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Sunday, July 28, 2013

To Be Continued ... More Q & A

Eastern Long Island from Orient Point Ferry (T. Peter Lyons)
Picking up where I left off earlier this gorgeous Sunday I'm now on a ferry boat from Orient Point, Long Island to New London, Connecticut en route to The Cape for 24 hours of solid R & R ... and maybe even a Cape Cod Baseball League game! (Go Kettleers!)

Back to the student-led Q & A:

1. Would you have preferred working in MLB or did you like your job working at the NBA? -- This is a question which came from my intro... a story about trying for an internship at MLB but having a different schedule than what Baseball needed at the time.

A - It is amazing that I could've landed an internship at Baseball, finished it and been kicked out the door, left to rummage through the Help Wanted ads forever and ever.  Instead, that stroke of luck - to be turned down by MLB - led me to the NBA and on December 20, 1980, I walked through the door never dreaming ...

  A. I'd actually get a job.

  B. I'd work at the NBA and enjoy (nearly) every single day I entered the door at 645 Fifth Avenue to the offices of the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association.  That lasted from 1980 and all the way until the start of the 2008 Summer Olympics. (I called it quits when the team headed over to Beijing).

In short, I am 100-times happier that I was able to intern at the NBA and work in basketball.  Baseball was a school-era thought, a real dream, but, truthfully, I had a much deeper knowledge of the NBA. I grew up in a "basketball family."  We watched thousands of games (NY Nets (ABA), the Knicks, St. John's, local high school (Trinity, all of the CHSAA, including great teams at St. Agnes, St. Anthony's St. Doms (Tom Riker era); Hempstead, Malverne, Roosevelt (Dr. J) and LI Lutheran (Reggie Carter).

I can state without doubt, I really hit the ground running when I interned at the NBA. I thinnk I excelled because of that "basketball" knowledge, including a love and respect for the NBA's history and the ABA's history. The foundation made my job a little easier and it allowed the people I worked for to let me write, research and to be creative outside of my daily chores (clipping newspapers). Looking back, I was born to be at the NBA and I left some of my "DNA" with the league and the league forged the very "DNA" in my own blood.  (Plus, guess where I met my wife, Clare)?

2. What was it like to be one of the "PR guys" for the 1992 USA Dream team?

A - It was great! It was the experience for a lifetime and I only wish I had appreciated it more at the time. It was a long haul and throughout the experience, there were a number of - let's call them obstacles - put in front of us by many people who chose to make our lives difficult rather than try to help us out. Most, if not all, were Americans.

So, the vivid memory, unfortunately, is how tough it was and how mentally grinding it was at the outset (in Barcelona). We had been working with the players for years and years. In essence, we (meaning the PR team and the small "front office" people - like Rod Thorn/GM, Kim Bohuny/Basketball Ops and logistics, Horace Balmer and Larry Richardson/Security, Nancy Hayward/everything from tickets to hotels to doing all the arrangements for David Stern and Russ Granik and a bunch more - all great people.

On the PR side, we were "tight" with most of the players and we had everyone's trust.  Everyone, except Christian Laettner, because he hadn't met us until the team camp in LaJolla. But, he undoubtedly watched Magic and Larry, Stockton and Malone, MJ and Pippen and all the guys listen and "DO" exactly what we asked of them, so he followed along.  Quite frankly, he wasn't in very high demand, so it really didn't matter much. 

The main issue in Barca - early on - was the fact three of us (Josh Rosenfeld (LA Lakers and NBA Int'l), the late Matt Dobek (Detroit Pistons and PR for Coach Chuck Daly) and yours truly, did not have ANY type of accreditation and therefore - NO ACCESS - to do our jobs.  We had full access at our hotel and we could get some things done there with (very) important media requests, but we could not gain access at the venues, or get to places like the Main Press Centre (MPC), the Athletes Village or even to many of the NBC compounds.  That made life miserable for the first three days of the Games.

I could write a book on the '92 team alone, never mind all of the other amazing days with USA Basketball.

I'd have to say, working with the people at USA Basketball to bring the best players in the world to the biggest audience basketball had ever enjoyed was my favorite assignment of the entire 26+ years.

3. What do you think is the most influential thing about the international players coming into the NBA?

A - I think it's the impact they make to the hundreds of thousands of young athletes from their home country.  We've begun to see the impact Michael Jordan made worldwide and we're soon to see the "real" impact that Yao Ming will make. In short, they get many a great athlete to shoot a ball instead of kick it.  That is the biggest part of the continued growth of the NBA.

Now, unlike when Magic and Larry or Oscar and West or Wilt and Russell made their mark on the NBA, the global media exposure is unlimited. Lebron is enjoying that fact, too.  He will make a tremendous impact going forward, as did Dirk, Duncan, Hakeem and a lengthy list of others.

4. What European country has evolved the most in terms of basketball teams and fans?

A - Great question.  And my answer?  "I don't know!"

In general, I think China has evolved the most during my career.  In Europe, the Italys, Spains, (former Yugoslavia - Serbia, Croatia, etc) were all pretty well developed in terms of the game. I think France moved along nicely.  Greece and Turkey are amazing, but they've always had a pretty strong love for the game. I am disappointed in the growth of the game in Britain.  We worked hard (1993-on) on growing the popularity of the game in the U.K. but I just don't see the needle moving very much and that includes the fact they just played the 2012 Olympics in London. They did a great job with the British team at the 2012 Games, and that includes my strong praise for the job Chris Finch did as coach of the GB team, but, it hasn't moved the sport forward.

5. Favorite NBA player?

A - Always tough to single out any one ... so, I'll just mention three.

1. Charles Barkley
2. Charles Barkley
3. Charles Barkley

Chuck was the best.  Still is.  Key word -- Genuine. And, he is funny as all hell, and, while he 'rides' the hell out of all of us for a joke, I've never received more respect from any other athlete in my career.  He is the best. Thanks Charles.

I also have tremendous respect and have to mention a few others... Julius Erving, Chris Mullin, Jerry Sloan and John Stockton, Dominique Wilkins and a long list of Atlanta Hawks, MJ and Scottie Pippen, Doc Rivers, Clyde Drexler, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Joe Dumars, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, Shane Battier, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaq, James Worthy, Brad Miller ... I could go on and on and on.... but I'll finish with Tim Duncan.  With ole' Timmy Duncan, it was the roughest of roads.  He did not enjoy my company and the list of media requests, interviews, photo sessions and other off-court assignments that I'd bring to him (during the NBA Finals, USA Basketball events and at the Olympics), but we really became close as my career ended.

I would also note, I enjoyed working with every single NBA coach and the refs.

So, that's it for now.  I've covered (nearly) every subject.  Thanks to all the people I've mentioned above and in the prior post. Special thanks to the kids at Columbia.

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