Derek Anderson was an NCAA and NBA champion who averaged 12.0 points and 3.4 assists during his 11 seasons with Cleveland, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio, Portland, Houston, Miami and Charlotte. Retired from basketball six years ago, he now calls himself a businessman, producer, screenwriter, author and philanthropist. HoopsHype recently talked with him about his NBA days and future plans.
First of all, tell us about your book Stamina.
Derek Anderson: The book tour has been great. Everything has been great, teaching kids how to act and how to react. It's about sending a powerful, positive message about you can be successful in life if you keep working hard.
Your life has been a tremendous journey. You were homeless when you were a kid, and by 14 you were living in different houses of people that would help out. And on top of that you became a father at 14. Where did you find the strength to overcome all these huge obstacles at such an early stage of your life?
DA: It was a struggle, but every day since I was 11 years old, when I went to work and got my first $3 by carrying people's grocery bags, I realized that I could make it in life. That was my turning point, to say 'Hey, even if my parents never show up and maybe never seeing them again, I can still be successful because I can work hard.' That gave me the confidence.
You own and operate Loyalty Media Group, Loyalty Home & Auto Concierge, you're president of Victory H2O Global Operations and Loyalty Clothing Company... The list is endless. You even own two hotels…
DA: Yes, one in Turks and Caicos Islands and the other in Los Angeles.
And how do you keep up?
DA: Well it's easy: You hire people smarter than you [laughs], that way you can learn. A lot of people try to figure it out by themselves; I just learn and make it work. That's my thing and I'm enjoying it.
But there's so many things from different business areas…
DA: It's just that rather than wait and wait and wait for things to happen, I go out and get things done again and again. It's all about hard work. That's me believing in myself. I learned everything. My first NBA check was $250,000 and I didn't know anything about taxes but I learned how to do my taxes. I've always tried to educate myself. As long as I'm alive and I can learn, that's what I'll do. That's why I think I'll always be in a position to win.
How's your typical day?
DA: I get up in the morning and I check my e-mails, send some e-mails, take my protein shake, I go to work out, I come back and work all day, write a movie script or write my book for example, then I do some family time around 5 pm when my sons get home. Then I put them to bed around 9.30 pm and I get to sleep around midnight at the latest.
What do you do to stay in shape?
DA: I hit the swimming pool, I do yoga. It keeps me really in shape and in good health.
So no more basketball…
DA: Nah… I've played a couple of times here and there but nothing too serious in five years.
You were chosen by Michael Jordan to have your own signature shoe… How's your relationship with him nowadays?
DA: Everything is good. Just spoke with him not too long ago, he owns a nice team and he's enjoying it. Everything's great.
Have you thought about returning to the NBA in any capacity?
DA: Well, a lot of people want me to coach but if you end up being an NBA coach you'll have to deal with people who don't know how to draft kids, players who are stubborn and spoiled. And I don't want to do that.
I'm guessing you don't miss being involved with the NBA or basketball at all these days.
DA: No. A lot of people struggle because they don't make connections, they're not nice. Not me, I've worked hard my whole life.
Magic Johnson is considered one of the most successful businessman who played in the NBA. Have you met him, do you plan maybe to do business with him?
DA: I never met him. He's doing well. He used his name to get a lot of things, but I had to climb from the bottom. He has a great charisma and I took some from him by being positive. I admire what he did and I'll try to reach him out soon but I know he's very busy. It wasn't meant for me to learn anything from him so I just keep moving on.
DA: No. 1 dunker was obviously Michael Jordan, then Dominique Wilkins, then Vince Carter.
What was your best moment in the League?
DA: Being drafted… [pause] and retiring [laughs]. Where I came from, I think it's amazing to have gone so far, to make it 11 years, to win a championship… But I was very happy when I retired. While I was playing it was just a job. It used to be fun, but the NBA made it a job.
I guess you were in love with the game of basketball when you arrived in the NBA. When did it become a job?
DA: It all changed during my second year, after the 1998-99 lockout. I realized that everything was just a business, a lot of people didn't want to do anything… I thought about it, I understood it and after that I said 'You know what? I'll play until the time is right to end it and that's it.'
Your best season was probably in 2001 with the Spurs because after that you ended up getting a six-year contract worth $48 million with the Portland Trail Blazers, right?
