other elite high school players. The conversations weren’t about the NBA, it was always about making it to the college level and finding the best place for you on that level. You had the dream, it was maybe always in the back of your mind, but the circumstances were so different a generation ago. Like I said, my confidence prior to my freshman year of high school to after my freshman year was night and day.
NBA.com: So much has been made over the years about you choosing Duke for college. Your mom wanted you to go to Georgetown and your dad wanted you to go to North Carolina. What made you split the middle and go with Duke?
Hill: The context of why my parents felt that way is pretty interesting. The first game I saw and really fell in love with the game was the 1982 NCAA title game with Georgetown and North Carolina. That game with Patrick Ewing and Sleepy Floyd for Georgetown and James Worthy and of course Michael Jordan as a freshman hitting that shot to win the game. From that moment on I followed those two teams. And we had just bought a Betamax and the first thing we taped was that Final Four, so I watched that game so many times I know the entire call, I memorized that game and was obsessed with it. And then Michael Jackson, who went to Georgetown, he went to my local high school and lived a couple streets down from me, so I started watching him when he was in high school. Back in the day you’d go to the local high school and watch the game and he was like this amazing player. I idolized him, really before I even really knew about college basketball. And he was going to Georgetown, so my mom ending up getting season tickets and my mom and I, we had two tickets, and we would go to all these games at the [Capital] Center and she became a huge Georgetown fan. And my dad had always been a fan of Dean Smith really based on a lot of what he did in the 1970s, integrating the ACC and just his stance on a lot of social issues more than just what he’d done as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. So those were the two schools I had grown up watching and they both had their own opinions as to what was best.
NBA.com: So like all good, obedient children, you chose Duke?
Hill: (Laughing) Exactly. But seriously, Duke, and really Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski), just made an impression on me. I got to know him and follow what he was doing with his teams and his program. And as our communication increased, phone calls and mail, and then going and taking official visits my junior year of high school, it was just something about him I believed in and I wanted to be a part of that program. I took one visit, one official visit, and when I came back from it I knew that’s where I wanted to be.
NBA.com: When you look back on that decision now and the legacy you left as one the greatest players in Duke and college basketball history on those championship teams, does it register that you are to someone else who Michael Jackson was to you, growing up and idolizing a star player who seemed larger than life?
Hill: It’s crazy. Like when I finished up at Duke and went into the NBA, I was kind of like the big brother. I’m in Detroit and you’ve got Elton Brand and Shane Battier and Corey Maggette and that whole crew and Jeff Capel, I’m not that far removed in terms of my age differential from those guys. Now you get to the mid-2000s and you fast forward realizing that I’m old enough to be a parent of some of these guys now and the kids like Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles and even R.J. Barrett, they are all sort of aware of what I did and my career at Duke, and certainly the ups and the downs of my professional career and even the television work keeps me somewhat relevant in their eyes, but it’s the parents who know me better than the kids. And that humbles you real quick. I happened to be at Duke last year and gave a speech and had a couple of speaking engagements during homecoming. And R.J. was on his visit and I think his parents were more excited to see me than he was. Jayson Tatum’s mom is a die-hard Tamia (wife, artist) fan, so it’s funny how I went from a contemporary to big brother to uncle to now. I don’t know, some of these kids were born after I was healthy in Detroit, and it’s crazy. There’s also a sense of real pride to know that I played a part in the legacy of those teams. These young guys weren’t born when we did what we did at Duke, but the impact is still felt and there’s certainly a healthy respect for what we were able to accomplish as a group.
NBA.com: You mentioned your healthy years in Detroit and it must seem like another lifetime. Even with the injured years, you lasted 19 years. Do you still wrestle with the idea of what might have been if you weren’t injured or do you look back and see nearly 20 years in the league and marvel at how you got through it all?
