Basketball, NBA, UK discussed on Le Batard and Friends - South Beach Sessions
What do you do with that? How did you get to rage? I didn't realize you were boiling already. Your someone who is in control of your emotions you do not. Oh I I'm in control of its because I can't afford not to be in control control of its because I know what happens if I get angry. You can't afford to get angry. And so what I have to do is focus on the science focus on the research. Focus on the kind of work that I can do in the organizations. I work with to see if I can make a difference without making me the focus because I know that when I'm the focus people can use me as a distraction so the work that I do tends to be in the background at tens nowadays not necessarily be beat me berating somebody from a pulpit or writing a an incendiary head but rather working inside. I'd government inside organizations to try and make change but putting my energy sources this this well of gently swirling McNamara. John I know people like to Come at you by saying you're too outspoken. For someone who wasn't that good at basketball used the fame and basketball to become an arrogant gas bag who opined on everything that you weren't really good at basketball but you made it to the top one percent of the one percent to play professional basketball and I don't think people have any earthly idea how hard that was coming from where you were coming from the year that I certainly began in the NBA in ninety-five was near where where they were just so a tiny number of foreign players and they were eastern European for the most part Petra in a vacuum people have got ilk And I was a fat bookish British kid. I mean I've told you this before my my life at that point revolved around consuming cuming books and eating pie. That was that was really where I was. Most comfortable. Sweating was not a fun thing for me and I was people mistake. They think I I I found basketball and I thought here's a route to international fame and money and that was nothing nothing to do with it. I I started basketball because I walked into a gym wearing my rugby kit because it was all I had and I walked into this German and I looked at the faces of the twelve or fifteen people in there and they ran towards me. Grab my mom's I'm was saying he's on our team they. They framed every terrible. Thing I did and everybody knows what it's like to be a total novice unable to catch the ball unable to get within six feet of the basket. Not a clue about what you're supposed to be doing on the floor tactically and every mistake. I made they framed as a pathway to my future greatness an I just knew as these people looked at me and all I could see reflected in their faces. Aces was my potential. I just knew I would never leave the space that I needed to find a way to stay in this space as long as possible. And that's why I wanted to play in the NBA. Because I thought if a SMELLY JIM in some random part of the north of England I if I could find in this space my potential. I'll how amazing might be if I could go to the home of basketball whether it's the best coaches and big gyms that that experience would be magnified a thousand times and that's what made me WanNa play in the NBA didn't your initial backboard Wasn't it against a wall so God so usually in my ankles so many times so many times you go for a layup one of your feet would be on the wall. The other of your feet would be like in the crux of the of the walls of the floor. And and it would just be a regular part of our of our sessions where you know at six or ten minute intervals. Somebody's gone in for contested layup. Somebody comes down down in the crack in the ice that crooks in the wall and his twisted ankle and we're just gonNA take a breather and they walk it off and then we'd go again again but it was partly because because England and really have basketball right. That's how that's it's almost. It seems like we're speaking of ancient primitive times but that's why it was. The basket was against the wall because nobody playing new any better. Oh yeah well. The thing with with with dusk is nobody played. It was super expensive ends. If to get the the proper backboard so very often they were pieces of plywood with with netball hoops and netball hoops are smaller Half the size they a- basketball only just goes through them. I played on one of those for the first six months of my career I certainly have had a home. I had a netball hoop. That's what I practiced on. It had no backboard. Basketball is not was not a part of our infrastructure infrastructure. It is much more now in the UK but But the boys still not particularly evolved but back then it was it was like a tiny cabal of people. You you would you. Would you would know once you play for you. You've pretty much everybody in the country who played basketball. That's how small it was. And so how would you explain into people how how difficult it was to go from that. How bad you were at the beginning? You didn't pick up a basketball too late right. Yep Seventeen years old. I picked picked up a basketball. That whole experience of meeting. Those people was when I was seventeen. I play for one year in the UK. I was very fortunate to have a coach who sadly sadly he passed away. This year. a guy called Dave Mcclain. Who who who told me I had to go because there was nothing more that I could learn in the UK? Hey and that's when I I. That's when I made that that venture to go to America and I did that by writing to American high schools by I found a book from the Fulbright Commission which is an organization that facilitates international exchange. And it had this of high schools in it an I simply found the spoke and went through and put a pin every once in a while in a page until I had about three thousand names of schools and I wrote to the coaches of those schools and invited myself onto their teams. I mean the the letter was not nuanced and I'm embarrassed about it now. But essentially