Ime the Great

Ime the Great


Ime the Great

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Gabe Muoneke - Icon Sports MediaHowdy folks! I love reading the comments people leave now. I didn’t want to initially, but now I’m addicted. So rest assured, if you comment on HoopsHype… I dey see am ooooo. So shall I begin with a great big “Merci beaucoup” for the compliments. And as far as me punching an old opponent 10 years ago. Well, let’s just say one would have to be more specific. I punched a lot of guys. Wait for it… Bud dum bump. But seriously, I was what I was, 10 years ago when I was 19 (again, wait for it) and today I am who I am. So my apologies, not for being a punk, or a thug, or angry. I was just a jerk. That’s it in its simplicity. Luckily for me, my kids and my wife are now with me to wring the jerkness out of me. That and the experiences that continue to project themselves on who I have become and will be.

OK… Just to reassess. Point of the blog. Seriously, man! How whack would it be if it were just about some guy who didn’t quite “make it” in his basketball dream? That’s got to be the miniscule precursor to a much bigger picture, right? I mean I am writing this on HoopsHype, so basketball is kinda required. And trust me, I get as bored writing about the D-League as you guys probably do reading about it. So at the end of this I promise to give in to the request about Ime Udoka and his Gladiator moment in Algeria. (Hey! Don’t scroll down yet) But I must repeat, and I promise I won’t mention it again, this blog is about a journey, a life journey that I have had the privilege of experiencing because of one sport – hoops. The key word is life, which includes other people. And as long as this life includes other people my half-autistic ass will never allow this blog to be boring. Material is always readily available.

Quick quib…

Why do I call myself half-autistic? (I actually prefer quasi-servant’s but most will understand autistic better). I heard a doctor describing servant’s on Discovery Channel while in China. That was the only station I had in English. The doctor said the only difference between an everyday person and a servant’s is the majority look out the window and the mind has learned over years of one’s life to immediateley discern what is important and what is useless to one’s cognoscence. In other words, the majority look out and see that car, maybe those birds and that badass yella chick. Oops. Anyway a servant’s sees everything! Every blade of grass, every bird, every car, every tree and every badass yella chick. But anyway all that info confuses a servant’s and they find it difficult not to be distracted and interact with others. Too much info taken in and retained. That’s why for me every little thing is a discussion. A story. An interesting piece of info. My wife swears on it with a straight face. I probably should be a bit offended.

These experiences, like the D-League, are essential for someone like me. I don’t want to be typical. And rest assured if I had played in the NBA out of college, my jerkdom would have reached new heights and I would have been exactly that, typical. Chris Mihm, Mo Evans, Chris Owens, James Thomas. Just reeling off names I almost got into a fight with while at Texas. Yes, it is embarrassing. I was so damn lucky at Texas. Any other school would have kicked me out. As luck would have it (God yes, but I feel God grants His “luck”) I had coaches like Tom Penders or Rick Barnes. And no offense to those two, but I attribute the greatest blessing while at UT to Deloss Dodds. You’ll never hear his name and he’ll never look for the spotlight. But he cares more about the kids at the university and their future than he does about his own job. Great man. So beacuse of those people I have seen incredible things and people. My career could have easily ended my freshman year at Texas as it did for many guys. But it didn’t. Those people and those experiences have prepared me for anything. Even the D-League at this age.

We have started off 5-1 and CJ Watson is still playing like an NBA PG. It is a trip how no matter how many times he blows by the other PGs, they keep pressuring him. Here’s some advice: back up, nimrods. Yeah, he can shoot too but, geez, they can’t stay in front of him either. Better just hope he misses. (BTW, last game against Tulsa my genius idea wouldn’t have worked well. Check the stats).

Is this the same D-League I was in in ’02 and ’03? Man, we fly everywhere and the guys here haven’t paid for a meal yet. The city is nice and they wash your practice gear for you! Believe me, that was not a given back in the day. The D-League has come a long way. There is a CBA team in the same city as ours and they have been using every chance to demonstrate how much better they are than the D-League team in town (us). But honestly speaking… And seriously, no bias, cause I really don’t care… But the D-League has taken it to a new level. I mean, sorry guys. It’s not even close as far as having a pro atmoshphere and our dad would kick yall’s dads butts too.