Hill: You know, that’s a really good question. I think when I was in the midst of it, fighting the injuries in Orlando and then went to Phoenix, you’re just so caught up in the moment and looking forward. You don’t have time to dwell on what did or didn’t happen in the past. You’re only focused on what do I need to do to get healthy, to add value to this team, what do I need to do to be competitive in my late 30s and into my 40s? You’re just so focused and the direction is forward. For me actually, when I retired and people start talking about where you fit and the Hall of Fame and things like that, you slow down a little bit and contemplate your basketball life, so to speak. I kind of convinced myself in a way that, and maybe it was a way to protect myself if none of this [Hall of Fame] ever happened, that I didn’t need that stuff because I know what I overcame and what I had to fight through just to get back and play in my final years. That was the most important thing for me. That validated the journey for me. At least that’s what I convinced myself of immediately after I retired. But then when this all came about and I got that call (from the Hall of Fame), you realize that you might have suppressed some things.
NBA.com: You were supposed to be the heir apparent to Michael Jordan. I remember the arguments when you played in Detroit, before Kobe and T-Mac and Vince Carter. That has to be a hard thing to shake, what could have or should have been?
Hill: It does bother me that I was hurt, that I was on this trajectory early on in Detroit and things were coming together and then it’s an incomplete. I didn’t get a chance to see it through, to see what could have been. And that’s something that, if I’m being honest with myself, it really, really bothered me. And maybe I’m getting too deep with this, but the Hall of Fame is very validating for me and I didn’t realize how much I needed it, how much I needed that recognition that … I don’t always see what I did back in the day, back in the 90s. I remember the end. And I remember the hard times, the struggles. So I sat with J-Kidd recently and one of the amazing things … his career was amazing and he solidified everything he was able to accomplish with the numbers and the championship and just a stellar, long career. He was able to see it through. But to hear him talk about me and to hear what he thought of me back in the 90s, even now, not to say that I was overly sensitive, but somebody like him remembers. And I don’t remember it the same way. I remember being hurt. I’ve tended to focus on the struggle. So in a round sort of way this has all been a validating thing for me and confirmed some things for me. I did some good things, I did play in the Olympics. I was elite, for a period of time, you know. It wasn’t all bad, if that makes sense.
NBA.com: It does. The reason I brought that up is because I had this conversation with Dominique Wilkins the year he went into the Hall of Fame and he admitted that he’d done a poor job recognizing his significance while he was playing. He said he didn’t compartmentalize his career while he was in the midst of it because he was working so hard to reach a certain level that he just didn’t have or make the time to take a step back and really appreciate what he’d accomplished. Is it difficult for you as well to get a grasp on what you and your career might mean to the outside world until you get the proper distance and a different perspective?
Hill: You really don’t have that time when you’re in the middle of it. You just don’t. And I wonder, too, if today’s era and generation of players will have a different perspective, will they have more awareness because of social media. I don’t know. In my case, it was an interesting journey and everyone’s story is unique. But yeah, I forget sometimes, even my kids remind me. When I was in Phoenix, my daughter Myla would go on YouTube and look at old highlights and she said, ‘oh dad, you weren’t always a scrub.’ And you repair your ego a little bit, you look at it and go, ‘oh yeah, I was pretty good at one time.’ I’ve had more of those sort of moments now that reflect and get a chance to look back over the years to see some of the things I was fortunate enough to do. I don’t think I appreciated how talented or good I was while I was going through those moments, but it really lifts you up to have people remind you.
BY Sekou Smith /
PUBLISHED September/1/2018 /
Key Piece of Nets’ Rebuild, Jarrett Allen Embraces Life
Jarrett Allen says he’s never been to a bar, hasn’t even tried it. He doesn’t own a fake ID, even though the kids back in Texas used to have them, even though no bouncer in New York City would challenge a goateed near 7-footer when it comes to the matter of whether he is of legal drinking age. Allen has no interest in deception. It’ll only be another year until he can drink for real, he says, and he can wait.
Besides, Allen prefers to stay busy with more sober tasks: examining computer parts, scanning Reddit, napping, calling home. He recently spent two hours in Manhattan at the Museum of Natural History, checking out the dinosaurs, the sea creatures, the famous giant whale. He has the Bronx Zoo and the local aquarium on deck. He crushes The Legend of Zelda. He’s learning to cook, trying his luck with chicken and vegetables, and a steak one time too. “I wouldn’t say I’m good,” Allen says. “But I’m surviving for a 20-year-old.”
It’s the simple things that please Allen, who is living alone for the first time. After two decades spent on twin-sized mattresses, he takes great joy in noting that he’s expanded to a California King. He has a self-imposed midnight video game cutoff, but sometimes he runs through it, and who’s gonna stop him? Nobody.
