Gene Conley (1930-2017)

Gene Conley has passed away at age 86. He was just one of two athletes to have earned a championship in two major professional sports. He pitched for the World Series champion Milwaukee Braves in 1957 before going on to win three championships with the Boston Celtics (1959-1961). Conley played 18 professional seasons over 12 years, often playing in the NBA during MLB’s offseason. He is survived by his wife, Kathryn Dizney; two daughters; a son; a sister; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

About the National Basketball Retired Players Association
The National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) is comprised of former professional basketball players from the NBA, ABA, WNBA, and Harlem Globetrotters. It is a 501(c) 3 organization with a mission to develop, implement and advocate a wide array of programs to benefit its members, supporters and the community. The NBRPA was founded in 1992 by basketball legends Dave DeBusschere, Dave Bing, Archie Clark, Dave Cowens and Oscar Robertson. The NBRPA works in direct partnerships with the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. Scott Rochelle is Acting President and CEO, and the NBRPA Board of Directors includes Chairman of the Board Johnny Newman, Vice Chairman Spencer Haywood, Treasurer Casey Shaw, Secretary Nancy Lieberman, Dwight Davis, Mike Glenn, Rick Barry, James Donaldson, LaRue Martin Jr., David Naves and Eldridge Recasner.

Darrall Imhoff (1938-2017)

University of California legend, Darrall Imhoff has passed away. He was 78. Imhoff won an NCAA Championship playing for the Bears in 1959. Just one year later, he captured an Olympic Gold medal with Team USA during the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, a team that was later inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Following his illustrious collegiate career, Imhoff was selected third overall in the 1960 NBA Draft to the New York Knicks. His NBA career spanned 12 years, with stints at the Detroit Pistons, LA Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Cincinnati Royals and Portland Trail Blazers.

About the National Basketball Retired Players Association
The National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) is comprised of former professional basketball players from the NBA, ABA, WNBA, and Harlem Globetrotters. It is a 501(c) 3 organization with a mission to develop, implement and advocate a wide array of programs to benefit its members, supporters and the community. The NBRPA was founded in 1992 by basketball legends Dave DeBusschere, Dave Bing, Archie Clark, Dave Cowens and Oscar Robertson. The NBRPA works in direct partnerships with the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. Scott Rochelle is Acting President and CEO, and the NBRPA Board of Directors includes Chairman of the Board Johnny Newman, Vice Chairman Spencer Haywood, Treasurer Casey Shaw, Secretary Nancy Lieberman, Dwight Davis, Mike Glenn, Rick Barry, James Donaldson, LaRue Martin Jr., David Naves, and Eldridge Recasner.

Legends Spotlight: Tom Hoover

Last weekend the National Basketball Retired Players Association hosted the latest edition of its youth basketball and mentoring program called “Full Court Press: Prep for Success”. Several former NBA/WNBA standouts were in attendance at the Edward Byrne Center in Jamaica, NY, as well as an NBA Fit clinic as a part of Dew3X event at Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn, NY, including Tiny Archibald/Tony Campbell/Teresa Edwards/Kym Hampton/Tom Hoover/Bobby Hunter/Albert King/Harthorne Wingo/Sam Worthen. The Full Court Press program travels all over the country to introduce kids to positive role models in both basketball and life. NBRPA writer Jon Teitel has spent time talking with many of the greatest players in NBA/WNBA history and will share his interviews at LegendsofBasketball.com. Jon visited with Tom Hoover about his role with the Full Court Press program and his work as president of the NBRPA’s New York chapter.

How do you try to connect with the kids on the court? That is the easiest part! Kids are always looking for that person who has done something that they are trying to achieve: it is very alluring if the person happens to be a former star player. If you just look the kids in the face then there will be no issues.

What do you hope that the kids get out of this great experience? We had some guys with championships like Tony Campbell who taught the kids about preparing yourself mentally to play the game. The game is a carrot but the key is education: you have to graduate, start your career, and do something positive with your life.

What was your transition like going from active player to retired player? It was easy back in the day if you were honest with yourself, but if you thought that you could continue the journey forever you would learn that nothing lasts. It is easy to accept reality once you realize that you cannot do the things that you used to do: you start breaking down and it takes longer to heal. When the young guys run right past you then you know it is time: just like the Cleveland Cavaliers!

You currently serve as president of the New York Chapter of the NBRPA: why did you take the job and what have you been able to accomplish so far? I was on the board and when they moved the national office from New York to Chicago I felt that New York needed its own chapter. We go into the community and work on wholesome projects as a way of giving back: Christmas parties for kids with AIDS, Thanksgiving parties for survivors of domestic violence, and we also went to the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, to do a clinic for the kids who survived that tragedy in 2012. We have a food pantry in Red Hook that gives food to the needy and we partnered with an organization in Senegal to send food/educational materials overseas and raise money for solar panels.

You went to Archbishop Carroll High School in DC, where you partnered with future Hall of Fame coach John Thompson and future Notre Dame president Edward “Monk” Malloy to help win 55 straight games: could you tell at the time that you and your teammates were going to achieve even bigger and better things? You cannot tell for sure because life is funny: you just have to keep opening doors and keep going in the right direction. Who could have known that Monk/John would become as successful as they have? I remember when John got his 1st coaching job at St. Anthony High School in DC: we laughed and wondered if he would really do it.

What made you choose Villanova for college, and how did you like it? We had a priest in high school who taught mechanical engineering and he convinced me that Villanova was the place to go. I had a good time there: it is a good school.

In the spring of 1963 you were drafted 6th overall by Syracuse (4 spots ahead of Gus Johnson): did you see that as a validation of your college career, or the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA, or other? It meant that I did not have to work the midnight shift at a paper company in Philly! I had become close with Wilt Chamberlain and he told me about what to expect if I got drafted.

You made the 1966 NBA Finals as a player for the Lakers: how close did you come to winning the title (2-PT loss in Game 7 at Boston Garden)? When you played in Boston there were all kinds of things to worry about such as the locker rooms. It was a Sunday afternoon and we all thought that we could win the game but it did not go in our favor.

