Derek Anderson’s story is nothing short of incredible. As an athlete not only was he a superstar on the historic ’96 Kentucky Wildcats, he has won on every single level of competition all the way from middle school up to the NBA. As a person, the issues he’s had to conquer and overcome are incomprehensible.
He was parentless and homeless by age 12, had his first child at 14 and was taking his two year old son with him to work at a candy store by 16. It’s safe to say that he brings a new meaning to the axiom “No excuses.”
In this interview, Derek kicks that k-n-o-w-l-e-d-g-e. He talks about how the NBA has made a change for the worst, how current athletes should use their celebrity to help themselves, how African-American athletes are at a disadvantage, how teachers should be paid more than athletes, and more. Most notably, he says that today’s NBA isn’t really for the best players but favors whatever looks best politically.
The lovely ladies of HoopGirlz Radio, Chelle and Kia, conducted the interview. Click HERE to hear it in its entirety. Check excerpts below:
On Playing with Kentucky
People were already saying that we weren’t going to play well because all of us were All Americans. Nine of us were McDonald’s All-Americans. So people were like there’s no way ‘they’re going to play together, have fun or even win’. For this team, coach tried to put the best five out there and it didn’t work because we were all trying to shoot and we lost the second game to that UMass/Marcus Camby team. After that, he said he was going to change the lineup…we had 86 points at halftime against LSU AT LSU.
On Playing With So Much Talent On the Team
We were insanely good- it was just crazy. I think the best thing about it is everybody liked each other and it doesn’t matter with the coach…Guys should know how to play basketball. It shouldn’t be about no offense, ‘Princeton’ or whatever, dudes should know how to play basketball. Figure it out and make it work. That’s what we did, figured it out and made it work. So if I hit a shot, we kept going to me until someone else got hot. I think that’s what made everyone so good, just understanding the game. That year [’96], they called us and UCLA the two best teams in college history.
On His Favorite Team (That He Played For)
That’s tricky because the best teammates I’ve had are on a lot of different teams. Some of the managements were o-k because they were making business decisions and then some of the managements were just complete idiots and just doing all kinds of stupid stuff. So there was never just one total thing….
On Why He Retired
It’s become so business-like nowadays that you don’t get the best talent in, you get the best business decisions. I think that’s what made the game changed and that’s the reason why he retired. Once they started making business decisions instead of basketball decisions, I was like, “I’m done.”
On How the NBA Has Changed
If I score 5 points a quarter, that’s 20 points a game. That is so easy. The problem is, certain teams won’t allow you to do that and certain will kiss other people’s [you know what] to keep that from happening. When Allen Iverson came in, he got to shoot all the balls. As soon as the coaches told him he couldn’t shoot all the balls, he wasn’t the same player.
We all can play, remember, I averaged 20 points. When I went to Portland, I was balling. Then all of a sudden it was like, “Well DA, we’re going to need you to play point guard now.” I was like WHAT? It’s TOO much politics now.
On the Politics of the NBA
You look at guys down at the bottom of the bench and you don’t know who they are. You don’t know where they came from, you don’t know what work they put in, you don’t know nothing. It’s become political. They want to be universal and they want to bring guys in from overseas and whatnot. The United States guys are figuring it out and they’re going overseas to get a fanbase so I guess it’s just a part of the evolution of basketball.
On How He Started His Businesses
What I did was what a lot of these athletes don’t do. I built relationships while I was hot. When I had a name and a fanbase, I was building relationships with people and trying to figure out how to maximize all of the success I was having on the court and try to build relationships. You talk to athletes nowadays and say, ‘I do [suchandsuch]’ and they’ll say, ‘ok. Well I got to go to the club.’ or ‘We have to go to the mall.’ They don’t build relationships like they should.
When I retired, people remembered me as a person more than me as an athlete.
So it was like, ‘I don’t care if he played 11 years. I remember you playing but I remember you as a good person.‘ So now I can just walk into meetings and business deals and people remember me more for that than from basketball.
On Athletes’ Money Woes
The truth of it is, athletes come from a different upbringing. That’s the problem we have, we have no literacy towards that. And I think that was a problem with all African-American players who played except for like Grant Hill’s father who was in football and was able to do what he did.
When they say ‘what happened to the athletes who went broke?‘ Well, normal people went broke! You’re just mad because we’re famous and we had issues but if you’re a normal person, you have issues. That’s just a part of life. It’s a part of life for ALL people. We just had it so fast and at a young age, it was hard to contain it when you wanted to have and you never had.
Log on to http://www.DerekAndersonWorks.com and follow him on twitter @DerekLAnderson.