Allen seems to be living his best life, balanced and varied. By day, he is a dominant gamer and an explorer of New York City. By night, he is a rising star in the NBA, a vital piece of the Brooklyn Nets‘ yearslong rebuild. The combination makes him unique, but that’s not always the easiest thing to be in the league; questions have been raised about whether Allen can balance basketball with his other interests.
“There’s a certain mold that you expect of an NBA player, and when people break the mold, people are like, ‘Wow, he’s so different,'” says Spencer Dinwiddie, Allen’s best friend on the Nets. “But to me, Jarrett is a fairly normal guy, just not a normal NBA player.”
He continues: “His passion for the game is underrated. And just because he likes tech things and video games and has passions outside basketball, that doesn’t mean he’s any less dedicated to being the best center in the league, which I believe he’s capable of being.”
In June 2017, Allen was drafted No. 22 by Brooklyn. He entered the league with low immediate expectations. He was raw and skinny, after all, and anyway, non-lottery rookies often tally more nights in the G League than points per game. But Allen hung around as a reserve, surviving.
In December, Carmelo Anthony approached and complimented Allen after a game, providing a jolt of confidence. In January, Allen made two starts. In February, he started every night. He gained steam. In March, his blocks per game climbed toward 2.0. In April, he swatted a career-high five shots against the Bucks, then four the next game and four more in the contest after that.
Allen has the makings of a dominant shot-blocker, and though the modern NBA demands more than that from its centers, Allen has a chance to be more. Defensively, Allen believes he’ll one day be capable of switching onto guards, allowing the Nets to oppose small-ball lineups with a legit 6’11” center.
On offense, Allen makes his money moving within the paint. The Nets, says head coach Kenny Atkinson, “all love playing with him because he’s gonna sprint into a screen, hit somebody and roll.” Allen finishes lobs emphatically. Otherwise, he likes to hang by the rim while ball-handlers do their thing, and if a bounce pass or wraparound handoff comes his way, Allen will collect with soft hands and dunk it home.
Part of Allen’s growth in that area stems from his introduction to serious film study. When he entered the league, he struggled with certain tactical matters. It was a yellow flag for Atkinson, who recalls a coaches meeting in which they all wondered to each other: “Does this guy watch basketball? Does he have League Pass? There was a push from coaches, like, ‘Son, you better start watching games.’ And guess what he did? He started watching games.”
He continues: “I’m sure if you asked, ‘Would you rather play Overwatch or watch a game?’ he’d probably say, ‘Overwatch.’ That’s where people say he’s got a peculiar personality. But when challenged with a task, when asked to improve something, he quietly does it.”
Specifically, Allen and point guard D’Angelo Russell studied some of the great P&R tandems in recent history, including Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler in New Orleans and Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire in Phoenix. During the playoffs, Allen kept a close eye on Clint Capela and Al Horford.
It’s easy to draw similarities to the former, but there is reason to believe that Allen’s repertoire may come to resemble Horford’s too. His free-throw percentage spiked from 56.4 at Texas to 77.6 last year, providing early evidence of a refined shooting touch. This summer, he’s adding muscle and developing new tricks. Namely, he’s sampling a Eurostep (to slow himself down on dives to the rim) and improving his three-ball (Allen shoots a couple hundred per practice and claims to hit roughly 50 percent of them).
Count Dinwiddie among the believers. “I think this year you’ll see some corner threes, and he’ll be more dynamic the stronger and bigger he gets—as an on-ball defender, [guarding] the pick-and-roll, or with brute strength, walling up a dominant post guy, which at times he struggled with last year,” he says. “You can’t name a skill that he can’t really do. Good touch, good post footwork, can shoot the ball, high IQ, he sets screens, he rolls hard, quick hands to steal pocket passes, and he’s also vertically gifted enough to block shots at the rim.”
Perhaps the only skill missing from that list is the presumed one when it comes to athletic centers: rebounding. Atkinson desperately wants Allen to improve on the glass, where strength and assertiveness rule the day.
Last season, Atkinson benched Allen multiple times because of rebounding issues (which Allen appreciated as tough love). Atkinson would then rip Allen during the ensuing film session. To Atkinson’s delight, the big man always seemed to respond.
