Q+A: Nick Anderson
A conversation with the retired Magic swingman.
NA: It was a learning experience. For many, many years after I didn’t want to talk about it. I was angry. But I’ve come to grips with it. I’ve talked to different people about it.
And did it bother me? Of course. I knew what type of player I was. And did it affect my career? Yes. I went from this aggressive player who’d challenge anybody no matter what name was on the back of their jersey, to this very passive guy.
Let me tell you this: Jackie Macmullan, who covered the Celtics at the time of the ’95 Finals, she was a great, inspirational person to me through that whole ordeal. I have the utmost respect for her, to this day. After the practice the next day, she was great. Totally supportive, and she should know that she’ll always have a fan in Nick Anderson.
But I took a lot of flack people saying I’d lost the game—that I’d lost the Finals. Even though it was game one and, on top of that, that game we’d blown a 25-point lead! That weighed on me for a while. I was an angry person and if anyone approached me about that I became really pissed off.
SLAM: That led into the end of your career. How’d you prepare for that transition?
NA: I kind of welcomed it. Listen, it was time for me to let younger guys get their time. I wasn’t one of these guys that was trying to hang on. When my skills weren’t as polished as they used to be, my feeling was that it was time to move over and let the next man enjoy this.
SLAM: What did you do?
NA: I moved to Atlanta. I stayed in shape and relaxed. Let it happen. I didn’t go to basketball games. I’d go see the Falcons. I wasn’t married yet but I had my two older kids. My son’s a junior in college, he played ball with Derrick Rose at Simmion and my daughter’s a freshman in college. And I let the change happen.
SLAM: How’d you end up with your current position?
NA: I always did stuff for the community when I was a player. My mother always told me to give back and I always did that my whole career. In Atlanta, my phone rang and it was Mr. DeVoss. Asking me to come back home, and I’ve been there about six, seven years. So many good things have happened to me in Atlanta. I met my wife and had a beautiful daughter.
SLAM: What about all the bad stories you here about guys struggling after the game?
NA: When you step into that limelight, when you’ve come from nothing, it’s a lot. I had my struggles too. I can’t sit here and tell you that I didn’t have my struggles because I did. We all have our problems. You have to keep your faith and keep marching on. The storm shall pass.
SLAM: Is it something you can see in young guys, if they’re going to have problems after their career?
NA: Listen, my advice to the young guys out there is to listen to the veterans when they tell you something. Some kids are out there acting like they’ve been here before, and that they know it all.
SLAM: Out of the players you see today, who’s doing it right?
NA: I use this young man as a perfect example. I think he’s one of the most humble kids in today’s game that you’ll ever meet. It’s Kevin Durant. From what I’ve seen, I don’t know him personally but Kevin Durant was raised and I praise him to the utmost. He interacts with his fans, his teammates, he lets people knows he’s a human being who’s blessed with a talent to play basketball, and he doesn’t think he’s better than you. And that’s the way I see him and he’s got a fan in Nick Anderson.
For all these guys though, the message is this: You gotta go through something to know something. I tell every athlete, not just basketball players, you’re only as good as your last game. Not only that, this game will go on with you or without you. No matter if you’re MJ or the last guy on the bench. It’s a privilege to be out there as a professional athlete. So, embrace it. Respect it. Honor it.
Many thanks to Ryan Totka from StayDwight.com