Q+A: Nick Anderson
A conversation with the retired Magic swingman.
NA: I was aware of all that. But I wanted someone that really wanted me to be, not some coach was going to try to pamper me. I never got that because I didn’t want it. I always looked at it this way: If I worked hard and made it myself then no one could say, ‘I gave you this.’
SLAM: Could you talk about your decision to enter the Draft after your junior season?
NA: My mom was in a car accident that almost killed her. In my family I was the first to go to high school. My brothers, both dropped out after their first year and got caught up with gangs and drugs in Chicago.
I was in school living with my younger sister and my mother and this accident really almost killed her. She’s still recovering from the injuries today. So, when that happened my mom someone needed to take care of the family, and pay bills, so that was the main reason to leave after my junior year.
I’d had a good season. We’d made it to the Final Four; I’d averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds. Glen Rice and myself were co-MVPs of the Big Ten. So it just made sense.
SLAM: Glen Rice. You hear about him and Palin?
NA: Wow, yea. (laughs). I mean she was a rookie reporter down in Miami or something. It’s weird.
SLAM: You were drafted by the expansion Orlando Magic. Any hesitancy heading into a brand new team?
NA: It’s funny, my senior year trip in high school was to Orlando. But my family couldn’t afford to send me. To be drafted by Orlando a few years later was crazy. God works in mysterious ways. But people were, like, “Orlando?!” But, it all worked out for the better. I’m glad it happened. I just wanted to play NBA basketball, I didn’t care what team.
SLAM: As Shaq, and then Penny, joined that Orlando team you guys became a sensation in the League. What was it like being a part of something like that?
NA: It was an honor. Shaq, Penny, Horace Grant, Brian Shaw, too. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. We were a young, dynamic group of guys. We were like a rock band, when we were in town everyone wanted to see us. And I was able to watch Shaquille O’Neal grow into the Hall of Fame basketball player that he was.
SLAM: He also was growing into his huge personality, was he the main voice of the locker room even back then?
NA: Oh, he was there. But in terms of a leader it was Brian Shaw. Brian had played with Larry Bird and the Celtics and he was the leader, he was the voice. Us young guys could respect a guy who’s played around all those Hall of Famers. He learned from them, so the only thing we could do was listen.
And there were, in particular guys who took me under their wing as a rookie and I still appreciate it till this day. Scott Skiles, Sam Vincent and Syndey Green. I’m very appreciative of the leadership they gave me. I didn’t know anything.
SLAM: What was their message?
NA: Do what the coaches say, and everyday work hard. And for the most part, that’s what I did. No back talk. I just took the advice they gave me.
SLAM: How’d you deal with the lifestyle and the money?
NA: I was coming from the streets of Chicago, having grown up sharing everything with my brothers. I didn’t forget about my family, despite their troubles. People would tell me to let them go, but I didn’t listen to them. Seeing then now after what they went through as young men, it’s a blessing from the good lord above. They married, with children that they’re raising right. I never gave up on them and being able to help them in any way I could, that’s a blessing.