“He doesn’t have an ego,” Atkinson says, “but he has a ton of pride, and he doesn’t want to fail. That’s the part that people were missing with him, because he’s smart and he can apply whatever you’re teaching.”
Allen is one of five core pieces ages 25 or under with whom the Nets will move forward. He is joined up front by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson; Russell, Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert make a lively backcourt triumvirate. Four of them are recent first-round picks, and the fifth, Dinwiddie, finished third in Most Improved Player voting in June. The team’s record with these players is not good, but together, they’re an inspiring group, not just because they’re young and talented but also because they’re pioneers, leading the Nets to someplace worth going.
This forthcoming window doesn’t merely represent a chance for Brooklyn to be really good—it represents its first chance to be a real franchise. The Brooklyn Nets have never existed in any legitimate, relevant way. At first they were a Jay-Z brand with a contrived team apparently attached, and then they were less than that. But the current group is authentic and pulsing, with fan favorites and player development and everything. It is real: It is incomplete, and it captures the imagination. It has a feel.
“It’s a new era,” says Allen. “We’re going in the right direction.”
On a Friday afternoon in June, Allen sits in a booth at his favorite restaurant in Brooklyn, Forno Rosso. Allen arrived late to lunch—traffic—and apologized, which on its own makes him an unusual NBA personality. His trademark Afro is in midseason form. (It’s about five years old now, and only Allen’s father is allowed to cut it.) He’s wearing a generic NBA T-shirt, stamped with the company logo, with gray joggers and checkered shoes. It is a look that neither invites nor discourages recognition. He’s happy to chat with fans—or not.
I had suggested we meet at a barbecue joint somewhere to make him feel at home (or else far from it), but he took a liking to Italian food as a kid in Texas. I ask if it’s any good there. Allen is careful not to offend the apparent Italian population of Round Rock, his hometown. “You have your spots,” he says. “Normally, when I travel, I experience the better ones.”
Allen is smart, considerate and easygoing. He has a habit of saying, “I’m not gonna lie,” as if a strong opinion is forthcoming, before revealing something unobjectionable, like that he’s getting hot during a scorching summer day or that he wishes he had a balcony.
He’s tough to shake. When the Nets acquired Dwight Howard this offseason, theoretically blocking Allen’s path to a breakthrough sophomore campaign, he was excited; Howard was Allen’s favorite player growing up. Then, naturally, he was disappointed but only because he realized he’d have to guard Howard in practice. And then, OK, with great hesitation, Allen admits that the acquisition confused him a little bit, but by the way, he has great faith in Nets general manager Sean Marks and feels respected because Marks called Allen after the deal. (The Nets quickly bought out Howard.)
“That’s him in general,” Dinwiddie says of Allen’s courteous nature. “He’s consistently himself, and that’s not always the case in the entertainment industry. He’s a breath of fresh air.”
Jarrett’s father, Leonard Allen Sr., played several seasons in Spain before beginning his second career at Dell, where he works as a manager. One might assume that Allen Sr. pushed Jarrett onto his current path, but that wasn’t the case at all; Jarrett credits his father with teaching him how to be independent.
“If it’s something serious, my dad would step in and give me the advice I need,” Jarrett says. “But if it’s getting in trouble in school, it’s like: ‘You did this. You have to take responsibility for your actions, and you can’t back down from anything.'”
Allen’s mother, Cheryl, is a little more hands-on. “I don’t want to call her my agent, but my mom is the person you have to go through,” Allen says. He’ll be calling her later to rehash this interview. “She just wants to find the best situation for me.” When Allen went house-hunting in Brooklyn last year, Cheryl demanded that his building have a full-time doorman. But the love swings both ways: It was Jarrett who chose an apartment with two bedrooms. “When my parents come by,” he says, “I don’t want them sleeping on the couch. I gotta have respect for that.”
Allen was born in San Diego, but when he was eight, his family made the three-day drive to Round Rock, Texas. There, Allen was a self-described normal kid. He joined the basketball team as an excuse to hang with his friends. He was not a particularly serious student nor a troublemaker, excluding the summer nights when he’d blow past bedtime, usually playing Call of Duty. (It was on the sticks—not the driveway hoop—where Jarrett developed a rivalry with his older brother, Leonard Jr., who would also go on to play Division I ball.)
