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Monday, July 2nd, 2012 at 2:14 pm  |  41 responses

No Regrets

His path to superstardom derailed by injury, Ron Harper reinvented his game and won five rings. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

SLAM: When you guys practiced, what was that like going up against Jordan?

RH: Me and him? When he started throwin’ that fadeaway shot at us, I said these guys are gonna have a hard time with him. Because I knew I was one of the top two or three defensive guards, if I couldn’t stop it, wasn’t nobody else could. I tell everybody, y’all saw the game days. That was the easy part. We’d play five-on-five, three-on-three, two-on-two. And we would compete as a basketball team like it was a real basketball game. Because MJ would talk so much shit. You can’t lose to him! I had to come in there and compete against him, because I knew he would embarrass me. When he came back, the first thing he told me is, “Come to my house.” I asked why. He said, “We gonna work out every day at 7 [a.m.].” I was at his house at 6:45. And the man, he was training harder than anybody that I ever saw. And that’s what made him better than all these guys.

SLAM: Were you disappointed with the way things ended there?

RH: We felt we had a good enough team to keep winning—I don’t think that the San Antonio Spurs would have gotten that Championship, no way. Because they wouldn’t have had to play against the New York Knicks, they would have had to play against that Chicago team. If we—the Bulls—had the same team, we woulda whooped San Antonio ass. I’ll tell it like it is. We woulda whooped their ass in five. Maybe four, but I’ll say five.

SLAM: Did it get harder after that first Championship, then the second? Was the third the hardest of all?

RH: No. No, I’ll tell you why. We had guys who loved to be a part of a good basketball team, that came in and worked hard every day. And when we played any team, when we walked on the floor we were 10 points up. Because they knew we had the best basketball player of all time, we had the second best in Scottie, and we had Rodman, and he got in everybody’s head. Every time we played them home games, and other teams heard our theme song, they were scared. They already knew they was beat.

SLAM: You wound up following Phil Jackson to L.A. with the Lakers. So what was it like going from playing with Michael and Scottie to Kobe and Shaq?

RH: The first day that I got there, I saw Shaq take a defensive rebound, go behind his back, between his legs and slam on about four guys. Shaq’s a great basketball player, but he understands how the game is supposed to be played. He’s a great teammate, I loved being on his team. And then you have a young Kobe, who’s similar to a Michael Jordan. He may not be as strong as him, but he has the will and the deep fire. He comes into training camp and demonstrates that he’s ready to go right then.

SLAM: Did the guys on the Lakers approach practice the same way that the Bulls did?

RH: Mmmmm, no. No. No. No. We had some guys that would compete. We had some guys that really enjoyed being in Hollywood,  enjoying the nightlife. When we was in Chicago, we always said when you leave your house and you look up and see those gray skies, it’s time to hoop. When you in the sunshine in Los Angeles and you ridin’ down the street and you’ve got palm trees and all the hot cars and all the hot girls, Whaaaaat, basketball? I don’t know!

But I had a great basketball team with the Lakers, and I had a great head coach who knew how to get me to be a part of that team. Me and Phil always had a thing. He said, “I’m not gonna call every damn play. You are the point guard, you know everything. You know the team, you know what guys’ strengths are, you make the call.” I told Shaquille, I said, I’m gonna come at you in the first quarter, I’m gonna come at you in the second quarter, I’m gonna come at you in the third. But I said, In the fourth, I’m gonna go over here, because this young kid could close out games. And he could make free throws. You could be mad at me, but I’m keepin’ it real. Phil is here to win Championships. This is why we’re here. We’re not here to be friends. We want to win Championships now.

SLAM: I guess being a Laker from ’99-on was a long ways from being a Clipper in ’89.

RH: That’s for sure. It’s definitely a long way, but I tell folks any time, if I’m goin’ into the Hall of Fame, I’m goin’ in as a Los Angeles Clipper.

SLAM: Really? I thought associating L.A. with where you got hurt…

RH: That’s OK. That’s part of the game. But they gave me a chance to prove to people that I could carry a whole team. I carried a team that wasn’t shit. [Laughs] A team that had Charles Smith, Ken Norman, Benoit Benjamin, Gary Grant and half a year with Danny Manning, and we could do work with any team in the League. I’m not tradin’ my red, white and blue for nobody. I love the Chicago Bulls, I love Phil, but my Los Angeles days? I love the Clippers.

SLAM: And who knows what happens if you don’t get hurt?

RH: Who cares about that? I don’t go back, like, If this didn’t happen… Listen: You make whatever you can. I had a great run.

SLAM: Did you have a favorite title?

RH: No. The ones I do love more are with the Chicago team because we played as a team, we loved being a team. Now that Laker team won Championships, but if you go back and ask them guys to speak truthfully, ask ’em if they had fun. And I’m gonna leave it at that.

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  • http://thahiphopcorner.com Kevin

    Wow. Great interview

  • Kadavour

    Too f*ckin real. this was GREAT Slam. just great.

  • http://slamonline.com 19821982

    Always liked Ron, thanks for the interview.

  • permaculture james

    Glad to see this article. Always wondered about him. Liked his game. Didn’t know about the blown out knee. Second kadavour.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7C0vd-L5lg Munky

    This is great stuff.

