Legends Spotlight: Reggie Johnson and Sedric Toney

May 16, 2017

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.