Throughout the course of Ricky Davis’ 12-year NBA career, he became known for his scoring ability and impressive in-game dunks. Occasionally, he also made headlines due to his amusing quotes and antics, such as the time he intentionally missed a lay-up on his own team’s basket to try to get a triple-double as time expired.
There’s no denying that Davis was entertaining throughout his time in the league, and he became a fan favorite during several of his NBA stints. The swingman played for the Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers.
After his NBA career ended, Davis played overseas in Turkey, China, France and Puerto Rico. He also played for two D-League teams (the Maine Red Claws and Erie BayHawks) in an attempt to make an NBA comeback – most recently in 2014. Davis had played professional basketball since he was 17 years old and struggled to walk away from the game he loves.
Now, the 37-year-old is getting his basketball fix by playing in the BIG3, which is the 3-on-3 league started by Ice Cube. Davis is co-captain of the “Ghost Ballers” and he’s playing alongside Mike Bibby, Marcus Banks, Mo Evans, Ivan Johnson and Joe Smith. His team is coached by Hall of Famer George Gervin. The BIG3 season tips off on June 25 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.
HoopsHype caught up with Davis to discuss his decision to play in the BIG3, how he was perceived when he was in the NBA, his goal of becoming an NBA coach, the triple-double controversy, witnessing LeBron James’ rookie season and much more.
What drew you to the BIG3 and made you want to participate in this league?
Ricky Davis: Well, it’s amazing what Ice Cube is doing. Growing up, he’s someone I listened to as an artist and I watched all of his movies. When he called and said that he was putting on a 3-on-3 basketball league, it was kind of surreal. It’s amazing what he’s doing and how he’s put this thing together. I’m glad to be a part of it. You already have guys talking a ton of trash; it’ll be fun.
You’re playing with Mike Bibby, Marcus Banks, Mo Evans, Ivan Johnson and Joe Smith. Now that you know your teammates, what do you think of your squad and your chances of winning it all?
RD: I really do think we have a chance to win it all. I’ve been getting myself back in tip-top shape and all of my teammates have been working hard and getting ready too. Once we get on the court, we’re going to be able to compete at a high level and get going. I think we have a great combination of players with the nucleus that we’ve got. Marcus is able to break people down, Bibby is able to shoot, Mo brings it as an all-around contributor, and we’ll have Ivan and Joe down low. I like that combination of guys.
Mike Bibby is the captain and you’re the co-captain. Did you guys already have a relationship prior to the BIG3?
RD: Me and Bibby go way back. Not only did we play in the league at the same time and battle against each other, we actually used to play a lot during summers too. We’d play together in the offseason, so there’s definitely some history there between us. We saw each other [entering the BIG3] and wanted to team up.
How excited are you to have a legend like George Gervin as your coach?
RD: Ah man, that’s The Iceman! He’s one of the smoothest guys ever, one of the guys who created the finger-roll. Again, I credit Ice Cube for doing a great job of putting together a league that features these legends that we all grew up watching and hearing about. It’s amazing to have some of these Hall of Famers coaching teams. Getting advice from these old-school guys who really know how to play the game, it’s just going to be amazing.
You played in the NBA for 12 seasons and, over the course of your career, averaged 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1 steal. You had several seasons where you basically averaged 20-5-5. Do you feel your game was underrated or underappreciated? And, if so, how did that affect you?
RD: I definitely felt that way and it motivated me. I felt like an underdog. The guys who go out there and do the dirty work never really get the credit, but we make our teammates better by doing those things. [The lack of credit] was something that always motivated me throughout my career. I knew what I could do and I was able to take over games at times. It was definitely something that pushed me and made me want to rise to the top.
After your final season in the NBA, you played abroad in Turkey, China, France and Puerto Rico. On and off the court, how was your experience overseas?
