WELCOME TO STORYTIME.
In this SLAM series, veteran/retired players share some of the best, funniest and most unforgettable stories from their careers.
Since retiring in 2013, Quentin Richardson has dedicated his next chapter to sharing the epic stories from his career and covering the game he loves.
And the tales are endless. Q-Rich grew up in Chicago, IL, and starred at DePaul University before entering the League as the 18th overall pick in 2000. Over the next 13 years, he brought hype and excitement to LA, filled a crucial role on a historic Phoenix team, won the 2005 Three-Point Shootout and reached the postseason with the Heat, Magic and Knicks. Richardson’s toughness and grit—built on the playgrounds of the Windy City—led to a long, successful basketball journey.
We caught up with the former guard during 2020 All-Star Weekend in Chicago. Quentin returned to the park he played at as a kid to dedicate a new court. On the way there, he entertained us with some of those epic stories and talked about being back home, competing against Kobe Bryant and more:
SLAM: What’s the best prank in the NBA that you ever saw?
QR: The best prank in the NBA I saw would absolutely have to involve Nate Robinson. My four years with the Knicks, Nate was there the whole time. He had a plethora of stuff, it was endless. The one that always jumps out in my mind—he was late to a team plane. We had, like, a 3:00 plane to go somewhere and my man was late for one reason and one reason only: He had to stop and get Ex-Lax. Why did he have to stop and get Ex-Lax? Because he wanted to put it in Eddy Curry’s cereal on the plane. True story. This really happened. He succeeded. And you want to know the real bad part about it? Eddy Curry ate the cereal with the Ex-Lax in it, got his stomach all messed up, had to use the bathroom all day and I don’t remember if he actually missed a game or almost missed a game because of dehydration, but one of the two occurred. He either missed a game or came close to missing a game because he was dehydrated from going to the bathroom too much.
SLAM: Did Nate tell people at the time?
QR: I knew. A few of us knew, nobody else. But the ones that were tight with Nate, we knew. Eddy found out that day when he had the… you know…
On our team plane, Nate was the guy. He got all the snacks. He was the rookie. You know, rookie duties. Nate would come on the plane with grocery bags, boxes of cereal, chips, food for everybody to eat. You got the team training staff, they’re trying to bring the healthy stuff—they had to change all the food. At this point, Nate’s a rookie, we had him get all the snacks. He knew all the snacks we wanted. He used to do all that. That man made an extra stop to get the Ex-Lax.
SLAM: He was a rookie when he did that?
QR: Yeah, Nate was my rookie. Listen, you all see who Nate Robinson is. That man is the little brother that was forced on us [laughs]. There would be times when Zeke [Isiah Thomas] was coaching us that Nate would just be going crazy. Zeke could yell like somebody’s angry grandpa: ‘NATE!!’ It was like that.
SLAM: What’s your best D-Miles story?
QR: Best D-Miles story? [It’s from] our rookie year. KG is everything to D-Miles. He wears 21 because of him. We used to call him little KG when he was in high school. KG is all that to him. His rookie year, we first go to play Minnesota, in Minnesota. It’s his first game against KG, right? So my boy charged up… We go out and play these dudes, and we’re laying an egg. We’re in the Target Center getting bopped. Halftime, I ain’t never seen this out of my bro. D-Miles had passion, vigor. He’s sitting there, Coach Gentry’s doing his spiel, telling us we ain’t doing nothing. D-Miles gets up: [high pitched voice] ‘Man, come on!’ He ain’t used to talking. He starts crying at halftime because he’s so emotional. He doesn’t do this. He doesn’t address the team. None of that. I start laughing. I said, ‘Bro, I feel you. Don’t be crying out here, though.’ Man was crying, voice went high. I said, ‘Boy, you want to play hard against KG, huh?’
SLAM: Did you guys win?
QR: No. [His speech] didn’t work [laughs]. But that’s a D-Miles story.
SLAM: What’s your greatest or proudest moment on a basketball court?
