RM: Absolutely. You know, you can have great individual matchups. You had Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. That’s great. Arguably, two of the greatest players ever. But what really fueled that was Boston versus L.A.
SLAM: Is it because the NBA markets individuals versus teams?
RM: I would say partly. But also teams need to face each other a couple of times in the Playoffs. That builds up rivalries and that contentious feeling, and then fans can jump on the bandwagon.
SLAM: You’re third all-time in NBA games played for the same franchise. That loyalty is rare these days. Do you think it’s also because players move around so much?
RM: Absolutely. And that’s another reason why I hope LeBron James re-signs with Cleveland. Sorry! [Laughs.]
SLAM: That hurts, man. You think he’s staying?
RM: Yeah, of course I do. Do you?
SLAM: Yeah, I guess. I think the Knicks end up with Amar’e Stoudamire and Joe Johnson.
RM: I think Joe Johnson may go to New York. Back to LeBron: I definitely said he was staying when you could only get one maximum contract. But now that you can get two, there’s a slight possibility. But very slight. But if you could be the biggest fish in the smallest pond, and everyone loves you, why leave for the headache?
SLAM: Maybe because it’s your hometown and you’ve always lived there and always played there. And you feel suffocated. That’s what I would tell him. “Hey, LeBron, you need to get away from your home.” And maybe if you yourself were from Indiana, you would’ve felt differently.
RM: Right. Because I was coming from a major city and a big market in L.A….
SLAM: Did you enjoy living in Indiana?
RM: Oh, I loved it. You know, no traffic, people actually say hello to you. I kind of relished that.
SLAM: You were UCLA’s second all-time leading scorer behind Kareem. How difficult was it for you to come off the bench during your rookie season?
RM: It was the best thing for me personally because I got to learn under John Long. He was my tutor. And after every single game, he would take me and we would watch film, break down the opposing shooting guards. I came off the bench and it was a great learning experience. I wasn’t thrust or thrown into it.
SLAM: You were so good at drawing fouls. Do you feel that that’s become a lost art?
RM: It’s the whole ESPN-highlight age now, where people want to jump over each other. But they forget that you can get two points at the free-throw line by drawing contact. You know, the art of a good flop as opposed to a bad flop.
SLAM: And you were the master of the good flop.
RM: [Laughs.] Hey, I had to be. At my size, I had to be. I had to act like I was getting killed out there. Most officials are gonna look if you are 180, 185. I mean, you’re going to the hole and Patrick Ewing is 260-270, you gotta act like you were just killed.
SLAM: Who was your favorite all-time teammate?
RM: I would have to say…Mark Jackson, of course. Dale Davis, Vern Fleming, LaSalle Thompson.
SLAM: How about a coach?
RM: Well there are two: A guy who made me a better player and taught me how to play the right way: Larry Brown. Philosophy-wise and how to respect the game, it was Coach Jack Ramsay.
SLAM: You won a gold medal in the ’96 Olympics. Where does that rank on your list of accomplishments?
RM: It’s up there, obviously. It was really one of the only things that I actually ever accomplished, you know, winning-wise, so I have to put it up there. But also, winning the Eastern Conference Finals against your New York Knicks…
SLAM: Can you please stop saying that?
RM: [Laughs.] Well that may be number one, because they were always the roadblocks.
SLAM: How have Knicks fans treated you since you retired?
RM: Pretty good. But I would say that it’s because the Knicks and the Pacers both suck. And I think the fans want those days back. So they are a little more respectful because they are yearning for those days. For when the Garden was electric. It’s an incredible environment for basketball.
SLAM: So can’t you talk to LeBron James and tell him that for me?
RM: Oh, man. [Laughs.]
SLAM: If anyone could do it, it’d be you.
RM: Wait, getting back to earlier, you said Joe Johnson and who? Bosh or Amar’e?
SLAM: Probably Amar’e. That’s how the Knicks luck goes.
RM: Which is not bad.
SLAM: I know. But he’ll get injured. And then I hear Rudy Gay talking about how much he loves New York…
RM: Y’all are sleeping on him. He’s a great player.
SLAM: Right, Reggie, but we didn’t clear this cap space for Rudy Gay or Joe Johnson.
RM: Or, you easily wait a year for Carmelo.
SLAM: Sure, but if we flush another year down the toilet, who the hell is going to want to come to New York?
RM: Hey, New York will always have players who want to play there. Always.