In 1967 you joined the ABA: why did you make the switch, and what was the biggest difference between the 2 leagues? I made the switch because I was making $15,000 with the Lakers and Denver offered me $30,000. There was no difference in terms of talent with Hall of Famers like Mel Daniels/Connie Hawkins. The ABA ball was a little lighter and they also had a 3-PT line.

After retiring you had a number of fascinating jobs:
a. You worked as a road manager for Richard Pryor: did you just hang out all day laughing at everything that came out of his mouth? A road manager is like a babysitter: you are the last guy to go to bed and the 1st guy to wake up in the morning. Hanging out with Richard was crazy: trying to be civil just did not work! 1 time we were on the East Coast getting ready to fly back to LA and he was screaming at me to hold the plane because he was on the way. He did not understand that airlines leave without waiting for people who are running late: he was nuts.
b. You spent some time as an actor in television commercials: did you hope that it would turn into a long-term 2nd career? It was just for fun. You have to know your limitations: I was lucky enough to get a check but I was not an actor.
c. You also worked for the New York State Athletic Commission: are you a big boxing fan, and are you picking Mayweather or McGregor this summer?! I rose through the organization to become a deputy chairman before leaving last year. I do not have either guy: it is just a pay-per-view sham because Floyd wants to get paid but does not want to mess up his perfect record.

DALLAS WINGS HONORED SPORTS LEGEND NANCY LIEBERMAN AT JUNE 11 GAME

ARLINGTON, TX – The Dallas Wings honored basketball Hall of Famer and legend Nancy Lieberman on Sunday, June 11 during the team’s game against the Minnesota Lynx. Nancy is a true pioneer and cultural changer for women in sports. Her resume includes WNBA player and assisting coach of The Sacramento Kings, general manager, sports caster, author, speaker and two-time Olympian. Lieberman is also a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, The New York, Virginia and Hampton Roads Hall of Fames.

Lieberman’s basketball ties to Dallas include being the first draft pick for the Women’s Professional Basketball League Dallas Diamonds in 1981. In 1984, she led them to the WABA Championship and then served as the head coach of the NWBL, where she led the team to the championship in 2006. In 2009, she made history as the first female head coach in the NBA when she was appointed to lead the Texas Legends, the Dallas Mavericks’ NBA D-League team, a team she took to the playoffs in her first year. In 1997 – at the age of 39 – Nancy came out of retirement and was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury during the inaugural season of the Women’s National Basketball Association. She became the oldest player to ever play in the league. In 2008, Lieberman broke her own record when she returned to the WNBA for one game with the Detroit Shock at the age of 50.

In addition to advocating for women’s sports and the advancement of women in leadership, Nancy dedicates her time and skills to underserved youth through Nancy Lieberman Charities, which provides college scholarships to high school seniors, Dream Courts™ across the nation where kids can play safely and interact with their peers, provides laptops for children around the country and has basketball camps where over 3.9 million children have attended her camps and clinics in 37 years. Her work as an analyst for ESPN/ABC and an author of several books has helped her reach even more sports fans.

WNBA President Lisa Borders and Dallas Wings President and CEO Greg Bibb recognized Nancy on court during halftime with a special presentation. Nancy’s philanthropy and her hall of fame career was throughout the game along with personal tributes from Dallas Wings players and coaches.

The Dallas Wings were offering $10 tickets in honor of Nancy’s #10 Phoenix Mercury jersey. Tickets were available in select sections using the promo code NANCYLDW10. Season memberships, ticket packages and individual tickets were available at dallaswings.com and by calling 817-469-9464.

About the Dallas Wings
The Dallas Wings are one of twelve professional teams in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). The team was founded in Detroit Michigan in 1998 as the Detroit Shock. After 12 years and three championships (2003, 2006 and 2008), the team moved to Tulsa, where they were known as the Tulsa Shock. In 2016, the team played their first season in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as the Dallas Wings. The Wings play home games at College Park Center, a state-of-the-art facility located on the University of Texas at Arlington campus in Arlington, TX.

About Nancy Lieberman Charities
Nancy Lieberman Charities was established in 2009 with the mission to provide a healthy physical, emotional and mental environment for young girls and boys to build their self-esteem and confidence so they will be able to make the right choices in the future. Nancy Lieberman is dedicated to expanding and ensuring that educational and sports opportunities exist for youth through her basketball camps and clinics, Dream Court projects, college scholarships, backpack and laptop programs. nancyliebermancharities.org

Legends Spotlight: AJ English, Jessie Hicks and Johnny Newman

Last Saturday the National Basketball Retired Players Association hosted the latest edition of its youth basketball and mentoring program called “Full Court Press: Prep for Success”. Several former NBA/WNBA standouts were in attendance at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center in Richmond including Johnny Newman/Terry Davis/AJ English/Jesse Hicks. The program travels all over the country to introduce kids to positive role models in both basketball and life. NBRPA writer Jon Teitel has spent time talking with many of the greatest players in NBA/WNBA history and will share his interviews at LegendsofBasketball.com. Jon visited with a few of the above players about their roles with the Full Court Press program and their past basketball successes.

AJ English
What is your coaching philosophy on the court? I just try to teach the fundamentals before I know what the kids are capable of, and once I figure out their skill level I tailor it to that.

What do you hope that the kids get out of this great experience? I hope they learn the importance of working hard and not taking short cuts. If they pay attention and are coachable, they will become better.

What were the best/worst parts of going from active to retired? The best part is getting to stay in shape despite having a different level of conditioning. However, I definitely missed the camaraderie of my teammates because everyone has their own lives after they retire.

How did you end up as a member of the National Basketball Retired Players Association? I was interested in some of the things they were doing with youth. I operate a youth program myself and I like to give back in that capacity to kids who are dealing with similar situations to what I saw while growing up.

