Brooklyn Nets: Kenny Anderson talks career, documentary

Brooklyn Nets great Kenny Anderson talked to Nothin’ But Nets about his career and post-NBA life, as well as his journey from a kid in Queens to the NBA.

”It was all a dream,” is the opening line to one a song from of Brooklyn’s own, the Notorious B.I.G. For me, being able to speak with a former No. 2 overall selection is exactly that. Most current NBA fans, or younger Brooklyn Nets fans will be asking themselves “who is this guy?”

Well, open up your browser and search his highlights and you will see what made the former No. 1-ranked player in the country coming out of Archbishop Molloy High School so special.

Former New Jersey Nets All-Star Kenny Anderson granted a one-on-one phone interview to talk about his career, his post-NBA life and his 2017 documentary Mr. Chibbs — Basketball is easy. Life is Hard.

Nothin’ But Nets: Mr. Anderson, it is an absolute privilege for me to speak with you! Thank you for granting me this time!

Kenny Anderson: it’s no problem, I have some downtime right now, so it’s all good.

NBN: What was your childhood like and what was your drive to make it to the NBA?

KA: Well first, I had a great supporting cast, I’m from Lefrak City, Queens. Like I said in my documentary, Mr.Chibbs, it takes a village to raise a child. All my guys out there — my friends, guys I grew up with. They knew I had potential.

They knew I was a child prodigy, knew I was gonna go so far in basketball and they guided me in the right direction. They protected me, they didn’t let me get into trouble. So LeFrak meant the world to me.

We moved there in 1979 I was 9 years old; me, my mother and my sisters. From there, I met my mentor in LeFrak, Vincent Smith. I played over at the recreation center in the summer. We had a basketball court right in the center of the heart of Lefrak, the projects.

We had a basketball park where I spent most of my time, but in the winter I played at the recreation center down the block from Lefrak and Queens Boulevard. That’s where I met my mentor, Vincent Smith.

He guided me in the right direction, taught me how to play the right way. I had talent. But he taught me how to play the right way.

NBN: At what age did you discover you had talent?

KA: I was about 8 or 9. I was very good. I started playing CYO for our Lady of Angels on Queens Boulevard. (It was my) first organized basketball at CYO. That’s where I really took off.

NBN: You had your coaches and your mentors but growing up in Lefrak City, Queens. In a rough area of Queens, trouble could have a way of following people. Did it have a way of following you?

KA: Yes, but all those guys who was doing wrong knew I had talent. They knew I could make it far in basketball and I’d be able to take care of my mother and get my mother out of the struggle. Some guys I grew up with, some of them criminals and some are just surviving.

Once I met Vincent and knew that basketball was gonna be my way out, I concentrated on school, concentrated on doing the right thing to get a scholarship to go to college. I wasn’t thinking about going to the NBA, I was thinking about going to college.

I knew my mother couldn’t afford it, so doing well in school and basketball — I was just one of those kids that listened, that’s what my mother said. Some of these kids they could hear you — in one ear and out the other — but they’re not really listening to you. I listened.

NBN: How did it feel knowing that all the hard work you put in allowed you to be ranked No. 1 in the country? I mean that’s a major accomplishment, that’s no small feat.

KA: Yes. Very big, but I kept level-headed. I was always the top of the city and when you come from the Mecca — New York — it’s always a great humbling accomplishment.

I had some good people in my corner: my mentor Vincent Smith, my coach Jack Kearns from Archbishop Molloy High School — he never gave me a complement.

They were telling me, “Man, you ain’t done nothing yet, get out of here, get your mother out of here and get her out of the struggle; get a scholarship then you’re saying something then.”

NBN: After you were ranked No. 1 in the country and you had your senior season at Archbishop Molloy, you had your choice of any college you want to go to. What made you select Georgia Tech over the University of North Carolina, Syracuse or Duke?

Those are some pretty great programs to be playing basketball for.

KA: I wanted to do something different I just thought Georgia Tech would highlight my skills. Coach (Bobby) Cremins was very critical and said I will get the ball as long as I go to class. I was thinking, “Well, if the ball’s going to be mine, I could just play like I played in high school.”

They basically recruited my mother. My mother was from New York and Coach Cremins is from the Bronx. My mom she wanted me to go to Georgia Tech. That’s one of the biggest reasons, really. Also, Coach Cremins and his staff.

NBN: The way it sounds is like you lived a lot for your mother.

KA: Yeah, I took the advice of my mother. It was the best advice I could have taken.

NBN:  Well, it usually is. Right, Kenny?

KA: Yeah, you’re right about that. But that’s what’s so great about life, we all make mistakes but you always have a chance to fix it.