DA: Yeah, I had a great season, great team, great teammates… The general manager at the time was very disrespectful. The coach, teammates were great, the city and the fans were supergreat… I just didn't like the general manager at all.
The GM you're talking about is RC Buford.
DA: Yeah. I think he learned, after I left, that you can't be rude to people and expect them to stay [laughs].
I think that's the very first time I hear some criticism towards Buford. Seems like he's always making the right decisions.
DA: Yeah he does now. But look what he did. He had to learn. They won a championship during the lockout and I came two years later. David Robinson was retiring, Sean Elliott… they were losing the core and they had to start all over again. They had to get people in there. Again, when you have a core team like we had and a coach like [Gregg] Popovich, they would have won against the Lakers every year if you had me.
So Popovich wanted you on the team and it was all Buford's fault that you ended up in Portland.
DA: When I was on my way to Portland he called me. He wanted to know what had happened and I said '[Buford] is not going to pay me, he's going to give me a little bit.' I was offered a four-year, $28 million contract, and Portland offered me six years for $48 million. Of course they wanted to say that it was me, but I didn't buy into that.
And when you thought you were going to retire without a ring, you were traded to Miami.
DA: Yeah, it was just fun to be around guys who wanted to win. Pat Riley does things the way he wants, we won a championship and it was great to be part of that championship team.
You played with the Blazers for the most part of your career. Those Blazer teams had tons of talent but at the end it seems something was missing to get to the top.
DA: Cohesiveness. You need a coach to bring everyone together, and at the time Maurice Cheeks just started coaching… You see now, he just got fired recently from Detroit. That's the whole point, you can't have a coach not prepared for that. Cheeks is a great guy, but coaching is a different animal. You have to know that.
Who was the toughest player for you to guard during your career?
DA: There was a couple. When I played it was tough. I was a tough guard but think about it, you had these shooting guards: Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller, Mitch Richmond, Latrell Sprewell, Allan Houston, Steve Smith, JR Rider… Just naming those guys, you knew you had a tough night every night and if you watched on TV you said 'Man, this is a great game!' Now you can't name me five apart from Kobe [Bryant], [James] Harden and maybe Joe Johnson… It was fun back then. Mario Elie, Allen Iverson was a two-guard back then… There was a bunch of talent. Now? There's nothing.
So do you think defense in the NBA is not what it used to be?
DA: It's a joke nowadays. That's why Ray Allen is still playing. You can't touch him! If Michael Jordan had these rules, he would average 40 points a game, he would have a bunch of 60-point games… It would be crazy. It was a real man's game back then, not a bunch of summer league games.
At least do you think there's defense during the playoffs and the Finals?
DA: Defense won championships back then. Now, offense wins championships. College basketball is still about defense and Rick Pitino proved that.
Do you follow the NBA these days?
DA: I watch some games, but that's it.
You own a private jet, right?
A G5 airpline like in the Tropic Thunder movie?
DA: [Laughs] Yeah, something like that.
Did you go to Paris for New Year's Eve?
DA: Actually, I didn't make it. Two schools called me and asked me to come and speak to their students, and I said Paris can wait, there was the chance to speak for 300 kids.
Let's talk about the Ricky Kelly murder case. Your name came up…
DA: Yeah, yeah. There was some guy that never met me, but he claimed I was involved in some way in some drug scheme… The thing is, I have two brothers, and one is in jail. He [Francois Cunningham] was trying to get time off his sentence, so he thought that saying I was involved could help him… It was incredible, no one believed him.
So do you have a brother in jail now?
DA: Yeah, right now. He got 10 years. If I did something wrong, don't you think I would be there too? Barack Obama's brother has issues. My brother was at the wrong place at the wrong time and he ended up getting into a fight, a shooting, a big scuffle, one of the kids got shot. He didn't die, and my brother didn't have a weapon, no drugs… But they all got charges. And now he's mad he was hanging out with those idiots. That's what I always tell the kids: Be careful who you hang with. You'll suffer the consequences of their actions. It can happen to anybody.
OK last question. Tell us about your next project.
DA: I'm going to do a movie, my life story. Teaching kids about self-esteem, work ethic and decision-making. It's going to be big. Every school is going to see it. You have to have stamina to win in life, not just sports. It'll be fun.