Great Alaska


Originally published in SLAM 177

by Abe Schwadron

SLAM: Tell us about your hometown.

Mario Chalmers: Anchorage is a big city in Alaska, but it’s a small town. Everybody knows everybody. It’s friendly, a lot of snow, great places to eat. We’re big on seafood, big on fishing. It’s a great outdoors spot. I love the outdoors, hunting, fishing, stuff like that. That’s what I grew up on. Once, me and my dad were fishing on the Russian River. And a bear was just in the middle of the river, fishing himself, trying to find some food. We were sitting there watching him and I was just amazed.

SLAM: No video games?

MC: Oh yeah, I played a lot of video games, too. My favorite of all time is Super Mario. That’s what I grew up on, and of course my name is Super Mario. That’s been my favorite since I was a kid. And now with my son, we love playing video games together, like Skylanders SWAP Force.

SLAM: What about now, what games do you play? Are you a Xbox or Playstation guy?

MC: I play both. I play 2K14, of course Call of Duty, and I’m a big FIFA guy. Those are the three main games I play right now.

SLAM: Who’s the best gamer on the Heat?

MC: Well, now that Joel Anthony is gone, I’d have to take the crown as the best right now. He was the best at Call of Duty. But all the other games, I think I’m the best.

SLAM: Were there important places from your childhood that helped your development as a basketball player?

MC: Fairview Rec Center was the rec center in Anchorage. That’s where everybody went to play basketball. Anybody who played basketball in Anchorage, that’s where they wanted to play basketball at. That’s where I really developed my skills and developed my mentality.

SLAM: And your dad was in the Air Force. Did you play on the base a lot?

MC: Yeah I definitely played on the base. I met Ray Allen when I was about 8 years old when my family was stationed in South Carolina. Both of our dads were stationed together and played on the same team. They were teammates. Ray was older than me, but every time I’d go to the gym I’d see him there and I would play basketball with him. So even at a young age, I was playing against older guys, working out with guys like Ray Allen. That’s how I perfected my skills, by playing against the older kids.

SLAM: If you’re a kid in Alaska, what NBA team do you root for?

MC: For me, it was the Chicago Bulls. I was always a big Michael Jordan fan. But it was all scattered, with people from different places, different military bases, so basically they’d root for the teams from where they were from.

SLAM: What do you tell guys when they ask about coming up in Alaska?

MC: Yeah, guys ask me, Where did I come from? How did I get interested in basketball? And how did anybody ever find me in Alaska? So basically what I tell them is my whole family played basketball, I played AAU, which was a big part of my life growing up, and that really helped me get to where I am today.

SLAM: Is basketball different in Alaska?

MC: It wasn’t too different, but we didn’t have a lot of big guys in Anchorage. I think the tallest person was 6-8, maybe, that I played with. When we went to the lower 48, guys were 7-foot, 7-1, stuff like that, so I think the biggest difference was just the size of the bigs.

SLAM: How did you end up at Kansas?

MC: That was an interesting process. I wanted to go to North Carolina. I grew up a fan, my family is from North Carolina and I always wanted to be a Tar Heel. When the time came to make my decision, North Carolina didn’t offer me. So Kansas, I thought, was the best place for me to go out there and shine. I had a couple friends that I got close with during the recruiting visits. They made me feel at home, made me feel like a brother.

SLAM: You made one of the biggest shots in Tournament history in the 2008 National Championship game. Where does that moment rank for you compared to your two NBA titles?

MC: It’s up there. I’d say it’s a tie, really. In college, it’s one game, in the NBA, it was five games and then it was seven games. It’s different, but it still ranks the same in my book. Just the process of being there three years, and having to go from one year losing in the first round to losing in the Sweet 16 and then finally to win it. I just remember how much hard work we put in.

SLAM: Besides that particular shot, what sticks out in your mind from that team?

MC: Just the process of being there three years, and having to go from one year losing in the first round to losing in the Sweet 16 and then finally to win it. I just remember how much hard work we put in. 

SLAM: So you went from Alaska to Kansas to Miami. That’s a nice weather upgrade.

MC: Oh, I love the weather in Miami. I wish it was warm like this growing up, instead of all that snow.

SLAM: How was your visit to the White House this year?

MC: It was great. That was my third time being there. I went once with Kansas, and once when we won the first time. But this time was a more special one, because I got my own personal shout out from Barack. He says he always has my back.