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Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 at 4:59 pm  |  44 responses

Dime Drop: Jamel Thomas

A q+a with the baller/writer on his new book.

While he hasn’t quite become the online columnist I sort of implied he would be when he wrote this touching piece for us almost exactly a year ago, Jamel Thomas, the Big East’s top scorer a decade ago and still a pro player in Europe (Greece to be exact), hardly quit creating. On the contrary, he made a wild Youtube video that blew up last spring, then focused his efforts on completing his long-time book project, an honest and revealing autobiography, The Beautiful Struggle.

As I wrote in SLAM 123, Jamel has lived through more than enough to write a book, including a harrowing childhood in Coney Island and serving a long-time role as a mentor to relatives (including half brother Sebastian Telfair) and fellow CI natives. He’s also butted heads with his cousin Stephon Marbury, a subject that Jamel dramatically covers in the book. Check out the interview I did with Jamel for SLAM below and if that makes you want more from him, go to Jamelthebook.com to order it.

SLAM: Some of the details in the book are really rich; did you keep a diary? When did you start writing for real?

JT: I started writing it about two years ago. I remember a lot. They say kids remember when tragedy happens, so since the passing of my mother when I was young is something I just thought about every day. Since I was in college I always wanted to write a story because I saw the transformation into me doing good and not being a street kid anymore. I thought it would be inspirational for younger kids that look up to me and to ball players in general.

SLAM: The book does tell your story, pretty much in order, but there are a lot of interludes and poems and some pieces from other writers as well. What was your thinking in doing it that way?

JT: I always wanted to do poetry because I used to love Biggie Smalls and poetry, rap, whatever. I use that so I can show people my other talents besides just writing a story. The poetry in the book is always related to the story or about the paragraph you just read. I think people are going to be intrigued by it because they won’t be expecting it from me. People probably just look at me as a good guy and a basketball player and that’s about it. People don’t really know my capabilities.

SLAM: As good of a player as you are—and some of the coverage the book has gotten in New York has raised your profile a bit—but I think you’d be the first to admit that a lot of basketball fans know you mainly as someone related to Stephon and Sebastian. What is your relationship like with them now?

JT: I am very disappointed in Stephon right now and people are going to read that in Chapter 7, “The Hidden Truth.” They probably won’t believe it all, but I wrote what happened and he knows the truth. Our relationship has been dry since about 2003. With me and Sebastian, it’s kind of going towards that way as well, but that’s my little brother and I won’t let that happen.

SLAM: What have you heard from them or people close to them lately? With the book coming out, do you have any indication that they are nervous?

JT: Some people are nervous. You know they say the truth hurts, but the truth will also set you free, and that’s my motto. I don’t think they have anything to worry about. If I’m lying about some stories, then they have something to be nervous about, but if it’s the truth, don’t worry about it. It happened already.

SLAM: What are your ultimate goals for the book?

JT: I think the book is going to do well because I think all people can relate to my story. People have been anticipating it. They think it is like a tell-all book, but it’s really not. It’s my life story with a bunch of key players who happen to be in the media’s eye right now. People are going to read about how I was able to overcome certain disappointments and letdowns and still keep my character. I think people are going to appreciate it in Coney Island because there are a lot of good things that I am saying for Coney Island. Even though the economy is bad, maybe some of these beautiful words can help them out, and think about something different for a change; instead of just arguing, fighting, and killing each other and selling drugs to each other. Hopefully things that I write, like the “Coney Island Daily News” section, can bring everybody together, just for maybe for one day. If I can do that for one day, I did my job.

Bonus question that didn’t fit in the magazine but seems poignant these days with Lance Stephenson in the news for the wrong reasons.

SLAM: Do you have any relationship with the Stevenson family? Lance is obviously a phenomenal player, but he can also be a little hot-headed. I am just curious, do you root for a guy like that, do you have advice for him, do you know him at all? Pretty crazy that yet another arguably top player in the country is from Coney Island.

Jamel: Of course I’m rooting for him. I wish I could be more of an influence for him, because I could really help him off the court. A lot of guys have talent, and some don’t make it to the NBA, some don’t even make it to college. Attitude and image is everything, and I wish I could be there to teach him that. But he has other people in his ear and I’m not trying to over-step those people at all.

