Talking Hoops with Roy Jones, Jr.
The boxing great knows his basketball ish. And he’s got game, too.
You know Roy Jones, Jr. He of boxing dominance, who has held a title in four different weight classes while amassing a 54-6 career record on the back of 40 knockouts. Yeah, that dude.
Jones was named Fighter of the Decade for the 1990′s by the Boxing Writers Association of America, a decade of dominance which got in full swing on May 22, 1993 with a unanimous decision victory over Bernard Hopkins; the win gave Jones the IBF middleweight title. Now, Jones is preparing to take on Hopkins once again, as he will face his foe for a rematch nearly 17 years in the making in Las Vegas this Saturday, April 3.
Certainly most known for being one of the best to step in the ring, Jones has a relationship with a basketball that goes back as far as his history with gloves. We caught up with Roy before his big fight so he could share stories about his playing days from high school to the pros, who he would choose as his starting five, and why Manny Pacquiao ain’t got nothin’ on him.
SLAM: So you’re in Vegas getting ready for Saturday’s fight with Bernard Hopkins, right? How you feeling about that?
Roy Jones, Jr.: Yeah. I’m good. I’m real good.
SLAM: What kind of stuff have you been doing to get ready for the fight?
RJ: Same as I always do. Getting myself in the best shape I can be in.
SLAM: You fought him a bunch of years ago. That was one of your earliest big fights. What do you think it’s going to be like second time around?
RJ: Same thing. It’s fun to leave out on the same note you came in on, you know what I mean? [Laughs] It’s like, you came in on that [winning] note, and you gonna go out on that note.
SLAM: When you first beat him, you earned a title. What was that feeling like?
RJ: It was a wonderful feeling. It was a great accomplishment. It was my first World Title and that was one of the biggest accomplishments in my career. I remember thinking, I can’t turn it down cause it was the first time I fight for a title and I may not get the chance again so I gotta take it.
SLAM: Basketball is our thing here at SLAM, so you know I wanna talk a little hoops. What’s your playing history like?
RJ: I started playing [professionally] probably about ’95 or ’96. I really had a good time playing basketball and I’m still part of it everyday. I’m a fan. I like a lot of players and I really enjoy the game.
SLAM: Did you play organized ball when you were younger?
RJ: I played in 10th grade and I started my 12th grade year, but I busted my head. At that point, I had to stop, because my dad made me quit because I had a more promising boxing career than basketball career.
SLAM: You busted your head playing ball or boxing?
RJ: Basketball. I did it at basketball practice.
SLAM: Who would have thought that basketball was the more dangerous sport?
RJ: For me, it was [laughs].
SLAM: What’s your game like? Is there anyone you can compare it to?
RJ: It’s a little different. I’m more of an assist guy. I can shoot it, but I usually try for more assists when I’m playing organized ball. When I play streetball, I’m more of a scorer because I have to be, usually. But in organized ball, I’m more of a Steve Nash type. He probably shoots the three a little better than me, but I’m that type.
SLAM: Would you say you’re the best ball-playing boxer?
RJ: Yeah, I am.
SLAM: I know Pacquiao plays a little bit, have you ever played with him?
RJ: Man, I’m the best ball-playing boxer!
RJ: Yeah, undisputed. And I’d love to take my team and we’ll go to the Phillipines and take on Pacquiao’s team if he wants to.
SLAM: What’s your team?
RJ: I got a team at home called Body Head Bangerz, and we’d love to go play against that guy’s team. It ain’t no professional team or nothing like that, it’s just guys playing ball.
SLAM: A while back you practiced with the Knicks. How did that come about?
RJ: That was a fun experience. I really enjoyed that. They were like, Hey, we know Roy loves basketball, let’s have him come to practice. So I came, Isaiah got me some gifts and asked if I wanted to warm up with ‘em. I said, Yes sir! It was a fun event, man.
SLAM: Did you know what an NBA practice would be like?
RJ: I had no clue what it would be like, but I enjoyed it [laughs]. Well, I did have a little bit of a clue because I played in the USBL and I think our practices were kind of similar to what they do.
SLAM: How long did you play in the USBL?
RJ: From 1996 through about 2003, I think.
SLAM: I read somewhere that once you played in a game and then had a fight later in the day?
RJ: Yup, I played a USBL basketball game then fought; that was ’97. I won the game and the fight.
SLAM: What was it like playing in the USBL while still maintaining a boxing career?
RJ: I loved it. It was a lot of fun and there were some really good players, so I really enjoyed it.
SLAM: You follow the NBA much?
RJ: Oh, always.
SLAM: Who’s your team?
RJ: I’m a Laker fan; I’m a Kobe fan, first. There are a lot of players that I really like, though. I like Chris Paul. AI was one of my favorites. Brandon Roy is one of my favorites now. Of course, King James and Carmelo are two of my favorites. You gotta love Odom. You gotta love Nash. There are quite a few guys I like but my Fave Five would probably be: Chris Paul at the one, Brandon Roy at the two, Kobe at the three, I’d have to move LeBron to the four, and put Dwight at the five, then I’d be ready [laughs].
SLAM: Sliding Bron over to the four—I like it. That’s an athletic squad. Do you get a chance to see any games live?
RJ: Yeah. Oh, and Chauncey Billups is one of my favorites, too. I forgot about that; I love Big Shot. I saw Denver and New Orleans in the playoffs last year with my son. Chris Paul gave him his shoes after the game, as a matter of fact, and that was one of the biggest days of his life so far. He was nine then, but he’s ten now.
SLAM: And he plays a little bit?
RJ: He reminds me so much of Chris Paul already!
SLAM: That’s not a bad comparison to be given. So who’s got the best shot to win the title this year?
RJ: Really, it all depends. If Shaq comes back, then I like Cleveland’s chances. But if Shaq doesn’t come back, out of the East I think it’s probably going to be Orlando again and in the West it’s probably going to be the Lakers, although Denver is going to make a run for it this year.
SLAM: And you follow the college game, too?
RJ: Yeah, I follow college. But this year—man. First I had Kansas. They lost. Then I had Kentucky. They lost. Then I had Baylor. They lost. So…I don’t know what else to say [laughs].
SLAM: Man, everyone’s bracket is so messed up right now.
RJ: I shoulda went with what I know from beforehand. I know the coach from West Virginia, me and him met this year and he’s a great guy. He also invited me to come to practice but it was during a time that I was doing training. I didn’t get the chance to go because it was so cold. I’m usually training around there when it’s not so cold, but I couldn’t this time. I also know that Coach K at Duke is one of the greatest coaches of all-time, so right now I’d want to pick one of them, but they fittin’ to play each other!
SLAM: So then outta the Final Four who you got?
RJ: I’m gonna have to go with Duke.
SLAM: We’ll see. Aight, man, thanks for your time. Good luck this weekend.
RJ: Thank you. I got nothing but love for the game.