You played at Virginia Union where you were a 2-time CIAA Slam Dunk champion: what was your vertical leap? It was a while ago so I do not recall.
In 1990 you were named NCAA D-2 national POY: what did it mean to you to receive such an outstanding honor? I felt that it was a reward for all my hard work and having my teammates/coaches believing in me. It was definitely a good time and I enjoyed my senior year.

In the summer of 1990 you were drafted 37th overall by Washington (8 spots ahead of Antonio Davis): did you see that as a validation of your college career, or the realization of a lifelong dream of playing in the NBA, or other? Anytime someone thinks enough of you to help you make a living it feels good. It was kind of bittersweet because I was projected to go higher, but it was absolutely a promise fulfilled.

You averaged 9.9 PPG during your 2 seasons with the Bullets: what is your favorite memory from your time in the NBA? There is no 1 specific moment that stood out: the only thing that I would have changed is that I would have stayed in the NBA rather than going overseas to make some more money. I liked everything about the NBA experience: the travel, getting prepared for the season, and then showcasing your talent on the floor.
You spent several years after that playing pro overseas: what is the biggest difference between basketball in the US vs. basketball in other countries? When I was in Europe there were a lot of guys like Toni Kukoc/Dino Radja who were still there before heading to the NBA. The NBA was faster/more athletic but the big guys in Europe could stretch the floor and shoot threes.

In 2004 you were inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame: where does that rank among the highlights of your career? Being recognized after your career is over is always an honor, but it was for my body of work that was already done. I felt grateful but it was not something that I was planning for.

Last fall you became a volunteer assistant to Doug Overton with the Lincoln University Lions: what do you hope to do in the future? I have a mentoring program with at-risk youth in Delaware. I was in Richmond this weekend because we are planning to transition the program here in the future.

Your son AJ was 2000-PT scorer at Iona and now plays pro overseas: how proud are you of all his success, and who is the best athlete in the family? I am extremely proud to get to see his own hard work/maturation. I am proud of my other son/daughter as well but he has definitely carried the torch on the basketball court. I guess my kids are the most athletic right now…but compared to when I was young…I do not know!

 

 

 

Jessie Hicks
Being a part of the NBRPA with other legends of basketball, how beneficial is the organization to players who are embarking on life after basketball? It offers a lot of post-pro basketball opportunities and allows us to continue our life after basketball.

In what ways has your involvement in the NBRPA helped you become an advocate to other retired players? I am new to the organization but it is a great way to reach out to other players. Johnny Newman helped me get started, which was a great thing, and now I can reach out to other players to see if they want to join the NBRPA and help build up our membership. 1 thing that is really great is that anyone in the state can participate in the clinic so they do not need to try to bring in players from other states.

Who was your favorite team/player growing up, and who is your favorite team/player these days? My favorite team was the Lakers: I loved the way that Magic Johnson got everyone involved. Now I like Golden State because everyone plays their roles. I really like Steph Curry’s tenacity.

You have accomplished so many things on the court, but what do you seek to accomplish off the court? I retired back in 2005 and became a high school coach. I have run a few clinics and have also done some 1-on-1 training. I became an elementary school counselor after getting my Masters, and have some other creative things that I want to bring to light. I also have 2 children who keep me busy and allow me to be more of a mother than a businesswoman.

You were 6’4” in high school: did you see your size as an advantage or disadvantage on the court? It was definitely an advantage, but playing against other great players helped me elevate my game. Most post players overseas got paid more, which was a big advantage.

You were a 2-time 1st-team All-ACC player at Maryland: what did it mean to you to receive such outstanding honors? It means a lot because it showed that my hard work had paid off and other people thought highly of me. My coaches helped develop my game: I did not reach that status all by myself. Coach Chris Weller knows how to coach both guards and forwards and she helped me get a position in the WNBA.

In the 1992 ACC tourney quarterfinals you had 21 PTS/11 REB but Joyce Pierce rebounded her own miss and scored at the buzzer in a 1-PT upset by Georgia Tech: how were the Yellow Jackets able to come all the way back from a 17-PT 2nd half deficit? We did not keep the momentum going and had some missed assignments. It was a learning experience for us: we had to run a mile the very next day because our coach was unhappy with us, but we ended up making it all the way to the Elite 8 and fell only a few points shy of making the Final 4. We had a great team that year and brought back a lot of talent the following year as well.

In the spring of 1997 you were selected 12th overall by Utah in the inaugural WNBA draft (2 spots ahead of Tamecka Dixon): did you see that as a validation of your college career, or the realization of a lifelong dream of playing pro basketball, or other? It was a bit of both. As a woman back in the 1970s there was no WNBA so at 1st my plan was to go play pro overseas. It was a continuation of my dream to eventually play in the US and have my family come watch me in person. I remember my 1st year when we played in Charlotte: I had about 10 relatives drive down from Richmond to watch me play. Hard work does pay off, even though a lot of young kids these days just do not get it. I thank the WNBA for giving all of us an opportunity.

You spent 6 seasons in the WNBA and later played pro overseas: what is the biggest difference between basketball in the US vs. basketball in other countries? #1: salary! The culture is also very different: I got to travel all over Europe and see so many countries and meet all kinds of new people. However, there is nothing like being home with your friends/family.

In 2013 you were named 1 of the ACC Women's Basketball Tournament Legends: where does that rank among the highlights of your career? There have been a lot of “legends” who have come through the ACC so that is right at the top. To be 1 of the top-50 was a great honor.

You currently work as a high school girls’ basketball coach in Richmond: how do you like the job, and what do you hope to do in the future? I coached college players in the past and I would like to get back into that in the future. I also want to tap into some of my other goals like having a clothing line for tall women and inspirational t-shirts. I love working with youth so I would love to have my own youth center that does sports/enrichment programs. And of course, providing for my children is the most important thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Newman
What was your transition like from active player to retired player? I had a wonderful transition. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family so I learned from my father/grandfather the importance of always keeping myself busy. I understood how to do a lot of different things and got involved in real estate/other businesses.