Allen attended a boarding high school just 45 minutes from home, a stone’s throw by Texas standards. It was chosen by Cheryl for its strong academics. Meanwhile, Allen didn’t see himself as an athletic standout there, just lanky and tall.
When D-I schools aggressively came calling, he was startled. After all, Allen had never paid attention to that stuff; not only was he oblivious to the circus of college recruiting, but also, he was basically not a sports fan, period. For all his hours spent gaming, he never liked to pop in 2K and still doesn’t. He is a supposed Spurs fan who can’t quite recall the last time they won the title or for which team Pau Gasol currently plays (it’s the Spurs). He’s a San Diego native who confuses the Padres with the Dodgers.
“When I got my first offer for D-I, I didn’t realize the whole college scene is that big,” he says. “I didn’t know people were offering money to people to go to college. I didn’t experience any of that. … I was just playing, and I was getting offers from like Baylor and the University of Houston, and it was nice, but I didn’t realize until senior year when I had to decide that people wanted to know like immediately.”
Allen prolonged his decision, skipping the early signing period in November and then the late one in April. In June of 2016, he chose the University of Texas, just 20 minutes from Round Rock. Amid weekly trips home to wash his laundry—and while maintaining a 3.9 GPA—Allen broke through: 13.4 points, 8.4 boards and 1.5 blocks per game.
Any questions regarding his basketball expertise were proven silly. “He got better and better with his capacity for that stuff,” says Longhorns head coach Shaka Smart. “The one thing about Jarrett that sets him apart from pretty much any other player I’ve been around is his desire and his insistence, even, on learning. He’s very curious, and he wants to try to figure things out. He’d ask questions, and I think that’s a big part of why he made such big strides.”
By the end of his freshman season, it was clear that Allen would have a place in the NBA. Worst-case, he’d be a jumpy rim protector; at best, who knows.
And yet, as Allen made his way through the predraft process, teams kept inquiring about something odd. The love-for-the-game thing, Allen calls it.
“People say I don’t look interested when I play because I’m not a big emotional guy on the court,” he says. “That’s probably where it spawned from.” It’s true that Allen is pretty stoic out there. Look, for example, at his February poster on Lauri Markkanen: After flushing through a one-handed tomahawk, Allen landed directly above his victim—prime taunting position—and simply directed his shoulders upcourt and jogged away.
But more than likely there was another element in play, one that goes beyond Allen’s demeanor. It was the idea that Allen—who came to basketball incidentally and because of his height, who only started studying the sport two years ago, who is more inclined to watch science and space clips on YouTube than MJ highlights—didn’t fit the profile of a really good basketball player. The very traits that distinguished Allen were being flipped on their heads and served back to him with skepticism.
Many teams, Allen says: “Were like, ‘We heard reports that you aren’t in love with the game.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know where you’re getting that.’ I remember Portland asked that, and I told them straight up, ‘That’s bulls–t.'” If Allen curses, he means it.
“I think it’s definitely a rare thing that people weren’t so into the sport that they’re playing professionally,” he says. “I love playing it. It’s just, outside of that is the whole world, and I don’t want to sit 24/7 in front of a basketball.”
Smart came to appreciate that side of Allen at UT, but he was not surprised when NBA teams called to ask about it. “Jarrett is so honest. I think he’s more honest and authentic than a lot of guys during the interview process,” Smart says.
“They’d ask him a question, and he’d give a literal answer. One of the teams was a little taken aback because they said, ‘Could you live without the game?’ Jarrett said, ‘Yeah I could.’ What he meant was: ‘Literally, yes, I could.’ Like that’s true for every person. There’s very few people who would jump off the top of a tall building. We’d all be upset without basketball, but his point was, ‘It doesn’t define me.'”
BY Leo Sepkowitz /
PUBLISHED July/31/2018 /
‘Now This Is What I Do’: Inside the World of Athletes’ LinkedIn Pages
Baron Davis gets bored like the rest of us, and when that happens, he does what we all do. Take, for instance, one night a couple of years back: He lounged on his couch, doing very little. He must have felt the type of sweeping boredom that has you mindlessly dig deep into your phone, scrolling through the Instagram feed, then opening Twitter and doing the same, then reflexively checking Instagram again.