We all make mistakes, but you got to embrace the struggle and it’s about who could embrace the struggle and who can get over it and better themselves. That’s what life’s about.

NBN: After your time with the Nets was up, you signed a five-year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers. Can you take us behind that and your time in Portland?

KA: I had some great years in Portland. I loved playing in Portland, it was awesome! The fans, the owner, my coach P.J. Carlesimo — one of my favorite coaches I played for in the NBA. But the business side of it, man. The GM at the time decided to go another way, I guess.

They fired P.J. Carlesimo and his whole staff. They brought in another coach and they went another direction, so I wind up in Boston. So you live and learn through the NBA experiences, you learn a lot. That it’s not so much about basketball, it’s about the business side of it.

NBN: How do you feel about the player movement in today’s NBA?

KA: Oh, yeah! There’s a lot of movement, man! They got a lot more freedom. It’s great for them; they got a lot more freedom to do what they want. The players got more power in the league.

We didn’t have that much power back in the day. We didn’t have as much power. You had to stay with your team.

NBN: Do you think Michael Jordan would have switched teams?

KA: Nah,  I doubt it. Stars wouldn’t of switched teams. They were more competitive.  Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson — they were more competitive. They wanted their team! They don’t want to play with anyone else.

NBN: As a kid from New York who was the No. 2 overall pick, but playing for ”the other team in New York,” did the New York Knicks’ 1994 run captivate you as it did the city? Or were you indifferent?

KA: Ha! I’m Kenny Anderson! I’m a child prodigy from New York! So I’ve gotten so much attention, my whole life! I’m the No. 1 player in the USA, four-time All-City high school player! Myself and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the only ones to do it.

I’m a New Yorker, man. The Knicks is in New York so they get the majority of the publicity. But we got our share. My mother wanted me to play with the Knicks. But it just didn’t happen. My mother was a Knicks fan. My whole family, all Knicks fans.

But it didn’t happen so, I loved being back home in the metropolitan area competing against the Knicks, playing at MSG. it was awesome.

NBN: Any advice for these kids coming out of high school, the 18-, 19-year-olds you get everything.

You get the money, get the glory, the recognition from playing basketball, you’re given this insane amount of money and it’s very hard for anybody, unless you have a good group of people like yourself who you surround yourself with.

What would you tell them? What would you tell the young guys who are playing in today’s NBA?

KA:  I would tell them to concentrate on the craft, the love of why you play the game of basketball. Don’t get caught up with the NBA lifestyle of it, cause it can sidetrack you and you can get away from the game with all the distractions — the women, the cars, the house and the money.

You can get sidetracked by all that. But I would say you have to take care of yourself. You have to take care of your body and those elite players, they take care of their bodies and they stay drama-free. They have a drama-free life. To improve on who you are and how you came up.

Don’t want the money and the fame change you totally, where it’s not beneficial to your game. And that’s to get better in all aspects. Because the better you are, the more money you can get. Not only better on the court, but your brand.

You know, if I had to do it all over again I would brand myself a little bit better. That way when I retired, my transition would have been a lot easier. Like I always say, everyone’s path is different, God gives us different paths.

Also you got a build relationships, don’t burn bridges while you’re in the league. Do what you can to better yourself, not only on the court but off the court. Be a good teammate, work hard, stay focused and stay humble.

Because any day that it’s over, you know the old saying the same people you meet on the way up you meet on the way down? You know. So just be humble, work hard and understand how you got to that point, the NBA, that’s what will help you stay there.

But if you start getting sidetracked, you gonna lose it.

NBN: On another note, how are you doing what are you doing with your life after basketball?

KA: I’m doing good. I live in Florida now. I have a son and a daughter. I coach the South Florida elite travel team and I have a gym in Tampa, Fla., and I do clinics with Bobby Parker. A lot of training for high school players, future college players.

I’m just trying to give back you know, and. I’m working on myself because there’s always room for self-improvement.

NBN: What about the Big 3? Will we see you in there? Do you watch it at all?

KA: Nah, I’m out of shape, Leo. Those guys are in shape. I’m 47, I got a bad hip and a bad back I mean, I stay in shape. I walk, I run, but I’m not in good shape like that. When we watch it, my wife was like, “You can’t do that and plus I don’t want to look bad.” (Laughs).

As far as watching it, yeah, I watch it when I get a chance. It’s awesome for the old-school guys to play three-on-three, it’s great for them.


When you watch Anderson’s documentary, you will understand more of his life, his story. When you watch his highlights you can think of what may have been — from a good career to a great career.

Like he said in this interview, we all make mistakes, it’s if you’re able to learn from them that counts.

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