QR: Probably right now, where we’re going. Going to have a court dedicated in—this is, literally, the epicenter of my childhood, where I grew up, everything. Things that made me who I am, a lot of them came from this park. I get my toughness, my physicality [from here]. This is where I learned—when you get knocked down, you get back up. If someone tries you, you stand up to them. This is where I learned to stand up for myself. I learned to defend myself, defend my cousins, my brothers, my family, whoever. This is where I learned a lot of my life lessons and core values and saw things that would impact me moving forward in my life. This park is the epicenter of my whole childhood, all the way up until I was 13, 14 years old and my grandmother passed and we moved. That was it. Every day after school, we’d walk from school, go through the park, drop our stuff off, go back to the park, if you don’t stop at the park first. That was it. I had one of those houses, my grandmother’s house, where we had four or five families up in there. So there were kids everywhere. Like, 14-15 of us. To the same grade school. To the park. At the crib, running around on the weekends. It was the landing spot. We got out of school and all the kids went there. It was everything. So for me to be able to put something back in this neighborhood that I literally grew up in and to go and be impactful and do things like that. That’s the biggest thing I could do, man. I made it to the NBA and I have a good life for my family and things like that, but for me to be able to go back to my neighborhood and try to impact the next Q-Rich to come out of there or whoever it’s going to be. Just giving them a safer, better environment than we had growing up to play on the court. This court we’re putting in, it’s bigger, so they can do programs and kids camps and things like that to get some production in the park. You’ll see, [there’s] not much [in the park]—it’s a field house and the courts and then there’s a big baseball field. There’s not a whole lot going on there but there’s a lot to get into. That’s where I first saw another dude come up on the court and just spray. We trying to be kids on the playground and then they open up. This park is for real. I seen it all up here. The good, the bad, the ugly. It all happened at this park. Deadass serious. I’ve seen people get beat up, people get shot at, whole park go running. I’ve seen big, fun things, good block parties and birthday parties. Whichever end of the spectrum you want to go to, we’ve seen it over here.
SLAM: Did you grow up dreaming about opportunities like this to give back to the neighborhood?
QR: It’s kind of one of those things, you just be living life. I never really thought about it. A lot of times, well, at least for me, I don’t know about everybody else—throughout my career, I was living life. I’m trying to help my family and my people and make sure everything’s straight. So for me, I hadn’t got to that point to think about this. I would do camps and always did a kids camp with neighborhoods, but I hadn’t thought about doing something like this, putting a court in and trying to be impactful in that way. It came at a good time where I was open to that type of thing. For the whole time, you gotta think, when I got to the League, it was about first securing the bag and making sure me and my immediate family could be straight. But then, after I continued on in the League, it’s like, How can I help my friends? How can I help my inner circle? How can I make everybody be straight? It hadn’t got out to the whole—outside of doing, you know I did turkey drives, Christmas drives, back to school stuff, backpack giveaways—I did those type of things. But for me, this is something that I can walk away and it’s going to always be there. Wherever I’m at, I could be way down in Florida not doing anything and some kid can come up and it’s going to be his court. Cooper Park is going to be, for a lot of those kids in the neighborhood, what it was for me. That’s what they got. That’s what’s there. Some of them are in the same situation. Some of them got a lot of cousins that they’re living with in one house. Some of them don’t. Some of them might be by themselves. But when we went to that park, it was a community. You know how it is in the hood, you got the park, you got courts, that be all you have sometimes. You ain’t got a whole lot of nothing but you got that park, that playground, even if you’re just out there running around, that’s your freedom from whatever could be fucked up at home, could be tough. Some kids ain’t got clothes to change into. They’re out there in that park and they’re just playing. That’s where you learn everything.
SLAM: You got the chance to know and go head-to-head with Kobe during your career. Can you describe what made him special? How was he different from other competitors?