I’m playing alright, I suppose. But not as well I was taught. Rick Barnes took me and showed me things that made it easy for me to score anyway anyhow. He’s made me a lot of money. So for me not to be doing better right now frustrates me. I mean if I’m gonna be here I might as well play like one of the oldest guys in this league. It’s gotta be, “Oh Gabe is killing? Well, geez, he should be.” And that should be all when it comes to hoops. Because let’s be honest, I have nada to gain and mucho to lose. If I play well… I’m supposed to. If I play poorly… Overseas teams? I’m dead.

Because, keeping it honest, do you really think guys like me aren’t thinking about those overseas teams that can pay the D-League buyout and pay you 250K+ on top? Shhiiiiii. I like money too. And it may seem superficial to be playing with that on my mind, but it’s true. I didn’t come here for that but… Oh, wait. I don’t ever think I talked about why I’m even here. I mean really talked about it.

Short version…

Nigerian National Team. After my recovery from a torn quad-tendon. I played well and even better against Dirk Nowitzki when we lost to Germany by 1 to advance to the Final 8 in the World Championship. Yes, Nigeria. People in my ear, try NBA one more time. “NO.” Try Gabe, try Gabe, try Gabe! No No No… Fine! Took me to the losing weight thing. At a burly muscular 271lbs… I tried everything. Fad diets, running, no weights. After months I was 258lbs and I was running on the track in Houston freaking Texas! Twice a day! Let me tell all those athletes that have heard about the no/low carb diet… Trash it. Doesn’t work and it’s unhealthy.

Anyway, I did some research and I figured out how to lose weight and be a beast on the court and in everything I do. Diet. I have gone from the Micky D’s diet to a raw organic diet. And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. So I was in this incredible shape, cut from Charlotte and the offers I had overseas obviously were taken by other guys. So I figured what a waste it would be to be at this level athletically and just not play. So here I am. Da D League. Ha! What if I did get a call up? I’d swear it was a joke and probably hang up on the person calling. How appropriate, right? Ha! I am, however, glad I’m here. Because I get to appreciate things that I probably would take for granted. And I get to expand my mind by challenging what everyone else says a person my age should be doing. When I’m in practice and I am outrunning 23-years-old guys and seeing guys ice their knees afterwards and I’m not even sore, it just teaches me what I’m feeling… is.

It simply is. My mind and its strength are far more important than the stregnth of my body. Despite what NBA people are accustomed to saying, I would much rather have a guy willing to learn to do something than a guy who “should” be able to do something. The guy willing to learn will always, always achieve it. If you don’t believe it, please just watch one of Idan Ravin‘s workouts. You know, the guy working out Carmelo Anthony in the Jordan commercial. If he’s training anything, it’s your mind. Your mind takes you anywhere. Can I defend like Bruce Bowen? No, but I can learn to. Can I shoot like Derek Fisher? No, but I can learn to. Can I run like Luol Deng? Nope, but I can learn to. Can I score like Kobe Bryant? No, chill out! Are you nuts? Hell no. Let’s not get dumb. But you get the pic. The more I achieve things phyically due to mental discipline, the more I see the mind really is the most important tool in basketball.

I remember at Jordan camp when I asked MJ how he did it. He just said discipline to do it over and over again. He told me things I listened to and things I didn’t listen to. One of the things I ignored was “take care of your body.” Anyone remember how old Jordan was when he won his sixth ring? 35. And he was still going. It’s no secret. It just takes discipline to do the right things over and over again.

I love hearing Gregg Popovich and George Karl coach. They both say something you don’t hear many coaches, NBA or overseas, say. “You don’t need to do it fast. Just do it perfect.” And they win. Give either one of those guys players that listen… They will find a way to win.

