New York Knicks forward Michael Beasley, 29, has become one of the most important players on his team. He has been a very good isolation and post-up scorer, and he’s done a phenomenal job of showing he was a valuable addition.
He recently spoke with HoopsHype about his basketball journey, which has taken him through eight teams in the NBA and China.
You have a fairly young team in New York and you’re a veteran for these players. What kind of role have you taken with the Knicks?
Michael Beasley: It’s a lead-by-example situation. I talk a lot about what I’ve been through and try to get them to do the right things early. I want to make sure they learn the right habits at the start of their career just to make it a little easier. Until this year, I’d never been a veteran before. I’d never been with this many young guys. They’re teaching me a lot about being a leader and about being vocal. I’m one of the older guys and one of the guys that they look up to on the team. I try to teach them the right habits and how to handle certain situations both on and off the court.
Who are some of the veterans who mentored you earlier in your career? Are you using their lessons?
MB: Someone that I can always call is Udonis Haslem, no matter what I’m going through and no matter where I am in the world. He’s always going to pick up or call back shortly after. It’s the same thing with guys like Mike James and Dwyane Wade. I’ve learned from some great guys. I got really close with Ray Allen and LeBron James, too. I’ve been fortunate to play with some great guys and I’m double blessed to become friends with them.
Is there a player in the league that you want to model yourself after, like how you want guys around the NBA to look at you?
MB: [Laughs] LeBron James.
I like that answer. What was it like playing with LeBron on the Heat?
MB: It was a learning experience. People don’t always talk about how good of a person he is and how cognitive he is about things you are interested in, too. He’s definitely one of the guys that can change your life, just being around him. It was fun. I got to learn a lot on the court in terms of work ethic and as far as how he sees the game. It was one of the best years of my life. He’s one of the guys that I’ve used to bounce certain situations off and he’s helped me a ton in my career. He’s just as normal as they come. He’s probably the most humble guy I know.
Now that you’re in New York, this is a totally different market. How have you felt about the way the city has embraced you?
MB: Honestly, I couldn’t ask for anything better. For the city and fans to embrace not only the way I play but who I am as much as they did – it feels great to be able to be yourself and be accepted. I thank the city forever for that. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t win as much as we wanted to this year.
You’ve been used in a lot of one-on-one opportunities for the Knicks. Has that trust in isolation been discussed with your coaches?
MB: I think Jeff Hornaceck trusts me more than I trust myself, if that’s possible. Especially with Kristaps Porzingis going down and Tim Hardaway Jr. going down with injuries earlier this season, we needed someone to score and we needed someone to carry the load. We all want to be that guy and to be the superstar. I was a tad bit nervous when it was time for me to step up but Jeff and coach Kurt Rambis and a few of my teammates did a great job to help show me who I am. It feels good to be put in that position.
New York has also allowed you to play more on the ball than as a spot-up shooter. Is this something you can bring to your next contract too?
MB: I think the most overlooked part of my game is that I can make plays for other people. I can score and that’s fun. But for me, the game gets fun if and when I can make other people better. I would definitely like more chances to be a playmaker and put them in the position to be great. That’s what helps people win.
A lot of players who go to China now look at you as an example of someone who made it back and is now playing at a high level in the NBA. What did you learn while you were out there?
MB: I learned how to take things one day at a time. I learned how to live in the moment and learned how to play basketball the right way. I learned how to make individuals better. Above all us, I learned the value in solitude. A lot of us, not just basketball players but people, are afraid to be alone. I was one of those people and that experience in China helped me grow up. It was a big part of my maturation process. The more you notice your surroundings, the less you think about things you want to avoid. For me at the time, that was the NBA. I really wanted to get back home. The first six weeks, I would go nights or even a week without sleeping because it was on my mind so much. I had to accept my situation and take it as it came.
Players like DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love have talked about that anxiety. Do you think that has helped others be more open with their own struggles?
MB: Hats off to those guys, man. More people than you think go through that. I go through it. It took me a while to realize it because we’re raised to believe that it’s an embarrassing thing. It’s definitely inspiring for them to be honest about what they are experiencing. They opened up the floodgates, they opened up the doors, for the next great NBA player or even the next great scientist. The next shy kid with anxiety can break out of their shell because of this.
What are some goals you’re hoping to accomplish in the league and off the court?
MB: I want to play basketball the wholesome way. I’ve been in this game for 10 years professionally. It’s all I want. I want the chance to play at a high level and win championships. I don’t want to set goals or limitations. I know once I’ve gotten the chance, everything else will come with it. And off the court, the only thing I worry about is my kids growing up healthy and knowing that they’re loved. If my family is fine and my kids are taken care of, that’s all I want. I’m a real simple guy.
I watched your interview with Taylor Rooks on SNY where you talked about parenting your daughter, painting your nails. I thought that was super cool.
MB: [Laughs] Listen, man. I lost my hood card because I’ve got paint on my nails, bro. So that’s good to hear. My 4-year-old will be 5 in April. Not much will change in those years. I think it’s cool. People should be themselves no matter what anyone says and how it feels. Just be comfortable with being yourself.
Last time I saw you at Madison Square Garden, everyone – opposing players, security guards, just everyone – wanted to talk to you. You just seemed like the most popular guy. What’s your secret?
MB: I don’t try or anything. I’m interested in people. I like hearing what others have to say. You build relationships, especially when you’ve been as many places as I’ve been. Some of them last a really long time.
Anything else you wanted to mention before I let you go on with your day?
MB: [Laughs] We’re giving out free promos because I’ve got a mixtape dropping next week. I’m just kidding but if you’re interested, maybe I can get to work on one, though. You’ll be our first call.