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  • Niio

    I can’t wait to buy this book! This is something I have wondered forever.. Is the character Russell based off of Jamel Thomas from the book The Last Shot?

  • http://www.another48minutes.blogspot.com Gerard Himself

    I sure want to read this too.

  • The Ghost of Wilt Chamberlain

    This looks like a pile of crap written to make some money off the back of his relationships with semi-famous athletes. People will do or say anything to make a quick buck.

  • The Ghost of Wilt Chamberlain

    Also, the cover art is atrocious. I vomited in my mouth a little when I saw it.

  • Petter

    A little negative are we now, Ghost o´ Wilt?

  • http://slamonline.com Matt Caputo

    Good stuff. Thanks, Ben.

  • Capone

    I thought the book was thorough, inspirational and motivating. It’s a good thing to give back to you community and your fans with money, gifts and appearances. But it’s a GREAT thing to give back a part of yourself, your life experiences, the trials and tribulations not sugar coated inorder to motivate others for success. That is a much greater self sacrifice and a blessing to those that benefit. To the Ghost of Wilt Chamberlain, it’s obvious that you can’t stand behind your accusations, because you deem it necessary to hide behind a mask. You are a perfect example of crabs in a bucket. As far as you vomiting from looking at the cover of the book, there was probably a mirror on the cover that caused that reaction.

    Always, KEEP IT REAL or KEEP IT MOVING.
    PEACE
    Capone

  • MINNIE..

    THIS IS ONE OF THOSE TIMES WHEN YOU SHOULD SAY.. “DONT JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER”.. GOOD GOING JAMEL..REAL RECOGNIZE REAL

  • http://slamonline.com Holly MacKenzie

    Heading over to buy the book right now. As if a basketball bio wasn’t enough, there is also poetry in it?! Be still my heart. This just made my week!

  • vic

    great book cover!!!! Real art!!! I will be buying 2!!!!

  • chintao

    Even if Jamel’s book is everything that The Ghost of Wilt says, I’d still rather give my money to him than some moron touted by Oprah.

  • justin

    Sounds like some up and coming bball mag clung to Steph’s nuts when he was still a minor and rode him unitl they figured out he was wack then started dissing him even though in a lot of ways he helped the same mag blow up. Lame.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    I’m not dissing Steph in the least bit. Jamel has been good to us over the years too, so why not give him a voice. You think if Steph came to us and wanted to push a book or anything else we wouldn’t give him a lot more space than this? Come on.

  • Niio

    So.. Is Russell from “The Last Shot” really Jamel Thomas?

  • Canary

    Very inspirational to all of us that struggle with our inner demons! In order to defeat, we must let our emotions out, deal with them, and move on. Glad you’re a happy man 5 :)

  • BROOKLYN

    WITH A SNAKE IN THE GRASS LIKE U .THE STEPHENSON’S SEEM SMARTER & SMARTER EVERYDAY . ONLY A SCUM BAG LIKE U CAN BE GIVIN A PLACE 2 LIVE,EAT ETC . THEN U WRITE A BOOK ABOUT UR FAM . UNGRATEFUL BASTARD . U MAKE MARBURY LOOK LIKE A ANGEL . OR LETS JUST SAY IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY.
    STEPHENSON’S(BORN READY) STAY AWAY FROM THIS NUTTTTT!!!!!!!!

    PS SLAM : WHY WOULD U GIVE THIS SNAKE IN THE GRASS AIR TIME .THIS IS A SHORT STORY ABOUT A SCRUBBB WHO COULDN’T GET IN THE LEAGUE BECAUSE HE’S SXITTTTTT . HE WAS THE 5TH OPTION ON THE FRYER’S . HE EVEN HATES ON CROWSHERE AND HE WAS THE BEST PLAYER ON THE TEAM .. DID U PUT THAT IN UR BOOK U SCRUBBBB…..

  • VICK

    NICE BOOK

  • chintao

    Is anyone else confused by BROOKLYN’s rant? The hate, I understand. I just can’t trace its origins. Apparently, Jamel dimes-out his family, but also makes Steph look like an angel….