What to do…
With no other choice, Davis, a retired 13-year NBA vet, opened up LinkedIn.
At first, he didn’t know how to use the app, didn’t understand its purpose. In fact, he’d long avoided it, despite so many push notifications. And yet, as he powered through on that night, something funny happened.
“I started seeing all these people, and I’m like, Connect, connect, connect, connect, connect, connect, connect,” he says in an interview with B/R. There were old friends, business partners and former teammates. He found that one marketing person who worked on that one commercial. That businessperson he’d admired. “I became obsessed with the app.”
Davis was an entrepreneur, and he longed for a way to utilize his resources to advance those interests. His company, Baron Davis Enterprises, looked for young innovators who wanted to help underserved communities. Davis attended business seminars, trying to learn and network. Only there was a problem: At most events, he recalls, hardly anybody would be there, or he’d be the only athlete there, or the only African American, and maybe there’d be one Asian person, one Indian person and one woman there, but not more. He wasn’t finding what—or whom—he was looking for.
Meanwhile, on LinkedIn, opportunities abound. There, Davis found a diverse group of budding entrepreneurs with varied interests and disposable income. Many of them happened to be athletes, updating the world on their latest endeavor, often a tech investment.
If LinkedIn hasn’t reached the ubiquity or popularity of Instagram or Twitter, it is undeniably, modestly, ascending across sports. It’s a funny development for a historically stuffy platform that houses online resumes and uninspired DMs. But maybe it’s not so surprising: Today, the winningest players in sports also fuel hot startups and grace the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek. LinkedIn is helping this new generation of business-minded athletes establish their second careers, often before their first ones come to an end.
Many athletes operate their own pages, complete with work histories and snazzy profile pictures. Agents and PR reps might write their bios, but players mostly do the rest: forging connections, returning direct messages, and sharing, liking and publishing stories. Now, in the midst of the NBA and NFL offseason, it’s especially busy. But even during the playing season, active players check LinkedIn every week; business, as Pacers forward Thaddeus Young says, is a year-round cycle.
The NBA champs are on there, with Steph Curry and Andre Iguodalaready to expand their portfolios. Metta World Peace has leadership skills formally endorsed by a former teammate, plus 121 others. David Robinson promotes the capital group he founded in 2008, though nobody can top Shaquille O’Neal‘s long list of post-retirement accomplishments.
Across sports, baseball’s all-time home run leader, Barry Bonds, has a neatly designed page, and Rangers pitcher Cole Hamels’ profile spotlights his freight management company. Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who co-founded an equity firm worth over $4 billion, has over 500 connections. Former New York Jet D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who’s making his way in finance, posts on the site nearly every week.
All of these people—and many more like them—are, as Thaddeus Young says, “high net-worth individuals.”
Harrison Barnes, for instance, is in the middle of a $94 million max contract. Barnes boasts a substantial experience history on LinkedIn, full of brand ambassadorships. He recalls outlining it himself a few years ago while riding on the Warriors team bus to practice. Andrew Bogut, James Michael McAdoo and [team community ambassador] Adonal Foyle all loved LinkedIn, and they implored Barnes to give it a try.
So on the bus that day, Barnes prepared to upload his profile photo. “A picture of me in a uniform?” he asked the bus. “No!” his teammates shouted back. “A business picture!”
Young himself is playing on a $54 million contract, and he has used some of that money to invest in budding tech companies. With the help of LinkedIn, he’s established himself as a legit businessman.
“It’s kind of like LeBron James,” Young says. “Obviously, we see him as the best basketball player in the world right now, but when everybody raves about him, they rave about not just his basketball skills, but his business mentality. That’s what I strive for.”
Young has an unofficial business partner in teammate Trevor Booker. “He throws me investor decks, and I throw him investor decks,” Young says.
Booker co-founded JB Fitzgerald, a venture capital firm with more than 100 employees. He may not carry the profile of a Curry or Kevin Durant, but he’s been in the league for eight seasons, will sign a new contract this summer and is committed to making sure his money goes to work for him. “Some guys say they’re entrepreneurs and they want this and that, but they don’t take it serious the way we do,” Booker says. “That’s one thing that I pride myself on.”