The mind is what I am learning to hone here in the D-League. So if you see me playing better, my mind is getting stronger. Human beings can, I really believe, use their minds to manifest something tangible. I read a biography on Albert Einstein where he was asked if he believed in God. His response was crazy! He said the universe is so perfect in its harmony of creation the laws of physics demand there be a creator. And he said in his studies he has seen such things in the physical (that which is seen) that indicate the existence of the meta-physical (that which is unseen). So am I saying we are walking around with ghosts? I’m saying just ask… What if? Because if I can use my mind to manifest something I achieve physically, I’d hate to miss out on it. Thank you, D-League. You have made me an alchemist/weirdo.


It’s a trip when you get to know people. Ime was so quiet and I figured he was just some guy who could play with a Nigerian father. Well, folks in S.A., don’t be fooled. That dude in an Afr-I-CAN! I mean damn! The only thing non-African about him is his accent. We went to Nigeria, man… When they brought out the food I figured uh oh… He aint eatin’ th… What the?! Ime was tearing that Fu-fu (thank Jay-Z for everyone knowing what that is now) to shreads. I asked him about his adornment of the vittles. He said that’s all he ate growing up. Imagine my surprise when I saw he must have grown up doing the African ju-jitsu too.

When the National Team went to Algeria for the African Championships in Algiers, every team was on edge because the Top 3 squads got the invite to the World Championships. So after we lost to Angola in the semis and had to play Algeria for the third spot, they knew, we knew, everyone knew they had no shot. First quarter… Tactics. African ball, man. Trust me: as corrupt as can be. Despite all the cheating from the three-man (North African) refereeing crew they just couldn’t beat us. So the coach sent in their best player, who was injured but came in with a purpose. I think his name was Ali Bidane or something. We had the ball out of bounce under. He guarded me. As the ref handed us the ball, he turned, looked at me as if there was not a game going on. And pop! Not an elbow, not even a signature yours truly gutter. He decked me right in the jaw. I couldn’t believe it. And come on. I freely admit when I throw cheap shots. I wouldn’t hide it if I started to. I mean, I’m in the middle of basically middle eastern country playing the local team. I know better (read on to see my contradiction). He nailed me, we turned it over, and yes, my Rodman 101 class did well. I looked up court, saw both refs back and calmly asked him in by most polite French, “Pardon me sir, I object to you striking me.” Next thing you know… Both teams on the court going at it. Wow.

Imagine my surprise! (My cheeks hurt). That wasn’t the real brawl. After we won was the real issue. After the game, they were waiting for us to come out of the locker room. And seriously, I didn’t start it. Kingsley Ogwudire was in front of our team in an all-out tirade in his best Arabic. The next thing you know, there were three Algerian players on him. Everyone was engaged in combat save me, if you can believe it. And lo and ehold… Ime! He was taking people out like in Mortal Kombat. Finish him! Incredible. I was so out of it as I had five guys I was fighting (oh yeah, the crowd jumped in as the fight spilled over to the court of the championship game of Senegal and Angola).

In the middle of the whole thing I heard Ime, literally in mid-swing of another opponent say,”Watch back, Gabe” and he calmly, I mean calmly, smeared a guy who, as I turned to see his warning, jumped from the stands with a chair to probably kill me or knock me out to where the crowd would have. I mean, Ime caught the guy in mid air with a fist and calmly continued his dispatching of oncoming people. He and other guys (yes, me too) were whoopin’ so many people the crowd backed up. True to the letter! But Ime had the most notches by far. As we retreated to the locker room to kind chants of, “You cudly blackies! We highly doubt your ability to leave this gym with lives intact” in French, (it might have been a bad translation) all I could do was marvel at Ime. This guy, I thought, was a quiet American guy was standing there – all his stuff gone (gym bag, wallet, shoes, jersey) – with a stick in his hand we tore off the walls of the locker room in the middle of North Africa quite literally with our lives on the line… laughing. All the while I was texting my wife that I loved her and might have a hard time seeing her again while she was watching the whole incident on BBC News. And Ime… laughing. He is and always will be my 9ja broda. Ime… Wetin happen bros? Abi na notin. Notin dey happen. To this day I don’t know how we got out of there. But that night we ate like kings at the Nigerian Embassy. And Ime was with us… Killing his Fu-fu.

Tell me how I could have seen a thing like that if I had made the NBA out of college! You just can’t make this stuff up.


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