  • Dr. D

    This Jamel is the biggest loser. The book is so full of bad grammar, Providence College should be ashamed that he actually graduated, but theres a story there too. Truth is he is blamin everybody but himself for his problems. A real whack job!!! He’s about to be kicked off his team in Greece because he cant get along with the coach. I agree with Brooklyn that he is an ungrateful bastard. His life is no story kids want to know or imitate. His motto is “Use as many people as you can” then turn on them to make a prophit in your book. LOSER Big Time!!!!!

  • Lacombe

    This Jamel has come along way. I read the book and he didnt blame people or family members of him not being drafted. He actually thank the people who helped become the man he is today. He was raised by his aunt Erica after the passing of his mother and then adopted by a Jewish couple. The book is very interesting and inspirational to young americans that faces poverty. I think its alot of truth in his story because i also helped Jamel at Providence College. When a person can write life story and not be afraid to say what his has to say then i would called that a brave act. Dont forget he also put his self out there.

  • Dr Dan

    This Lacombe is as stupid as Thomas. He can’t compose a sentence. No doubt he is one of Thomas’ flunkies who hopes to make a profit on this book. Lacombe is a loser like Thomas. How can Thomas put himself up to be a role model. It seems that he has turned his back on all the people in his past

  • Obi

    I know Jamel thomas very well. He is a very negative fool who is forever unhappy with life, his wife, his family, his lack of talent, his cheating, etc. i could go on forever. Shame on Slam for giving him a platform from which to crap again on everyone.

  • Chopsticks

    To all the people hating…
    I’m one of Mr. Thomas’ really close friends and some of you people talkin mad smack about him and you don’t even know him like that.. I know for a fact that what he writes in the book is true facts and some people are just afraid of the truth. But like he said in the interview, if it is the truth it already happened so we just got to move on in our lives…

  • PJ

    Chopstick should go back to the Chinese restaurant where he belongs. “Mr. Thomas” Ha! this jackass can’t spell his own name. I know him well, and I know that he is a miserable man who can;t accept that he is such a failure. ask hisown family, they can’t stand this fool. He should write books about mental illness.

  • Chopsticks

    y u gotta be racist thats how much of a fool u are.. did u even read it??? judge the book after u read it dummy… and if u think he has mental illness y dont u try to write a book and help him dumba**. thats y when he helps me make it pro in ball imma come back and laugh at all yall faces…

  • pj ghost

    yes i am the brother of jamel and i have read the book. to be honest with yall i think the book is beautiful. Why does every1 judge my brotha jamel success only on his basketball career? Jamel is blessed and successfull in life and thats the way God usually take care of his children. AND for the record, EVERYTHINg IN THE BOOK IS TRUEEEEE!

    PS:BASSY’S THE NEW STEPH!!!!!!!!!!

  • 4TheRecord

    I’ve read the book twice & loved it! I grew up in C.I., went to Lincoln with Jamel Thomas, Stephon Marbury & Corey Johnson. Sebastian grew up ballin under them, b-cuz they’re 1 big ass basketball family! Once Steph made it everybody was happy since his fam had his back from day 1. Well Steph let the fame & money go to his head & even with a great NBA career he’s going out like a rich idiot due to his own selfishness. Corey really wanted to be a Writer so he left the game to pursue his dream. Jamel worked extra hard & trusted Steph out of love to help him, but Steph was too busy being a Stupid*Star! I was shocked that he didn’t up-lift his own cousins who clearly had talent too. It’s a real tradegy, but keep doing your thing J.T. God still blessed you with a BEAUTIFUL life after all your STRUGGLES..peace!

  • PJ

    This PJ Ghost is a convicted felon who just got out of the can. Another one who will take and take. no one should pay attention to this fool and his criticisms of Bassy. He’sjust selfish because bassy isn’t giving him money to support his illegitimate children and drug habit. So there, PJ Ghost. Crawl back into your hole.

  • Barker

    Hey yall. I’m wonderin if the Telfair family is still livin in the slums of Coney Island. Have Sebastian or Jamel gotten them a new house yet. If not, why not?

  • JMo

    everyone knows that PJ Ghost just got out of jail, and the only reason that he is upset with Bassy is because Bassy is not supporting his lazy butt and giving him money for more street crime or to support illegitimate children.

  • Papi

    It must be Stephon Marbury’s fault that Jamel Thomas just got kicked off his team in Greece. This piece of crap is no inspiration for anyone. He likes to blame others for his many failures in life, including this latest one. He has never played for the same team two years in a row. Does that say something???