  • Wixurrs

    i remember thinking that the Bulls had a great substitution SG in Harper but that he would only get 5 minutes a game. I didn’t think he could run the point but he surprised everyone. The triangle worked well for him.

  • http://www.slamonline.com house

    DOPE interview, THANKS for this one, was a GREAT READ, have always been a big Harp fan!

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    So happy with this one. Shout out to WWW for the Ron connect and RB for killing it.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Redd

    Real nice interview, that was blatant and entertaining.

  • DS44

    The realness .

  • http://www.rich-imaging.com Dutch Rich

    Love Harp, great interview.

  • DJ ILLusive

    Hands down, my fave player from the 80s/90s. Not only was he a classy guy, but even despite the career changing knee injury, he swallowed his pride as the flashy, slashing scorer to become the savvy vet and defensive stopper on some very good championship teams. Props to my idol, Ronnie Harp.

  • http://slamonline.com The Philosopher

    SLAM is still… g.o.a.t.

  • MattB

    Harp was always one of my favorite players, and I got lucky enough to get his autograph once. People don’t remember that he had a speech impediment and Jordan used to tease him during interviews. I think my favorite Harper moment was when Patrick Ewing was dribbling and Harp just dove at him and took the ball out like he was tackling it. I’ve never seen anyone go after a steal like that.

  • http://Somethingsomething. Ugh

    Top notch interview.

  • http://www.nba.com Shadojoker

    Great read! Props to Russ!!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Double J

    You know I’m 23 and my first memories of basketball came from me loving the Chicago Bulls of 97 and 98, and the Lakeshow, but I will always remember hating on Ron Harper. Never liked the dude, but this article was tight.

  • Hobbes

    Too real. Da Bulls woulda sweep that 99 Spurs team!

  • http://slamonline.com Datkid

    DOPE interview. Wait Ron Harper could go into the Hall of fame?

  • K.a.

    I recall from fan comments ron n scottie tended to be jerks with fans. Still, great read, n while its not like ron had a lot of choices after his knee blew out, its still a big deal that he made good with opportunities. I remember kobe giving mad props for rons durability despite playing post injury (so u know hes a pro) n i like his comment abt early 00s not being a fun team. N his unselfishness really comes off as integral to both team success (as opposed to due to avoiding bigger responsibilities).

  • Ali

    Dope read! I remember at one point Ron was the only cat in The Association to slow down MJ. Those Cavs/Bulls match ups where classics! For about a 2 year span he was THE man in Cleveland.

  • jedi420

    Helluva player, great bball IQ and kept it honest in the interview, fantastic stuff!

  • Zabbah

    Keeping is real, Ron. Gotta hand it to ya.

  • http://www.twitter.com/_dfrance dfrance21

    Love how candid he was. “The Spurs? We woulda whooped their azz in 5, probably 4, but I’ll say 5″

  • T. Brown

    As a huge Bulls fan, I got love for Harper. He was a big part of that 2nd 3-peat… great interview. I wish more athletes kept it real like him.

  • Allenp

    Good questions and great responses. People rarely talk to Harper for his perspective and that has been a mistake.

  • http://getwisenyc.com Chris Wise

    This was an excellent read! Great stuff, SLAM

  • NickR

    Great stuff from Harp and great interview from RB

  • Greg

    Interview was tight and informative. Glad he gave props to my fav player of the 90′s: Mark Price.

  • pacmac

    First off much love to Harp, f you for the spurs comment “if ifs were a fifth we’d all have a SIP…” say word SHAQ booming on 4 in a stride had to be a a killer welcome to L.A., dope interview!

  • http://www.slamonline.com spit hot fiyah

    DOPE!

  • HAMMER

    Really dope article. I miss seeing Ron play. I remember those Clipper teams. It was a nice solid squad they had.
    And I love how Ron doesn’t have want to “What if this..What if that?” his career. In the end, he got 5 rings and was a key factor in all of those championship teams. What more can you ask for?
    Way to keep it real Ron!

  • http://www.dimemag.com Showtime

    Ron harp = Tha realist.. great interview..haha he was like check my stats .

  • patrick

    Superstardom? excuse me, Rharper was never a superstar…

  • patrick

    Oh, “path to supertardom was derailed”..ok that’s fair..i have no idea if he would have been a superstar had he not had whatever injury…

  • http://www.twitter.com/gerardhimself Gerard Himself

    loved reading this, thanks

  • luv2ball

    Great article, people don’t remember the level of SG/SF talent in the NBA back then. People also don’t remember that Ron used to give MJ fits! MJ had to deal with Ron, Joe Dumars, Bernard King, Mitch Richmond,Reggie Miller ,Gerald Wilkins, Dominique,etc. SG used to be the deepest position in the league!

  • Jay

    Ron is one of my favorites. I met him in a mall in jersey. He’s approachable and will hold a conversation. Cool dude.

  • http://slamonline.com Mars

    Ron Ron was the truth. Humble as hell. Remember, for every MJ, Kobe, LeBron, KD, there are so many who step aside or remain nameless. Yeah 6’6 athletic guards are not new folks.

  • Ezi Kidd

    Nice Ron Ron !!!

  • ryan

    His last comment about asking the Lakers if they had fun winning championships is very interesting.

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