Booker notes that some of JB Fitzgerald’s deals have materialized through his LinkedIn account. But, he says, the goal is not only to find new business opportunities on there—it’s also to alter public perception.
“I have a mind that I use on something other than basketball,” Booker says. “A lot of people think athletes just stick to sports or only know sports, so I’m definitely trying to change that stigma.”
Former WNBA player Tamika Catchings, one of many recent retirees on the site, can appreciate Booker’s goal. Today, she runs a tea shop in Indianapolis, operates a foundation that mentors young people and serves as the Pacers’ director of player programs and franchise development. LinkedIn, she says, “gives you more credibility. It’s like, ‘Yeah I was an athlete, that’s what I did, but now this is what I do.'”
Ferguson, who retired in 2016, struggled for a while with that distinction. “When I retired,” he says, “I had to do some soul-searching. I tried a number of different things that were closer to football, like broadcasting, thought about being an agent or scout, and then something in me thought, Maybe go outside the scope.”
He landed an internship with EisnerAmper, an accounting and advisory firm in New York City. The company’s social media team encouraged Ferguson to use LinkedIn, and he noticed that Kelvin Beachum, a fellow offensive lineman, had a big presence on the site.
Now, Ferguson’s profile looks like most anybody’s in wealth management. His photo depicts him in a striped blue shirt and dark jacket. He shares articles about developing technology and posts photos from various professional events. Everything about him looks ordinary, really, until you scroll to the part about playing football for a decade. “Professional Athlete,” the listing reads. “Accomplishments: All Rookie Team, 3x Pro Bowler, 167 consecutive starts.”
For Ferguson, those stats may be a funny footnote, but for some, listing them on LinkedIn is crucial. Consider Terrance King, a former Division II standout at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. In 2013, he graduated and hit the international basketball circuit. He’s played for teams in Ireland, Argentina and elsewhere. His LinkedIn profile picture shows him dunking.
Terrance King is not looking to distribute seed money, and yet he may be better served by LinkedIn than any other type of athlete.
Within the middle and lower rungs of international hoops, franchises can be fairly mysterious, with sparse information available to American players. King says that it’s common practice for traveling players to contact would-be teammates on LinkedIn, where they share their insights.
“Usually the guys will get right back to you and give you an honest opinion about the team, coaching staff, front office and the city,” King says. “We look out for each other because nobody wants to end up in a bad situation where the team doesn’t pay the players or it’s not a safe area.”
Still, as pervasive as LinkedIn has become for athletes at every level of the professional spectrum, it isn’t likely to overtake the social platforms that are actually, y’know, fun. After all, it isn’t exactly built with site-surfing in mind. But then, just being its dull old self, LinkedIn offers something dynamic.
“As athletes, there’s an opportunity to do a lot of great stuff,” Davis says. “Looking at how Andre [Iguodala] is doing, Trevor Booker is doing—those guys who are not superstars or All-Star players, but seeing the type of people they’re surrounding themselves with and the deals they’re doing—that’s the most fascinating thing. That’s what I get the most joy from, because I get to invest in things and follow my friends.”
BY Leo Sepkowitz /
PUBLISHED July/12/2018 /
In a moment that went viral after the Warriors won the NBA title last month, coach Steve Kerr is seen embracing Quinn Cook, a backup point guard who dipped in and out of the G League before seeming to find a secure spot on Golden State in the 2017-18 season.
Kerr told the former Duke guard that he was so happy for him and to always remember that he helped get the team there – especially with his contributions in playoff games. Then, he tells Cook that he belongs in the NBA and can’t wait to coach him next year.
For Cook, it was a dream come true. He’s been working since he went undrafted in 2015 after leading the Blue Devils to a national title to prove that he belonged in the league – turning down, he told For The Win on our podcast on Monday, offers to play overseas (seemingly for a lot more money than the G League) because he knew he wanted his shot.
So what was going through his mind when he heard Kerr tell him he belongs?
“I just appreciate it,” he said on the podcast. “I always appreciate Coach Kerr for the relationship that we established this year. Even before, when I wasn’t playing a lot. He was a guy who would always make sure I was good. We just established a relationship early.