he said dear coach whatever. Your name is My Name's John H E. I'm six foot nine black in English And I would like to play for your team If this is of interest to you please get in touch. Six nine is of interest the sixty s the six nine and the black. I thought both would be of interest. I thought this is. These are key pieces in English. You throw in the English. I'm not sure what you were trying to accomplish there. Well I just didn't want them to to to have some idea that perhaps it was an An American already knew the sport and it was a ex-pat family on a on a on a military base or something I wanted them to realize no. No Raw English equals equals. I'm terrible right now. That was really the key and I and I sent off three thousand letters because this was before email and I got three. Replies one from a famous School in New Jersey which I will always remember because it says that they sent me a letter back saying we of the winningest inist team in the history of New Jersey. We don't need foreign talent and I'm always amazed by that the fact that they wrote back. That is now that they wrote back. But not just to put you in your place with a go. bleep yourself is amazingly cruel. It's amazing league rule. What does anybody WANNA? Why I'm pompous? It is that email that let let the sorry that caused it because I remember reading that and thinking well. I don't want to go to this school anyway. I'd winningest is not a word. Why did you why did you take time to write? That and I mean you took the time to write me back. Just write me back in that same. Do what the other two thousand nine hundred odd did an ignore this as some nonsense but instead you want to tell me that you're the winningest school. Not a word anyway so and then I got a letter from to dig up. There is nobody who does not realize this already. But I'm a principal Dick that's important And then I got got a letter from a school in Toledo Ohio and and I was back actually. I was back this year to see my school corps get named after coach at Hainkel in Toledo Ohio and he was the one who who kind of really accelerated my development. He understood very clearly that I had one year to to go from being abjectly terrible to being good enough to get a scholarship and he and his assistant coach Michael but fell Haber. They dedicated themselves and forced me to get dedicate myself To becoming the kind of flat who get a scholarship remarkable this the thing about success. It's it's it's all in them a new show it's in the mundane my success in my willingness to write three thousand letters knowing that a thousand wouldn't do it my my success S. is knowing that I'm never going to be the best at doing everything but I'm tough to be going left. I can't do much else but I was tough to be going going left. I just that that minutia is what gets it done. Did you give me the third letter. Did you tell us what the third letter was that you got there. The first ones memorable the second was memorable. What was the third one the third? Let's it was a school in Virginia And it's only memorable because I did not go. Oh there because my mother wouldn't let me because it was Virginia. My mother had had a white woman married to a black man in Boston in in the sixties And she would not let me go to Virginia. She was afraid. Wow so you had had the scholarship offer if it if the other one doesn't come through that would have been your only opportunity and your mom wouldn't let you she wouldn't have let you go chase your dream Not In Virginia That's interesting I did not know that I did know the story though involving your mother and I've reminisced over the years with you about this because of how it hit me when you told me I found I found the words bit haunting and sad Because you told me that on her deathbed she said to you after that that life that she lived she said I. I have not lived a fun life but I have lived a full life. Yeah Yeah I that it doesn't haunt me. It's aspirational for me. I need my life to be fun and I want to be clear. I don't think she was talking about never having moments of joy. I don't think it's rose tinted glasses to say that. I know that her children as we grow up my two sisters and myself. Oh for what. We're part episodically. If at least of moments of joy from my mother I know her friendships. with with colleagues and and her friends throughout her life were joyful but she has incredibly tough life and I and I think that colored the equation for her. This is the woman who fought in the Biafran war this this woman who jumped out of planes and eight grubs in the jungle in order to five and was on the losing side of a wall where a massive swathe of ethnic cleansing took place so there was nothing surprising when she said to me before she passed passed away that her life hadn't been fun to say but what was reassuring to know that what was important to her is that it was full and when she set that would I knew she meant purpose meaning value that she'd done something that made a difference. An void is she. At what time did you feel the most sense of purpose. Now I continue to it. It rises it. It continues to rise every day. You see something else and if you really apply in your brain and under willing to add a little bit of effort you realize that there are some things you content packed and to focus on them and and and try and be a Hashtag warrior with them has only a minimal impact and then there are some things that you really can make a difference in so I realized there stuff going on in sports that is really damaging and you and I have talked about the Penn state debacle The thing that really wounded clearly my relationship with with not with Penn state as as an entity but with with other Penn staters the dusky debacle. But even before that I was aware that there are non optimal things going on in sport. And now I'm in a position to do something about that because I can join in this in this country. We have a different in a parliamentary system..