QR: Man, what made Kob’ who he was…
NBA players, professional athletes, we say what sounds good a lot. We talk about things that sound good a lot. The difference with Kobe is that he legitimately went out there and did exactly what he was talking about. No matter how hard or how difficult it was, he was committed and was one of the few people who was really doing exactly what he said. You know, you might hear somebody over-exaggerate: Man, I do this or that. I think he was the only person that whatever he said, I literally believed exactly what he said because I knew he was that type of focused dude to do it. You know how if somebody’s talking to you, like, Man, I worked out four times today. I’ll be like, Alright, you’re blowing smoke. When he said that it was like, OK, why did you do that? I know you’re maniacal about this shit so I know you legit did it. What did you do? There’s going to be an intrigue to whatever he said because you know that he did it. And you saw it. I lived in L.A. for the first four years of my career and I never saw him anywhere outside a basketball gym. Ever. Not one time. Nothing. I told him that and he legit said, At that point, I wasn’t anywhere but there. You weren’t going to catch me but a couple of places. That’s all I was doing. There wasn’t nothing else to do for me... That’s why when you get on the court, playing against him is like you’re in the third person. I’m outside of my body like, what is this dude about to do? He legit would do anything. You’ve seen clips of him shooting left-hand jumpers when his arm was hurt. And hitting it. A real shot in a game. What?
SLAM: You had to guard him, right?
QR: Every time. I’ve seen every version of him, whichever one you want to talk about. I had to check him the whole time. That was my position, my matchup, same height, all of that.
SLAM: What did you do to prepare for that?
QR: Lock up. If shit got too real, I’m gonna foul the fuck out of him. I’m deadass. The game he hit 61 in the Garden, I didn’t play a whole lot. They had Wilson Chandler on him for most of the game. But when I got in, Spike Lee right there talking crazy, doing all that stuff. Kobe’s talking crazy to Spike. He pulled a three from the little hash mark and was turning around and talking to him. Next play down the court, as soon as he got the ball, I just ran up into him. BAM! I just hit him in his throat. Just letting him know, it’s different out here right now. You’re not about to do [all that].
But I’m telling you, you ain’t seen nobody like him. A lot of people talk about it—Oh, I’m going to do [this and that]. No, [Kobe did] three workouts a day starting at 4:00 am and all of this. The Mamba Mentality is a real, real thing and the man was no joke. That was the one dude—you can ask anybody—he was the one dude that every single time, he was not going to miss an opportunity to try and kill you. No days off. None. Not one of these games he’s taking light. I ain’t seen nothing like that. He come in, looking crazy. Staring and not talking to people. You’re like, Oh shit, he about to try and do something tonight. What he on? That boy was a killer, for real. Since everything happened, that’s the one thing that remains constant when you listen to what people are saying. It’s real, bro. You ain’t seen nothing like that.
Just look at what he was doing in his second act. People work their whole lives to get an Oscar, that man came right off the bat and got an Oscar. That’s some lifetime achievement type of stuff. He did that shit right off the bat. That’s crazy. That’s like a world championship. People being doing movies for 20-30 years, got millions of dollars, did crazy movies and won all type of accolades and they still ain’t got that.
He had a whole office building. This is Kobe Bryant, the basketball player. He was on all this other creative shit. Ain’t a basketball in sight. He was a businessman. He was a beast. Think about it, he was writing books. My 15-year-old, he comes and asks me to buy the [Wizenard] book. Kids [usually] ask for toys and games. Kobe was impacting the youth, making them read, just because it was [him]. My kid was dead serious like, ‘Can I get the new Kobe book?’ He read all of his stuff. Anything Kobe does. He impacting kids. That’s the facts. Kobe had kids reading, wanting to read. My son likes to read, I can’t speak for any other kid, but I ain’t never have my kid ask me for a book. Kobe’s like Mike. People want to be like Kobe. I guarantee you my kid wasn’t the only one that was inspired and wanted to read what he wrote. That’s crazy. When I was 12-14, a book this thick with no pictures, all words, talking about I want it? Boy, stop. You better get me the new Playstation. My man wanted to read it. Because Kobe wrote it.
Alex Squadron is an Associate Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @asquad510.
Photos via Getty.