  • Lacombe

    Hey Papi, Jamel is leaving Greece because his coach didnt agree with his aggressive style of playing. If you dont want to seem ignorant, I suggest you read the book before you make any comments. Not too many people plays on the same team for two years because every year is an opportunity to get more money. Im going to leave you alone Papi because you seem like a Marbury fan and thats ok. I pray for Stephon during this time. But to be honest the only thing is being hurt is his pride. He’s healthy and getting paid. He will be ok Papi. But Jamel’s Story is more than Basketball. Its about life and trust me he did not fail. Papi may GOD bless you.

  • Lacombe

    JMO, by the way, PJ or whatever his name is, is living with Sebastian now and the last two years. Yes he was jail before but he is growing to be a fine young man. Im a Priest in the State of Rhode Island and know the family very well. Jamel’s book is very inspirational. It is not what people think it is. May GOD bless you all.

  • Morris

    I’d like to respond to this Lacombe. I’m wondering if he’s the priest Jamel Thomas had a queer relationship with back in Providence. Of course, he’ll be supporting Thomas. They both have alot to hide.

  • http://www.jamelthomas.info No Agenda

    Regardless of what one may think of THE BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE, there is no doubt that it provokes thought and emotion. Otherwise you all wouldn’t be leaving comments. Be it positive or negative JAMEL is getting your attention. The sad thing about all this is that most of the negative critics probably have never read the book at all. I did read somewhere that the rough draft was unfortunately released by mistake. Is that a bad thing? Of course. Is it reason to insult the man’s intelligence? No. He was the writer, not the editor. To all those critics and the haters that leave bitter comments without actually reading the book, you have the right to your opinion. Just like an A-hole, everybody’s got one. For those who want a more accurate depiction of what these comments are about check out the man’s website. http://www.jamelthomas.info. If you’re feeling froggy, then buy the book and judge for yourself.

  • nastierthanyou

    I saw him play when he was in college. Nice game soft jumper

  • pj

    yeah yall just got back 2 say”hi hater”, jmo i kno u soft so chill, 5 is a G and if he say steph a b!t@h, than thats what it is.

  • Lacombe
  • Naysayer2

    This Jamel is nothing but a thief who has taken from some to give to others. I see in one of the postings that he and the prostitute he married stiffed the wedding people on their wedding. So much for being one who gives. This loser gives alright. A big headache.

  • Nana

    I come from Coney Island and I was proud to see Jamel after my sister gave me the book for christmas. I read the book in two days, I knew his mother and family. I also know the truth about most of the people that he wrote about in the book. he did not badger anyone or lie!!!!I know in my heart that he is telling the truth. Thanks for mentioning Butta i your book. It will be an inspiration to yougsters around the world once they are given an opportunity to read it. give me a call when you come back in to the country.

  • Dre

    Only a bunch of punks would be dissin Jamel… I know this dude and this cat is for real. He blames no one at all… he points out plenty of his mistakes during his life. The thing the idiots talking crap about Jamel is that they don’t understand that all though he doesn’t answer the questions directly when asked. Idiots Step never really deny what he has been accused of. This is Jamel’s family and he knows what goes on in it.

  • talkreal

    The sad thing is the whole family grew up poor. Most times, in a family like theirs if you add money you would think they would be able love life! It’s very uncomfortable to know someone your whole life then have them get bless to be in a position to help you but insted they go hollywood!

  • phast

    Russell Thomas in the Last Shot is Daryle Flicking (RIP). It both an interesting and heartbreaking story:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/15/magazine/the-way-we-live-now-2-15-04-betrayed-by-the-game.html?pagewanted=1

  • http://dwndaniel@yahoo.com Dawn

    Well Mel I think Brooklyn and Dr D no each other. I also think Family should’nt jump the gun.Before reading the book. Family will always be family and people will always be people.So I will let those who read this no I have known jamel sinse childhood and he has always been well mannered and polite to most people. :) LOL.I havent seen him in many years and I no he wouldnt put his family out there like that and ppl shouldnt worry about how they grew up or what others think if theres nothing wrong. What really matters is what you do now…..in the end thats all that matters.
    God is the only one who can judge us.So always see things for what they are.

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