Why did you decide to join the National Basketball Retired Players Association? The biggest part for me was the chance to remain active after serving as a player rep during my career. I wanted to improve both on and off the court and give a helping hand to younger guys who were trying to learn the system, so I did not have a 2nd thought about joining.

What is the biggest benefit of being part of the NBRPA? 1st of all, since the league is changing and going in a fantastic direction, it is nice to see that the NBRPA has had great communication with them. You need to stay connected so that you are aware of all the changes to the pension/health care/etc. It can help not only you but also your family members.
How do older players serve as advocates to younger players? There are so many great guys out there who have so much knowledge. I wish there were even more opportunities for guys to connect with younger players so that the learning curve could be even faster.

In 1984 you were named conference POY at Richmond and you remain the all-time leading scorer in school history: what was your secret for being such a great scorer? You have to be able to score from anywhere, be a good FT shooter, and just practice. You need the demeanor to step up whenever needed. I had a great career at Richmond even though we did not have a 3-PT line at the time. I tease the younger guys because a lot of my shots back in the day were from the parking lot!

In the summer of 1986 you were drafted by Cleveland: what was your 1st impression of the rest of the amazing Cavaliers draft class (future All-Stars Mark Price/Brad Daugherty/Ron Harper)? Coming from a small town you would always try to figure out who were the best high school players in the state, and in college you would try to figure out the best guys around the country. We had so much talent in that draft class, along with Hot Rod, who had sat out the previous year. It was very competitive every day, which helped me become a better player.

Take me through the 1993 Eastern Conference 1st round with Charlotte:
In Game 1 against the Celtics, Reggie Lewis collapsed on the court right next to you and died 3 months later from a heart defect: could you tell at the time whether he was just tired or if it was something much worse than that? I was checking him but when he went down I could tell that something was really wrong. My 1st instinct was to try to go double-team someone else, but then we all realized that Reggie was not getting up.

In Game 4 Alonzo Mourning made a jumper with 0.4 seconds left to clinch the series: where does that rank among the most clutch shots that you have ever seen, and what was the reaction like in the locker room afterward? We were ecstatic: when big guys make jumpers it is very special. Zo always worked on that shot in practice and was able to knock down 1 of the biggest shots in franchise history.

You played 16 seasons in the NBA with 7 different teams: how were you able to separate the sports side of basketball from the business side? I experienced 2 different lockouts so I just had to do what was best for me and my family. I felt like I was a major contributor for every team I played on. I understand that it is a business, which helped me understand that I had to take care of my body/mentality. I only worried about what I could control, and that kept me in the league for a long time.

You played in more than 1150 career games: did most of your teammates follow your lead by never drinking alcohol or staying out late or were you the exception to the rule? All I can say is that there were some guys who lived differently than I did!

In 2011 you were inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame: where does that rank among the highlights of your career? It was major for me because so many great players have come from Virginia, and to have my parents get to experience that was also big.

Legends Spotlight: Dale Ellis

The National Basketball Retired Players Association hosted the latest edition of its youth basketball and mentoring program called “Full Court Press: Prep for Success”. Several former NBA/WNBA standouts were in attendance at Providence Christian Academy near Atlanta including Dale Ellis/Reggie Johnson/Carla McGhee/Gator Rivers/Sedric Toney. The program travels all over the country to introduce kids to positive role models in both basketball and life. NBRPA writer Jon Teitel has spent time talking with many of the greatest players in NBA/WNBA history and will share his interviews at LegendsofBasketball.com. Jon visited with Dale Ellis about his role with the Full Court Press program and his past basketball successes.

What was your transition like from active player to retired player? I think it was typical. When you go from doing 1 thing your entire life to having nothing to do, it is difficult. I had 1 year left on my contract but wanted to spend the year with my daughter before she left for college. I kicked myself in the butt and wondered what I was thinking for the 1st 6 months.

Why did you decide to join the National Basketball Retired Players Association? It is nice to mix/mingle with guys you played against while networking at the same time and seeing what other people are up to. I went to the All-Star Game every single year: it was fun for me because it was like a reunion. It was hard when Moses Malone died because he was 1 of the people I got to see every winter and join for a bite to eat.

Being a part of the NBRPA with other legends of basketball, how beneficial is the organization to players who are embarking on life after basketball? I think it is important to help them through the transition with life after basketball because the majority of us do not prepare for it. It is also nice to stay around the game in some capacity as part of the group.

You currently serve as President of the Atlanta Chapter of the NBRPA: why did you take the job, and what have you been able to accomplish so far? My life has always been about giving back and I enjoy sharing. I used to run a couple of foundations during my career and when I got a call from the NBRPA to get involved I thought that it would be a nice opportunity. We have quite a few retired players in Atlanta so the 1st question I asked was “why me?” It is challenging work and can be difficult to get other players involved, but the group can help get your agenda off the ground by raising funds or putting you together with business/community leaders to host an event. I also try to find opportunities for the guys to make some money.

You were a 2-time All-American/2-time SEC POY at Tennessee: what did it mean to you to win such outstanding honors? Honors are beautiful but it is not an individual sport. You have to be on the right team at the right time with the right coaching staff. Other players need to sacrifice their own game in order for you to succeed. I just wanted to compete for a championship 1 time and test my ability.

In the 1981 NCAA tourney you scored 22 PTS/10-13 FG including a 15-footer with 1 second left in a 2-PT OT win over VCU: how weird was it to take the only shot that either team attempted in OT (since the Rams held the ball due to there being no shot clock) and where does that rank among the highlights of your career? It might have been a record to freeze the ball that much even back in the era of Dean Smith. The ball just happened to come to me at the end of OT. It was not a play that had been designed for me but it was a confidence-builder: I felt like I had finally arrived.

You were the 1st person in your family to earn a college degree: how much importance do you place on academics? All the importance in the world. When I work at camps I try to get kids to understand the balance between academics and athletics. Not everyone can make it to the NBA but you can always fall back on your education. I regret that I only did enough to just get by, but my daughter has a master’s degree and my son was also a college athlete so I am proud of them both. Getting my degree showed me that I could accomplish anything I wanted to.

