by Brendan Bowers / @BowersCLE
During the NBA lockout, Joey Dorsey crossed the Atlantic Ocean to continue his professional basketball career. The former Memphis Tiger who spent parts of three seasons in the League signed with Caja Laboral in the Spanish League before being acquired by Greek powerhouse Olympiacos soon after.
Playing alongside former first-round pick Acie Law, Dorsey would help Olympiacos win the 2012 Euroleague and Greek championships. It was the first time in 15 years that Olympiacos won either title.
After a stop in Turkey, playing for Royal Hali Gaziantep, Dorsey was then signed by Ricky Rubio’s old squad—FC Barcelona in Spain. Teamed up with former Grizzlie Juan Carlos Navarro, Dorsey has emerged as a cult hero of sorts overseas. He’s winning fans over with his passion defensively and thunderous finishes at the rim.
Though he received interest from multiple teams around the NBA this past summer, Dorsey has found a new home in Europe. He told SLAM recently that the experience overseas has been eye-opening, helping him grow tremendously as a player and person. We talked about all that as well as Barcelona’s push toward a championship when we caught up with Dorsey earlier this week.
SLAM: Your Barcelona team just won four straight games including three straight in the Euroleague Top 16. Can you talk about the run you’ve been on lately?
Joey Dorsey: I think we’re just clicking as a team and as a unit at the right time. We understand everybody’s role on the team and everything like that, and it’s clicking for us. Guys know who is going to score and who is going to play defense to help us win, and we’re playing great team basketball at the right moment.
SLAM: There’s a YouTube video from December of you dancing out on the court with a Barcelona cheerleader. It’s pretty awesome, and the fans and your teammates seemed to have fun with it. What type of reaction did you get from that?
JD: [Laughs] Thanks man. That was crazy. A lot of guys on the team know that in my younger days, that’s all I used to do was dance. I love to dance. Outside of playing basketball, I like dance man. So it was Fan Day, and my teammates were like, “You can’t really do the Michael Jackson.” And I was like, Man, if you put it on I’ll do it. But I’m thinking, you know, they wasn’t going to really put it on. Or make it a dance competition against a cheerleader. But they did and I just went all out. I was like give me the glove too, let’s go.
SLAM: How has your role on the team evolved this season with Barcelona?
JD: When I was in Turkey, after I left Olympiacos, I wanted to develop my post game offensively. That was the whole reason I came to Europe, to develop my offense in the post and I had some success with that in Turkey. But as I get on these bigger teams, my role changes back to how I was playing at Olympiacos—and that’s rebounding and defense. My role is not to score the ball right now—it’s to get stops and rebound and that’s what my focus is.
SLAM: It seems like these fans really like you in Barcelona. How has it been playing for them?
JD: The fans in Barcelona are amazing. They’re behind our team 100 percent. And whenever I come out of the game they give me a standing ovation—which is crazy. The coaches are like, “Enjoy this, take this in, they don’t love that many people like this.” They’re always telling me, “Joey, the fans are obsessed with you. They love you.” And it’s just been amazing playing for them.
SLAM: They give you a standing ovation every time you come out of a game?
JD: Yeah, every time. It’s crazy.
SLAM: Why do you think that is?
JD: I think it’s just that they really appreciate my passion for the game and passion for winning. My coaches have told me that the fans are responding to my effort, how hard I play. And I can’t thank them enough for that.
SLAM: How about the day-to-day in Barcelona—how has it been living over there?
JD: I’m adjusting very well to it. Barcelona is a lot like Miami; I moved to Miami and was there a whole summer working out. The beach is nice here, the food is amazing and the people are really nice. They’re really genuine people.
SLAM: Do you have any family or friends overseas with you right now?
JD: My first year playing with Olympiacos, I was trying to talk to my Mom and get her to come over to Greece. She had never been to Europe before. My agent would get on the phone and talk to her and then one of the coaches talked to her a couple times also trying to get her to come. But she never came until this year. Finally, here she is in Barcelona now for the first time being in Europe. And it’s great to have her here with me.
SLAM: Do you ever think about how much the game has done for you and your family in that sense? Maybe you’re not in the NBA right now, but you got your Mom in Barcelona, Spain. That’s crazy, right?
JD: It really is amazing, man. Coming from Baltimore, you’d never think in a million years that I’d be traveling the world experiencing anything like this. Being in Barcelona, being in Athens, Greece, Turkey—all these places I never knew about growing up. Now my Mom is over here seeing Spain too and it’s a wonderful feeling. I’m so blessed.
SLAM: Another highlight video you made in Europe was shattering that backboard when you were with Olympiacos. Can you take me through that play?