RD: It was amazing – having the chance to learn about other cultures, taste other foods from around the world and traveling to different places. It definitely humbles you and makes you thankful for what you have here in the United States, but traveling to Turkey and China and France and others and playing there were just great experiences. I had the chance to play in the Euroleague. I got to play in China, where there’s so many people and millions of basketball fans. It was great.
You attempted an NBA comeback in 2013, joining the D-League’s Erie BayHawks. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. But what made you decide to join the D-League and how was that experience?
RD: Being in the D-League was definitely to show everybody that I still got it, and there have been some other old-school guys who played in the D-League for the same reason. Playing in the D-League was great for me because I was helping the young guys with their development and that’s really what helped me kickstart my coaching [aspirations]. Now, I coach kids in Houston. It was a good stop for me and I learned a lot. And I definitely think the D-League is a great way for young players to be seen.
What kind of coaching are you doing in Houston?
RD: Here in Houston, I have an AAU program. But I’m doing a lot of other things too. I have my foundation, which is called the Ricky Davis Legacy Foundation. We run numerous educational programs for the kids. I’m about to start a home-schooling program for kids as well. I’m trying to give back and help the youth. I want them to have the knowledge they need to be successful in life.
Do you hope to eventually become a coach in the NCAA or NBA?
RD: Oh yeah, coaching in the NBA is definitely my dream. I’d love to bring that knowledge back to the NBA, and that’s what I’m working toward now.
You played in 736 regular-season games throughout your career, but only 11 playoff games. How frustrating was it that you didn’t get to play in the postseason more and experience a deep playoff run?
RD: It was frustrating, for sure, but I try not to beat myself up over it. I know that I went out every night and gave 100 percent effort. I gave 150 percent. That’s all you can really do. It would’ve been great to be on more successful teams and be in the playoffs every year and go that route, but I just didn’t draw that straw.
You were on the Cleveland Cavaliers during LeBron James’ rookie season. What was that like, and what did you think of where he was at developmentally as a player and as a person?
RD: It was awesome. We were definitely looking forward to making some kind of additions after losing 65 games [in the 2002-03 season]. My little brother actually played some high school ball with LeBron. They were briefly teammates at St. Vincent-St. Mary, but then my brother moved. But because of that, I had actually seen LeBron earlier than most people.
When he joined us, he was definitely a mature player for his age. He came to the NBA straight out of high school and was so young, and I could relate to that because I was 17 years old myself when I came into the league. I was the third-youngest player to ever enter the NBA, so I sort of understood what he was going through in some ways. The season went great. There was media everywhere, but it was fun. It was really good to see him grow, to see his dedication. I was still doing my thing. I had averaged 20 points the year before and I was still scoring 20 a lot of nights that year too. He did his thing and I did my thing, and I think we meshed well together. He had a lot of talent and when the organization gave him the opportunity to be “the guy,” he took advantage of it. It was just a great season, and it was a lot of fun playing with one of the greatest young guys ever.
I have to ask about the triple-double incident. For those who don’t know, you guys were blowing out Utah and as the game was winding down, you were one rebound away from your first triple-double. You caught the inbound pass in the backcourt, and you intentionally missed a lay-up off of your own rim and collected the rebound. They didn’t count the rebound, so you didn’t get the triple-double, but that story blew up because Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan was furious and people thought it was disrespectful. I thought people blew it out of proportion a bit. Were you surprised by the intense reaction and what are your thoughts now looking back on it 14 years later?
RD: They did blow it out of proportion a bit, but I admit I was young and I was selfish. I was just doing my own thing. I didn’t realize what the consequences would be. I was just trying to get my first triple-double, like Ice Cube in “It Was a Good Day.” I would always listen to Ice Cube and I wanted to get a triple-double too.
Now, here we are, talking about you playing in Ice Cube’s league.
RD: It all comes full circle! (laughs).
Interview, Top, George Gervin, Ivan Johnson, Joe Smith, LeBron James, Marcus Banks, Maurice Evans, Mike Bibby, Ricky Davis, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah Jazz