After being traded from Dallas to Seattle in 1986, you were named NBA Most Improved Player in 1987 as your scoring average jumped from 7.1 PPG to 24.9 PPG: why did Sonics coach Bernie Bickerstaff decide to switch you from a post-up player to a shooting guard, and how did that decision change your career? It was huge. In high school/college I played with my back to the basket and I was drafted as a forward, but they did not know that I could shoot the ball from the perimeter. It was a no-brainer to move me out there but it was difficult to sit on the bench in Dallas for 3 years. Bernie gave me an opportunity and told me to go for it rather than just sit around doubting my ability. When I got drafted I thought that I would make an instant impact, but the NBA was totally different than college. Bernie once called a timeout after I turned the ball over and told me to shoot it, so I did. My teammates helped me get open for shots and I just had to put the ball in the basket.

In the 1987 Western Conference 1st round you beat your former team: how were you able to become the 1st #7-seed to upset a #2-seed, and was it extra-special to do it against Dallas? Dallas had a lot of talent and had blown us out 5 times during the regular season. We made some key adjustments (after losing Game 1 by a score of 151-129) and squeaked out a 2-PT win in Game 2, which gave us a lot of confidence. I really wanted to beat them and I knew all of their players’ habits because we had been teammates. I got a lot of vindication from that by showing people that I could play basketball: that team had a great group of guys.

In the only All-Star appearance of your career you scored 27 PTS in 26 minutes for the West in a 9-PT win at the 1989 All-Star Game: how were you able to play your best against the best? It was easy to get up for a game when I had to face the best. I struggled against teams like the Clippers because they were the worst team in the league, but when I would have to face a team like Chicago with Michael Jordan in a sold-out arena it was easy.

You won the All-Star 3-PT Shootout in 1989 and led the NBA with 46.4 3P% in 1998 at age 37: what is your secret for making shots from behind the arc? Practice, practice, practice! I worked on my shot and coaches expected me to knock it down. I had coaches who believed in my ability and my teammates were looking for me. When I 1st came into the league the 3-PT shot was not used very much, but Coach Dick Motta would run a play for me early on just to get me into the flow of the game.

In Game 4 of the 1989 Western Conference Semifinals the Lakers had a 2-PT win to clinch the series: how was LA able to come all the way back from a 43-14 deficit? That game was hard to swallow. We squeaked into the playoffs as a #8-seed but the Lakers had star players like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (my all-time favorite player). When I 1st stood next to Kareem I realized that I was finally in the NBA. They had been there so many times that you had to play from start to finish: we just did not have the firepower to beat them.

On November 9, 1989 you set an NBA record by playing 69 minutes (and scoring 53 PTS) in a 155-154 5-OT loss to Milwaukee: how exhausted were you by the end of that game?! I played every minute of OT while the Bucks kept bringing guys off the bench: I felt like I was running in mud. The worst part was that we had to play the Bulls on the road the very next night (which turned out to be a 109-102 Chicago victory). Growing up we played until we could not play anymore, so even though we lost it was a fun game and I enjoyed it.

Legends Spotlight: Reggie Johnson and Sedric Toney

Last Saturday the National Basketball Retired Players Association hosted the latest edition of its youth basketball and mentoring program called “Full Court Press: Prep for Success”. Several former NBA/WNBA standouts were in attendance at Providence Christian Academy near Atlanta including Dale Ellis/Reggie Johnson/Carla McGhee/Gator Rivers/Sedric Toney. The program travels all over the country to introduce kids to positive role models in both basketball and life. NBRPA writer Jon Teitel has spent time talking with many of the greatest players in NBA/WNBA history and will share his interviews at LegendsofBasketball.com. Jon visited with Reggie/Sedric about their roles with the Full Court Press program and their past basketball successes.

Reggie Johnson

Being a part of the NBRPA with other legends of basketball, what is the biggest benefit of being in the organization for players who are embarking on life after basketball? I was a member of the NBPA when I was still playing. After I retired I stepped away from it for a minute, but have finally started paying dues again and becoming involved. The clinic we held was a great opportunity for all the former players to be part of the league again by coaching kids/teaching fundamentals. A lot of guys might stay away from it at 1st but then later come around to contribute.

How do older players serve as advocates to younger players? Just like when you are playing, if you are not too familiar with the opportunities around you then you might not think you need it. Players today make a lot more money than we did, but if they can remain involved then it will help out the NBA. It would be great if they could assist guys who are out of the league and have been struggling.

Who was your favorite team/player growing up, and who is your favorite team/player these days? I have always been fond of George Gervin, who I had the chance to play with during my 1st few years in the league. I always admired his game and the way he could score: nobody could shoot it like he did with his finger-roll! I also liked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar because he was the master of the skyhook.

You have accomplished so many things on the court, but what do you seek to accomplish off the court? I have worked as a mentor to kids and am in my 20th year of community service to help get kids into college or teach them some type of trade. We want to help them become entrepreneurs: studying is important but you can also have a career doing something like welding.

In the 1977 NCAA tourney as a player at Tennessee you had 17 PTS/10 REB in a 5-PT OT loss to Syracuse: what was it like being front and center for the legendary Bernie (King) and Ernie (Grunfeld) show? It was 1 of my career highlights to play with those guys for Coach Ray Mears. I was a little country boy who ran into a 1st-class environment. I still look forward to seeing those guys because I looked up to them so much as a freshman.

In the 1979 SEC tourney title game you had 13 PTS in a 6-PT OT win over Kentucky: how special was it to beat the defending champs and win the 1st SEC tourney since 1952? It was good for us: we beat them all 3 times that we played them that year. They had a tremendous player in Kyle Macy but Terry Crosby played a hell of a game and we were able to pull it out. We needed that title.