JD: We were up by 20 points. I thought I was done for the game, I thought I wasn’t going back in. Then coach called me and said, “Come on Joey, finish the game.” And I was like, Seriously? He was like, “Yeah.” I was so angry, I was so mad. We were up 20 and it was the preseason. So I told the guys on the team, I said if I get a pass I’m going up and trying to break the backboard. They were like, nah. But then I got a behind-the-back pass from Pap (Kostas Papanikolau), which was amazing, and I was right there. I was by myself so I could go up with so much power and I broke it. It was crazy. I heard a clisshhkk sound. Then I heard, “Come on Joey, look what you did.” I looked back at the backboard and it was cracked and I was like, Wow.
SLAM: How often have you consciously tried to break a backboard like that in your life and how many have you broken in total?
JD: Every time I get a dunk by myself and there is nobody around to block my shot or alter my shot, I try to break the backboard. Every time. You ever see my go up and cock the ball back all the way behind my head, I’m trying to break the backboard. Because I know I have so much power from lifting so much over here—that’s all I do is stay in the gym. So the guys on my team are waiting for me break one this year in Barcelona. But that was the first one I broke in a real game. Dating back to my time in high school and Memphis until now, I broke five backboards. But that was the first one in a game.
SLAM: How often do you talk with those guys from your team at Memphis, Coach Calipari, Chris Douglas-Roberts, D-Rose?
JD: I talked to Cal this summer when I had my Nike Basketball Camp in Memphis. And actually I just talked with CDR last Wednesday to congratulate him for signing with the Bobcats for the whole year. So I keep in touch as much as I can. I haven’t talked to D-Rose in maybe a year or so but I talked to his brother recently and wished him well on a speedy recovery.
SLAM: What was winning that Euroleague championship like in 2012, living in Greece and playing for Olympiacos?
JD: When they brought me in, the coaches weren’t too big on the team. They’re like, we’re really not too concerned about Euroleague. We’re not sure we have much of a chance but we’re really trying to win this Greek League. They hadn’t won either in 15 years. I told them, Hold on coach; I’m here to championships. I’m not here for nothing else. They said, “Well if you can win us the Euroleague, then do it.” After that, Acie Law and I sat down and we talked. Then we talked to the other guys and that’s what we set out to do. We molded the guys into their roles and tried to make sure we were clicking all at the same time. That’s what we’re doing right now in Barcelona, too.
SLAM: How were those fans in Greece, what was the arena like when you won the title?
JD: Those fans are really amazing, too. I mean, the passion they have for winning. They’re amazing fans and they made me play so hard because they showed so much passion. The fans in Greece showed me they love basketball. In the States and in the NBA, the crowd loves dunks and everything like that. But all they wanted you to do is play hard in Greece. And when we won the Greek League at home? Oh my god it was crazy. They ripped off my jersey, it was crazy. Amazing feeling.
SLAM: How have you grown the most as a player since leaving the NBA?
JD: Since I left the League I learned so much about basketball. On the court and off the court. Shane Battier was a great teacher for me when I was in Houston. He used to tell me if you watch so much tape you can figure out your opponent. You can always have a hand up on your opponent. Once I got over here I just wanted be the best defender because that’s what I was known for—rebounding and defense. I’ve tried to do what they need me to do in the middle, block shots, rebound and stop the best offensive player in the low post. And I’ve been watching a lot of film to do that.
SLAM: What did Battier show you about watching film that made such an impact?
JD: Shane would guard Kobe with the Rockets. So to do that, Shane would look at his percentage, how many times Kobe would take one dribble left. What was his percentage going left, what was his percentage going right? Off the two dribbles and a step back, what did he do? When Shane showed me this, I knew I needed to make it part of my game. If I wanted to be a good defender, to stop an Al Jefferson or a DeMarcus Cousins in the paint, I needed to know what his move was and his counter-move. So that approach that Shane taught me is something I brought over here and it’s helped me out a lot.
SLAM: Is your goal to build off that and get back into the League, or are you looking to keep pursuing championships overseas?
JD: I’m not going to lie, man. There are so many people asking me that. Are you going to go back to the League? This summer, I was in touch with New Orleans and Orlando about coming to Summer League and everything. But I just love being in Europe. I have no worries over here. I’m playing well; I don’t have too much to worry about. Playing in the NBA, you got to worry about family issues, this and that, it’s so much drama. Over here I’m just at peace. I can play basketball and then just go home and relax.
SLAM: If you were to offer advice to a younger player for how to succeed overseas based on your experience, what would you say?
JD: This is the thing. Honestly, me and CDR when we were at Memphis, [Robert] Dozier, we all talked like, I’m not going to play in Europe. I’m not going overseas. We would look down at guys who played overseas because we knew we had a chance to go to the NBA. So I’d first let them know that playing overseas is not bad. It’s still the next level to get you to the NBA. It can get you to your dream, get you ready to succeed in the League. And I’m so glad that when the lockout happened, I came over here and started playing. It made me look at life different and it made me look at basketball different as a player and as a person. Just being over here, learning about different cultures, having experiences with different cultures. That’s what I’ve been telling younger players, you can always take a different route to reach your dreams.