Talking with Richard Hamilton while in Hong Kong.
Ever since Richard Hamilton visited Beijing last year, he’s wanted to visit Hong Kong. So when the NBA asked if he wanted to be part of the NBA Madness tour—an annual NBA promotional event which stops in major Asian cities—he took the chance.
Unfortunately for Rip, his visit in Hong Kong this past weekend was marred by heavy rain and a typhoon. Still, NBA Hong Kong suits gave him a tour, taking him to the Peak (the highest point in Hong Kong, which usually offers a stunning view of the Hong Kong skyline…when it isn’t raining) and the street markets. On Saturday, he appeared at a shopping mall with the Phoenix Suns cheerleaders (the league likes to mix players and dancers. Last year it was Durant with the Bulls dancers) to display his sweet mid-range stroke. A few local players from the Hong Kong Nike Teenage league were invited on stage to play, but Rip took it easy on them (unlike Kobe, who showed no mercy in destroying a 5-6 kid during his visit to Hong Kong two years ago).
SLAM caught up Rip the next day in his hotel room, where he displayed his kicks collection and a Phoenix Suns jersey with his name on it to a small group of media members. Odd, right? Rip said he had a personalized jersey made for every NBA team…even the Clippers.
SLAM: First off, how’s your ankle?
Hamilton: Good, it feels perfect. I’m 100 percent and ready to play.
SLAM: How’s TMac’s health? Have you seen or talk to him?
Hamilton: Naw I haven’t seen him, not at all. But he’ll give us good veteran presence and knowledge regardless.
SLAM: For a seven year stretch, you guys were one of the best teams in the league, how tough was the last two years, being a below average team?
Hamilton: Any time you make changes, like we did, it’s not always going to go great. When you go younger, it’s going to take time for them to get used to the game. I think we’re getting better. Stuckey is better and Jerebko was one of the best rookies last year. We’ll be better this year.
SLAM: Are you worried about the trade rumors that seem to pop up every now and then?
Hamilton: There are always trade rumors, I don’t think about it. That’s the game of basketball, and as you get older you start to realize it and let it go. When you’re younger you may get frustrated.
SLAM: You mean like when Jordan traded you for Stackhouse?
Hamilton: Well, I knew I was going to be traded then. I didn’t know where I was going to go, but I knew I was going to be traded. Mike wanted to win immediately and I was young.
SLAM: How did this NBA Madness tour come about?
Hamilton: I went to Beijing last year and I loved it so much I told the NBA that if there are opportunities to come back, to let me know.
SLAM: David Stern has hinted at possible league expansions to Asia or Europe, what do you think of that?
Hamilton: It would be amazing if we do expand. Basketball is bigger than the United States now, it’s a world sport. I think we should look into expanding, it’d be a great experience for not just the fans, but the players too.
SLAM: How long do you see yourself playing in the league?
Hamilton: Well, I got three more years on my deal, after that, I’ll see how I feel mentally. I know physically, I can play until I’m 40. But I gotta see if mentally, if I can still attack the game like I do now.
SLAM: I do remember you bragging that you were the most in-shape player in the league during the 2004 Finals.
Hamilton: (Laughs). I still am that way, the most in-shape player in the league.
SLAM: What do you do to keep in shape?
Hamilton: Eat right, eat all organic products, run five miles a day, stand upside-down, work out in a hyperbaric chamber, take my vitamins. A whole lot of little tricks that keeps me playing.
SLAM: What was your first reaction to that whole LeBron circus this summer?
Hamilton: I think the media made too big a deal about it. I think it’s a great situation for him, I mean he had the chance to play in Miami with two of the best players in the game.
SLAM: With that whole Melo/Chris Paul/New York thing recently, what do you think of this new trend—or potential trend—of superstars teaming up together?
Hamilton: What’s happening now is that the players are taking it on their own and saying “we want to play here”. In the past, owners would dictate where guys are going. Lebron did what he did, and he took it upon himself, and that had never happened before. And now guys are doing it. It’ll be interesting.
SLAM: Who are you more worried about this season, Miami or the Lakers?
Hamilton: The Lakers are still the team to beat. They’re the defending champs, until someone dethrones them, they’re the champions. With [the Heat], on paper they look amazing, but the thing is, you don’t win games on paper. Check out 2004 when the Lakers had Kobe, Shaq, Payton, Malone—everyone. And then we beat them anyway.
SLAM: When your NBA career is over, would you be interested in playing in Europe, like what Paul Pierce said he’d do?
Hamilton: I would love to play in Europe. I’ve seen that quote [by Paul Pierce] and I agree, I think it’d be a great experience and opportunity to visit another country. That would be an option for me. Like I said, basketball is bigger than the United States now. It’d be fun to experience other cultures.
SLAM: What about after that, would you consider coaching or other front office jobs?
Hamilton: I don’t think I’ll get into coaching. If I do coach, I think it’ll be my son. I can only coach at elementary school level, where kids don’t talk back.
SLAM: Okay, you guys won it all in 2004, and then came so close in 2005—if Sheed didn’t leave Horry open you guys may have won in that year—and then from ’06 to ’08 you guys were right there too. So really, a break here, a bounce there and you guys could have two to four rings. Do you feel a bit of regret looking back? Like, “damn we coulda been one of the greatest teams ever”?
Hamilton: Not at all, I’m happy I got one. How many times do you hear guys say “we were right there” and came up short? It’s tough, man. We won one, and yeah we had opportunities to win again and we didn’t, but to walk away with one ring, five rings, two rings, you still taste that champagne.
Ben Sin is a California-raised, Hong Kong-based journalist currently writing for Time Out Hong Kong. His true passion, some say obsession, is basketball. Visit his blog at therearenoroads.wordpress.com.