One of your teammates was Kevin Nash: what was he like as a player, and could you have ever imagined that he would become a pro wrestler?! At the time none of us thought he would become a pro wrestler! I remember running into him 1 time at the airport: he told me that he was getting into wrestling but he did not look all “swolled up” back then. I watch wrestling almost every day and I knew about the guy named “Diesel” but did not realize that it was Kevin. He had this thing back in college where he would enter a doorway and lean his head to the side rather than ducking down, so when I saw him make the same move on TV I knew that it was him! The players still keep in touch a lot on the Internet and we set up opportunities to go to games together in Knoxville.

You were selected 15th overall in the 1980 NBA draft by San Antonio (4 spots behind Kiki Vandeweghe): did you see that as a validation of your college career, or the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA, or other? It was definitely a lifelong dream of mine to play in the NBA, as it is for a lot of kids. I loved playing in San Antonio: it was a great environment.

In the 1983 Finals you won a title with the 76ers: could you tell at the time that you were surrounded by greatness (this remains the only NBA Finals to feature 5 MVPs: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Magic Johnson/Bob McAdoo/Moses Malone/Julius Erving), and what did it mean to you to win a title? I knew that we were going to win the title after Moses told everyone that we would win it because when he spoke we all listened! It is the highest level you can reach in the NBA: there were guys who played a lot longer than I did who never won a championship, which is 1 thing that will always be on their minds. It was just unbelievable: the energy flowing through the arena was great.

After being traded to the Nets in the offseason you beat the 76ers in the decisive Game 5 of the 1984 Eastern Conference 1st round: how were you able to beat your old team, and was it extra-special? It was fun for me: I knew that I would not win a title with New Jersey so my attitude was focused on trying to knock Philly out of the playoffs.

You spent more than a decade playing pro basketball overseas after retiring from the NBA: what is the biggest difference between basketball in the US vs. basketball in other countries? When I 1st went over there we had former NBA guys like Joe Barry Carroll. It was just as competitive overseas: now you see guys playing in the NBA from all over the world. Sports is a powerful tool to help kids overcome obstacles. I played against guys like Drazen Petrovic/Arvydas Sabonis who later came into the NBA and played great.

In February 2009 you were named to Tennessee's "All-Century" basketball team: where does that rank among the highlights of your career? It felt good to be honored along with guys like Bernard/Ernie, but I think there were some other guys who should have also been in there.

Sedric Toney

What was your transition like from active player to retired player? When you play basketball all of your life and do something you love for such a long time, it can be traumatic once it comes to an end, so I had to adjust to life away from basketball.

Why did you decide to join the National Basketball Retired Players Association? It gave me an opportunity to feel like part of the fraternity.

In what ways has your involvement in the NBRPA helped you become an advocate to other retired players? I can tell them exactly what benefits I got and why I like it. 

In the 1984 Elite 8 as a player at Dayton you scored 6 PTS in a loss to eventual champion Georgetown: where does Patrick Ewing (15 PTS) rank among the best college players that you have ever seen? He ranks right up there in the top-5.

In the 1985 NCAA tourney you scored 12 PTS but your put-back with 3 seconds left rolled around a couple times before rimming out in a 2-PT loss to eventual champion Villanova: did you think that your shot was going in, and where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? I definitely thought that shot was going in. I knew that was the end of my college chapter but did not know what the next chapter would look like.

You were selected in the 3rd round of the 1985 NBA draft by Atlanta (7 spots ahead of Michael Adams): did you see that as a validation of your college career, or the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA, or other? It was a lifelong dream so to see it finally fulfilled was a life-changing event.

You played for 6 different teams during you NBA career: how do you balance the sports part with the business part? The sports part is just about playing a game but you have to approach the business part in a different manner. You are not physically training your body and playing with your teammates: the business side is much more about mental training.

After retiring you became a color commentator for ESPN: how did you like TV work, and what do you hope to do in the future? I loved it and hope to get back into TV someday.

JERROD MUSTAF RECOGNIZED BY THE WASHINGTON WIZARDS AND VERIZON CENTER

The National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) wishes to congratulate member Jerrod Mustaf on receiving the 2016-2017 Wizards Care Community Assist Award. Mustaf was presented the award this past weekend by the Washington Wizards and Verizon Center.

The award is given to an individual who shows an exemplary level of dedication and commitment to the community.

Mustaf serves as the Executive Director of the Take Charge Juvenile Diversion Program, Inc. and coaches in the Take Charge Pride Basketball program. The Take Charge Pride Basketball program is a premiere competitive basketball program founded to develop scholar-athletes and gentlemen with quality instruction, mentoring, and life coaching in a supportive and family-oriented environment.

"I'm blessed beyond measure to have a great team of men supporting me and our vision to raise and develop our boys into young men. Thank you Coach Russell Washington and Coach Joe Williams for your phenomenal sacrifice to our youth”, Mustaf said in a statement.

For more on the Take Charge Program, click here.

About the National Basketball Retired Players Association
The National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) is comprised of former professional basketball players from the NBA, ABA, WNBA and Harlem Globetrotters. It is a 501(c) 3 organization with a mission to develop, implement and advocate a wide array of programs to benefit its members, supporters and the community. The NBRPA was founded in 1992 by basketball legends Dave DeBusschere, Dave Bing, Archie Clark, Dave Cowens, and Oscar Robertson. The NBRPA works in direct partnerships with the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. Arnie D. Fielkow is the President and CEO, and the NBRPA Board of Directors includes Chairman of the Board Dwight Davis, Vice Chairman Mike Glenn, Treasurer Casey Shaw, Secretary Nancy Lieberman, Rick Barry, James Donaldson, Spencer Haywood, LaRue Martin Jr., David Naves, Johnny Newman, and Eldridge Recasner.

