Occupational Hazards – Life Outside the NBA

by August 15, 2007

by Matt Caputo

Most of you don’t know who Corie Underwood is and why would you? After two high schools, four colleges in as many years, a dozen or so pro stops and a handful of NBA workouts, the 6’10 Underwood is a late bloomer of sorts. This summer, Underwood ran mostly with the K1X teams at Kingdome and Orchard Beach in New York, hoping to catch the eye of a foreign scout or earn a decent domestic contract. Despite his often trying professional situations, nearly 30 tattoos and imposing frame, he’s usually all smiles and laughs. With that in mind, we asked our man to break down the stops along his journey.

Westchester Community College (JUCO) 2000-2001

I was doing my thing up there, but I was playing against guys who weren’t even good enough to play in a rec league. I was living with some woman, me and Shane Gatson, she was an alcoholic and weedhead. We’d be coming back from practice and she would be smoking or drinking and offering us some. She was like 29 or 30 and her house was a big club atmosphere at her house with all the kids from the school. I was sleeping on the couch.

Jersey Squires (ABA) 2003-2004

I played like five games with them, we went out west and we played a game in Pennsylvania and came back and the team was broke. We played about two weeks worth of basketball and the team gave us players $300.75. I couldn’t believe it.

Brevard Blue Ducks (USBL) 2004

Brevard was good, I can’t say nothing bad about that dude, I think (the coach’s) name was Brian Richmond. The only problem was he didn’t want to cut any of his players and after a while it was like there were 25 guys from the team just living down there. Some of the guys on the team didn’t play any real basketball. His son was on the team at one point and I don’t think he’d ever played college ball. There were a couple of guys on the team that I hadn’t seen before then. It was good, but with the minors there is always going to be a story.

Gainesville Knights (WBA) 2005

This one was really f–ked up. I only played one game with this team and it’s still messing up my credit. I had jammed my hand pretty bad and I couldn’t even bend my two fingers. I had to play with them all taped up. One of the owners was like, “Oh yeah, go to the medical place, the rehab, it’s on us, don’t worry about it.” I fill out the paperwork and I shouldn’t have even put my name. I started getting bills from the therapy place and then my first paycheck bounce, I didn’t even cash it, it bounced on my account, I actually lost money going down there. It was Mother’s Day and I was buying my mom, grandmother and aunt gifts and the check had bounced leaving a negative amount in this one account I had. It’s funny, too, because the team actually finished out the season.

Westchester Wildfire (USBL) 2005

One year when I played with the Wildfire, the Director of Development for the D-League’s sister owned the team and was handling everything. At one point I was living at home in Queens and the rest of the team was living in a hotel in Connecticut and we were practicing down in Westchester. It was crazy, the city guys stayed at home and the out-of-town guys were in a hotel. We went from staying in the Marriot and playing in the County Center in White Plains to playing in middle schools and stuff.

Yakama Sun Kings (CBA) 2006

To be honest with you, Yakama was the closest I’ve come to NBA conditions. The Nation owns the team now and it’s divided up so that a big number of tribe members own the team. They had a Native American dude on their team Richard Dionne who could shoot the sh-t out the ball. I remember when I was out there and they were walking around with t-shirts that read “I own the Sun Kings” and they would come up to me and other guys on the street and be like “I own you.” And then, I would be like “Oh no, I wouldn’t say that, you own the team, but you don’t own me.” Shit, they had a great fan support and the arena was great and everything. The following year the D-League just sucked the life right out of the CBA.

One time, we were on a two-hour ride from Seattle to Yakama and there was a road between the mountain that was closed for six hours or something and we were stuck in the middle. It was a freezing cold blizzard and we had to sit in the bus from midnight until, like, seven in the morning.

Utah Eagles (CBA) 2006-2007

I was there for a week and I knew it wasn’t going to be good. I was halfway across the country and it was some tough shit. Some days, they couldn’t even give us per diem. I knew it wasn’t going to work at all. It was a weird situation because one company owned three or four teams in the league and this was one of them. One day after practice the owner, I forgot his name, told us he didn’t even really want to buy the team and he was kind of forced into it.

Arkansas RiverCatz (ABA) 2006-2007

The Arkansas experience was terrible because I had a chance to sign with the RimRockers in the D-League and they wouldn’t let me out of the contract with the Rivercatz. It made no sense, the team was late on payments all the time and the craziest thing is that the team folded something like three weeks later, so I couldn’t really understand why the guy wouldn’t let me out of the contract. We went like three weeks without getting paid and they bounced a check on me during Christmastime, so, that messed me up. As a matter of fact, the owner had his lawyer type me a letter saying that if I didn’t return to the team they were going to sue me, it was crazy. I was in the hotel one night and the owner sent the police to come get me. They asked me if I was Cory Underwood and told me I had to get out of the room because no one was paying for it. I told them “Look, I’m part of the team, I’m just in a contract dispute.” They said that wasn’t what they heard and took me to the lobby where they told me I could wait until someone came to pick me up, but that once I left I couldn’t come back into the hotel. It was all because I didn’t want to play anymore and they wouldn’t let me out of my contract. After all that, they folded two weeks later.