“When I contributed a lot, when I played a lot he would just give me so much confidence every day on a daily basis. We just formed a great relationship and he could always trust me – whether it was playing 30 minutes or playing crucial seven minutes, he could always trust me and we developed a great bond. For him to tell me that, when the confetti is coming down when we won an NBA championship, for him to tell me that, for that to be on his mind, meant a lot to me. I’m happy a camera was right there to capture it.”
BY Nina Mandell /
PUBLISHED July/3/2018 /
For The Win
After ‘therapeutic year,’ Gerald Henderson ready to contribute
Gerald Henderson handled the hip pain on the basketball court, playing multiple seasons with severe arthritis.
But he had enough of the pain that drifted into his everyday life.
“My hip had deteriorated so much, it was bone on bone,” he said. “It was grinding all day whenever I wanted to move. Working out for any extended period was painful. It was just tough then going home with the family and you’re in pain, you’re just kind of on edge.
“Just overall, I was not in a great state of mind, and I had to make that decision, and it was the best decision for myself and my family and for my health.”
Henderson, who is a free agent this summer, decided on a progressive surgery called hip resurfacing in which a surgeon places a metal cap on the femoral head and replaces the damaged bone with a metal shell, eliminating the bone-on-bone arthritic friction.
The surgery, which it not a hip replacement because the femoral head or thighbone is not completely removed, has been performed in the U.S. since 2006, according to Dr. Edwin Su who performed Henderson’s surgery.
“He has very good bone quality and structure,” said Su, an orthopaedic joint replacement surgeon at the Hospital For Special Surgery in New York. “The fact he was competing at a high level with a bad hip already, that tells me he has the muscle strength to support his body even in the setting of bone-on-bone arthritis.
“That’s a good sign that once I fix that hip and get rid of the bone-on-bone arthritis, he’s going to be even better. He’s not going to have the pain he had before.”
Su said Tiago Splitter is the only other NBA player he can recall undergoing the same procedure.
“The procedure is designed for younger patients because it preserves as much bone as possible, and it creates a joint that’s very stable which is more conducive to a young person’s lifestyle,” Su said.
Surgery required Henderson to miss the 2017-18 season for recovery and rehab.
“I love to play which is why I played with the pain for a number of years,” he said. “But it just wasn’t worth it anymore. My overall well-being and health became more important at that time.”
Now, he’s ready to rejoin the NBA. He had teams willing to sign him a year ago despite the bad hip.
“In terms of my hip, it’s the best it’s been in a long time,” Henderson said. “You go three or four years and you have an injury, a lot of stuff gets off balance. Overall, I’ve been able to get my body into really good shape – strength and mobility from my toes to my head. It’s been a therapeutic year.”
He spent the year recovering and rehabbing and returning to game condition. He worked with physical therapists and trainers and remained around the game visiting Duke where he played college basketball. He sat in on coaches’ meetings and practices.
“It was tough,” Henderson said. “It probably made it worse that I watched so many games. I have a lot of buddies who play so I tried to watch them and keep up with them. It’s tough. You’re typically gone half the time. You’re always on the move. Then you find yourself in a position where that’s not happening and you’re sitting at home doing the same stuff every day. It takes a lot of discipline and not sulking about your situation and looking forward to what you’re trying to accomplish.”
He has been cleared for and participating in all basketball-related activities, working out six days a week on the court, in the weight room and in the pool. He also does yoga and cryotherapy to decrease inflammation and help with recovery.
Playing his three previous seasons with hip pain, Henderson still played at least 72 games a season, averaging 10.1 points in 24.2 minutes per game.
“I want to be on a team that’s committed to winning and can realistically be in a position to win,” Henderson said. “There’s nothing like being on a team where everybody has the same goal, everybody’s unselfish and plays the game the right way and that all leads to success in the end. That’s what I’m looking for. I’m looking forward to be a big part of that.
“I don’t intend to go somewhere and just be the veteran voice on the team and watch everybody play and encourage guys, which I absolutely can do – be a great a teammates and a veteran voice – but I intend to do that along with playing and performing well and contributing like I very much have. I feel like I’m at my physical prime, and this hip injury is just a bump in the road. It will take me a new place in my career.”
BY Jeff Zilgitt /
PUBLISHED June/26/2018 /