Legends Spotlight: Steffond Johnson and Morlon Wiley

Last Saturday the National Basketball Retired Players Association hosted the latest edition of its youth basketball and mentoring program called “Full Court Press: Prep for Success”. Several former NBA/WNBA standouts were in attendance at the Lakewest YMCA in Dallas including Sam Perkins, Steffond Johnson, Morlon Wiley, Micheal Williams, Bridget Pettis, and Ashley Robinson. The program travels all over the country to introduce kids to positive role models in both basketball and life. NBRPA writer Jon Teitel has spent time talking with many of the greatest players in NBA/WNBA history and will share his interviews at LegendsofBasketball.com. Jon visited with Steffond/Morlon about their roles with the Full Court Press program and their past basketball successes.

Steffond Johnson
What is your coaching philosophy on the court? Coaching is just like anything else: you need buy-in from your players so you have to know your audience and tailor your message to the goals you want to accomplish. The more time you have to coach, then the more details you can cover.

What do you hope that the kids get out of this great experience? I just want all of the kids to have fun.

You played your 1st 3 years of college basketball at LSU: how did you like playing for Coach Dale Brown? Coach Brown is a close personal friend of both myself and my mother. He was 1 of the references I used to get my current job as a coach. It worked out well, as I won a title in my very 1st year at Dallas Christian College! Coach Brown was a big fan of mine and never stopped believing in me as a unique talent. He was life-changing to be around: I wish there were more like him.

In the 1983 NIT you had a 5-PT OT loss to New Orleans: what was the crowd like in Baton Rouge, and how big of an in-state rivalry did the 2 schools have back in the day? There was a huge rivalry among all of the schools in Louisiana (including Tulane) because you wanted to recruit from a position of strength by beating the other schools who were your competition. The crowds were always into the games so it was 1 of the most fun times of my life: I enjoyed every aspect of being an LSU Tiger.

In the 1984 SEC tourney you scored 2 PTS in a 2-PT OT loss to Alabama: was everyone worried that they might not make the NCAA tourney? It is always disappointing after a loss: we knew that we missed some opportunities but we remained as close as ever as teammates. We just wanted to make the best impression we could and get an NCAA bid.

In the 1984 NCAA tourney you had an 8-PT loss to Dayton: was Roosevelt Chapman simply unstoppable that night (29 PTS/8 REB/10-15 FG/9-9 FT)? He was amazing: 1 of the best college players that I have ever seen. We were not overmatched but we were not as focused as we should have been.

In the summer of 1986 you were drafted 100th overall by the Clippers: did you see that as a validation of your college career, or the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA, or other? I broke my back during my senior year and almost every doctor said that my career was over so it was probably the biggest accomplishment of my life. It made me feel that I had finally arrived: guys drafted in the late rounds like myself/Tim Kempton beat all the odds to make the team but I was too enamored of the moment both on and off the court. I was gifted enough with my abilities but was not prepared mentally. I take my hat off to guys who entered the league right out of high school and were able to make it. I work as a mentor in the D-League and try to teach guys to not make the mistakes I have made and not take anything for granted. The NBA is a business: if you think it is just a game then you will not make it.

You played 1 season in the NBA: what is your favorite memory from your time in the league? I have no regrets and got to be around the elite players in the world for a brief moment in time. I live in the same neighborhood as Mark Cuban/George Bush and have a great life. I met John Lucas and learned how to overcome the obstacles ahead of me: I only wish he could have reached guys like Roy Tarpley/Chris Washburn sooner. You can see yourself as a failure or learn from your mistakes. I have a lot of great memories from my time in the NBA. It was rare that I got onto the court but I remember playing against the Lakers and getting a dunk or 2 on them at the Forum: unfortunately any video from back then is grainy! I remember working out against my idols like Magic Johnson during summer games at UCLA. I got to play against my fellow SEC friend Dale Ellis and my former LSU teammate Jerry Reynolds. When you come from a small town in East Texas and go on a great journey, it just makes it that much sweeter to see friends along the way. I later became an agent for guys like Kurt Thomas who ended up playing 18 years.
You also played in the CBA for 6 seasons and in many foreign countries: what is the biggest difference between basketball in the US vs. basketball overseas? Now there is no difference. If you look at a guy like Draymond Green, he is a throwback who could have played in any era, as well as a gritty player like Patrick Beverley. The guys now are more prepared but the guys from our era were much more physical. I played in the SEC with guys like Charles Barkley/Dominique Wilkins: it was no joke! The game is evolving and the brand is growing due to some very smart people, just like companies such as Apple. Everyone has an opinion about the league but it is an interesting dynamic: back in my day there were only a few guys who made a million dollars/year and now there are plenty of guys signing $40 million contracts. If there was social media when I played there would not be an NBA now due to so many scandals! It is very complicated because the players have to conduct themselves a certain way to thrive: I think teams need to put more money into player development both on and off the court. The game will be fine but I am concerned about the players’ financial literacy.

Morlon Wiley
In the 1988 NIT as a player at Long Beach State you scored 15 PTS but missed a 3-PT shot with 2 hands in your face in the final seconds of a 3-PT loss to Stanford: did you think that your shot was going in, and what was the feeling like in your locker room afterward? I did think that it was going in so it was heartbreaking as part of a 7-8 member senior class. There was a lot of uncertainty about who would draft me and what position I would play. I tell kids now that I would trade places with them in a heartbeat due to all of the opportunities they have to play against the best in the world. I went to the Olympic trials along with 75(!) other players for Coach John Thompson and made the all-tourney team at the Portsmouth Invitational. I went to the draft combine and met a young coach in Chicago named Phil Jackson, so it was pretty cool/exciting but also anxious.
You still remain high on the school’s all-time lists with 425 AST/187 STL/78 FT%: what is the key to being a good PG? Understanding and having a feel for the game. You need a high basketball IQ and have to get along with all of your teammates while acting as a coach on the floor. You have to adjust/adapt and be able to handle any crisis that comes along. You need a balanced temperament: there are certain guys you can yell at and certain ones you have to kick to get them started. I won a state title as a high school PG and played with a McDonald’s All-American named Chris Sandle who told me what the other great PGs he played against were like. The main thing is to anticipate what is coming.

