Sweet Home


Originally published in SLAM 168

by Adam Figman / @afigman

SLAM: Tell me a little about your hometown.

Gerald Wallace: I grew up in Childersburg, AL. It’s mostly family-oriented. Everyone knows everyone.

SLAM: Is basketball popular there?

GW: It was when I was in high school, because I was there. It’s not really the most popular sport. The most popular sport down there is football.

SLAM: Childersburg is 20 miles from Talladega—were you ever into NASCAR?

GW: Yeah, yeah. I grew up watching NASCAR. When I was growing up Rusty Wallace was one of my favorites. I grew up with an opportunity to watch him race and watch Dale Earnhardt race. I wouldn’t say I was a die-hard NASCAR fan, but I watched it. I had the opportunity to be in the pit once, for one of the races. That was a fun experience for me, but it’s a little too loud down there.

SLAM: And you wanted to be a baseball player when you were growing up, right?

GW: Yeah, I did. Baseball was my family sport. Nobody really played basketball until I played.

SLAM: What team were you a fan of?

GW: I grew up watching the Braves. Then once I got older, my favorite team became the Boston Red Sox.

SLAM: When you got into hoops, did you model your game after anyone in the NBA?

GW: I grew up in the ’90s, in the era of Michael Jordan. Every kid wanted to be Mike. That’s just one of the guys that motivated me to be the best player that I could be.

SLAM: Were you into fishing as a kid, too?

GW: Nah, that’s something I picked up when I was older, when I wanted to relax. You really just want to go out there and be calm and enjoy the water—I don’t even eat fish—but [I enjoy] the relaxation and joy of catching it. The more I did it, the more comfortable and the more exciting it became to me.

SLAM: You don’t eat fish? What do you do after you catch one?

GW: Either I throw it back or give it away.

SLAM: Ever take any teammates fishing?

GW: Nah. It’s too cold [up north]. I don’t like to fish when it’s cold.

SLAM: You gotta convince one of the guys to come down to Alabama over the summer.

GW: I doubt they’ll come down there [laughs].

SLAM: Any idea what you wanna do after you finish playing ball?

GW: Nah. I have some ideas but who knows what can happen between now and the next couple of years, so my main thing right now is concentrating on basketball. In the offseason I’ll think about some of the things that I might wanna do, but I really don’t think about it.

SLAM: Is it true you’re really into law enforcement?

GW: Yeah, I enjoy watching it on TV and I wouldn’t mind going into that. My whole thing is, who knows? We’ll see. I think it’s one of those careers you have to get into when you’re young to grow into it. I’ll be old after I retire, so I’ll see how I feel then.

SLAM: Do you keep up with Law and Order?

GW: Yeah, SVU. I pretty much watch whenever it comes on TV. I have them all downloaded, but I never really have the opportunity to watch. I usually just see them when it comes on TV.

SLAM: Why’d you start the Gerald Wallace Foundation?

GW: It gives me an opportunity to give back to kids, an opportunity as someone who’s fortunate to do some of the things for kids that growing up I wouldn’t be able to do. I wouldn’t have gone to a lot of basketball camps and I wasn’t able to go out and do a lot of the things that other kids were doing, just being raised by a single parent trying to raise two kids. So my foundation gives back to kids who are growing up the same way that I was, to give them an opportunity to experience things that more than likely they wouldn’t be able to.

SLAM: What kind of things do you guys do?

GW: We do a lot. One of the main things right now is the basketball camp—bringing a camp to my community. There’s never been a camp in my hometown since I was born. So that opportunity opens up a lot of doors for a lot of kids. It gives kids an opportunity to learn basketball, to teach them things they might not learn on their own.

SLAM: You grew up in a small town and played in small markets your whole career until the Nets moved to Brooklyn. What’s the adjustment been like?

GW: It’s been cool. It’s not as bad as everybody thinks.

SLAM: Do you spend any free time in the city?

GW: Nah, I don’t go into the city, period. Not at all. Not unless it’s gameday. I don’t do the city—the city’s not my style.

SLAM: Did you bring your pick-up truck to the northeast?

GW: Yeah, I brought it just because of the snow. It came in handy when we flew home one day and were caught in a blizzard. It’s a [Ford] F-250. I probably could take it through the city and get right through traffic.

SLAM: I heard you’re starting a 30-and-over league this summer.

GW: Yeah, I’ve got a lot of friends that want to play that are over 30, so we’re gonna start a league with them, just [to] have something to do. It’ll be fun to play with some of the older guys. A lot of my guys are starting to get big bellies, so I told them we gotta get back out there this summer.

SLAM: You just turned 30 last July. Pretty convenient timing.

GW: [Laughs] It is. Right on time.

SLAM: Are you back in Childersburg every summer?

GW: Yeah. I got my kids there, and my kids play baseball in the offseason. So I try to go and catch some of their games. One of my main things is trying to be there for every one of their baseball games. Plus, the weather’s nice.