In the summer of 1988 you were drafted 46th overall by Dallas (4 spots ahead of Steve Kerr): did you see that as a validation of your college career, or the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA, or other? It meant that I could get out of the neighborhood and do some good things for my family. A lot of my neighbors saw that I was trying to do something and the gang members gave me a pass when I did not know which road to take. They basically scared me away from getting into any illegal activities, and I thank them for that. When you come from a rough neighborhood people will rally around you. My mother was very firm and goal-oriented: she always went to church and had people looking out for me and my other siblings. Dallas called me on draft day in 1988 and I talked to Coach John MacLeod. They welcomed me to the team but said they were not sure if I could make their roster, which put a bit of a damper on the day because some people told me that I would be a late-1st round pick (and get a guaranteed contract!). Dallas was loaded with guards like Steve Alford/Jim Farmer but I went to training camp and they ended up keeping me and waiving Farmer. I could play the 1 and 2 so they could get a 2-for-1 with me.

Your older brother Michael also played in the NBA: who is the best athlete in the family? Michael was 9 years older than me so I give him a great deal of credit for molding me into the player I became. I got to go to all of his college games and meet some of his teammates like Craig Hodges. I would say Michael was the best athlete and could jump higher than me…but I was faster! My son Jeremiah is really good and is an intelligent young man thanks to all the computers kids have nowadays.

In the 1989 NBA expansion draft you became 1 of 12 players chosen by Orlando Magic for their inaugural roster: did you think you were going to be selected, and what was it like to join a brand new team? I was the 1st person to sign with Orlando so I felt like I started the entire franchise! It was a unique situation with guys like Reggie Theus/Scott Skiles/Dennis Scott. I think 8 guys from our roster eventually got into coaching.

What was your transition like from active player to retired player? It was a little confusing because you think that you can play 10-15 years but I only played 6 years. When your career gets cut short and teams no longer want you, the next step is to figure out “what now?” After that experience I decided to go into everything with an exit plan: I figure out what I am willing to sacrifice and what I will not put up with. I wanted to continue to play: when you retire at age 28 you are relatively young. What was good for me was that Mark Cuban bought the Mavericks a few years later and brought me in to be a player development coach for 4 years. After that I became an assistant coach in Orlando for 3 years before joining their front office. What gets you to the professional ranks is your confidence/skill set, so when you have to retire it is a blow that you have to get over quickly. My mom always told me that when I had a setback I only had 48 hours to get over it!

Why did you decide to join the National Basketball Retired Players Association? It was a logical thing. I saw some of the programs they had but the main thing was the fellowship you enjoyed with everyone else. To get to rub elbows with legends like Julius Erving/Magic Johnson and then develop a personal relationship with them was great: they became like my big brothers. You can pick the brains of the greats as well as the role players: 95% of the guys are like me and did not have shoe contracts/endorsements while 5% are the flagbearers. When I 1st entered the fish I caught was 1’ long, but now it is a whale: the lies get longer and the stories get fabricated, but when the current guys retire we can Google everything about them!

After retiring you worked in player development for Dallas and then became an assistant coach for Orlando: how did you like coaching, and what do you hope to do in the future? I enjoyed coaching despite the long hours. I got to steer young guys in the right direction and help develop their talent. You die when you lose and just try to do it better the next time. I never won a title as a player but got to watch my team make a run to the Finals as a member of the front office in 2009 when the Magic got swept by the Lakers. Hopefully after my son graduates I can get back to the NBA in some capacity, be it as a coach or in the front office or other. I am still around the game and get to participate in a lot of functions, but there is nothing like sitting on the bench.

In 2005 you were inducted into the 49ers' Hall of Fame: where does that rank among the highlights of your career? That was huge. My career there had some ups and downs: we were awful for a few years but got a new coaching staff toward the end of my 4 years who challenged me every day. I was not able to attend the induction but I had a buddy make a speech for me thanking everyone for supporting me. I still have the trophy in my trophy case: it is a beautiful thing.

NBPA HOSTING CARDIAC SCREENING IN CHICAGO

National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) members are encouraged to attend the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) Cardiac Screening in Chicago on Friday, May 12. The screening, which the NBPA annually provides to retired players in NBA cities, are vital in detecting heart issues before they can become major problems.

The Cardiac Screening in Chicago will take place at the InterContinental Hotel, 505 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60611 from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

The comprehensive screening includes:
1. A medical history evaluation checking for heart disease risk factors;
2. Full echocardiogram checking for problems with heart muscles and valves;
3. Carotid ultrasound checking for thickness of the carotid wall as an indication of atherosclerosis;
4. Blood pressure and a resting 12-lead EKG checking for arrhythmias and heart muscle damage;
5. LabCorp-performed blood work and a complete lipid panel checking for cholesterol and triglyceride levels; and
6. A consultation with a group of cardiologists to discuss the test results and recommendations for further testing and treatment, if indicated.

NBRPA members have taken part in the screenings in the past in cities such as New York, Dallas, and Phoenix. More about the past screenings can be read here and here.

For more information, please contact Scott Rochelle at 312-913-9400 or SRochelle@legendsofbasketball.com. Visit this link https://nbpachicago.youcanbook.me/ to RSVP for the screening.

About the National Basketball Retired Players Association
The National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) is comprised of former professional basketball players from the NBA, ABA, WNBA and Harlem Globetrotters. It is a 501(c) 3 organization with a mission to develop, implement and advocate a wide array of programs to benefit its members, supporters and the community. The NBRPA was founded in 1992 by basketball legends Dave DeBusschere, Dave Bing, Archie Clark, Dave Cowens, and Oscar Robertson. The NBRPA works in direct partnerships with the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. Arnie D. Fielkow is the President and CEO, and the NBRPA Board of Directors includes Chairman of the Board Dwight Davis, Vice Chairman Mike Glenn, Treasurer Casey Shaw, Secretary Nancy Lieberman, Rick Barry, James Donaldson, Spencer Haywood, LaRue Martin Jr., David Naves, Johnny Newman, and Eldridge Recasner.