Former NBA player Eddy Curry joined Michael Scotto on the latest HoopsHype podcast. Curry discussed what to expect from his new Caramel and Cheddar podcast on The Players’ Tribune, untold stories behind the scenes playing for the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, and much more.
For more interviews with players, coaches, and media members, be sure to like and subscribe to the HoopsHype podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. Listen to the podcast above or check out some snippets of the conversation in a transcribed version below.
1:20 What to expect from the Caramel and Cheddar podcast with his wife on The Players’ Tribune
Eddy Curry: We’ve been married for over 16 years. She’s been with me through the ups and the downs. We’ve been all around life, and we’ve found a unique opportunity with The Players’ Tribune. We wanted to do a podcast. It was always going to be a relationship podcast. With the help of The Players’ Tribune, they really helped us make it into something special. We take relationship movies and things couples go through, and we break them down into a couple of topics and draw a lot of comparisons to our real life. We use those movies as an outline and a skeleton to talk about real issues, things couples encounter in their relationships, and how we were able to get through it.
3:00 How much of a crossover is there talking about your lives as a married couple with the films?
EC: Going into this, I never knew how many of our experiences would pop up. We’ve been developing this show for a little over a year. We had so many situations we related to, and our conversations would go to many places, sometimes dark places. With the help of Greg Cally with The Players’ Tribune, we dialed in on three topics. We’ve been together for over 20 years. With that type of time and those types of experiences, there’s not much that happens in the films that we haven’t covered. A lot of times, things could get dark depending on the movie we’re watching. We’re very open and honest about our relationship. Patrice is very emotional. We talk about everything, and we’re open books. People will see that as the season goes on.
7:45 How would you describe your journey as a couple from a teenager in the NBA to now?
EC: I’d say it was a rollercoaster, and I think I provided a lot of the dips, honestly. She probably was the most consistent thing in my life. Basketball was up and down. My own personal life and the decisions I’d make were up and down. Friends were up and down. It’s a journey that I can’t say I’d change it. Obviously, I’d do some things differently in terms of some decision-making when it came to dealing with her, people and emotions.
When players get drafted, everything kind of stops for them. Then, the business side kicks in, and it’s no longer about truly maturing. For the most part, it seems like the primary focus is improving in basketball and helping your team win, while trying to capitalize on and off the floor. One of the things that I’d try to change if I could was that part of it. I’d try to continue to try and mold and accelerate that growth in my maturity.
10:40 How did you and Patrice meet?
EC: Patrice was working at the Berto Center, which was the practice facility for the Bulls. When I got drafted by Chicago, I’d see her every day. At the time, BJ Armstrong was working there and Pete Myers. I’m asking everybody, “Who’s that?” That’s how it started. I was a kid still. I was 18 years old. I was fresh out of high school. I’m probably a couple of years away from sending a note to a girl saying, “Hey, do you like me? Circle yes or no.” I was using all my resources to get her to know I liked her. I was like, “Pete, can you talk to her for me and tell her that I like her? Ask her if we can go to dinner or a movie.” I didn’t even know where to take a woman. She was older than me. I was used to dealing with high school girls. That was a challenge, and she didn’t make it easy for me. I used to joke that I was a cub, and she was a little older than me. I truly am happy that she gave me a chance. That’s why I’m working so hard now to show her that she made the right decision, even 20 years later.
I get to Chicago, and I can’t go to a club. At 18, everybody knows you and knows you’re not supposed to be there. It’s not like we could sneak into a club. It was a lot of iHop and Bennigan’s at the time (laughs).
14:15 What was it like being an Illinois native playing for the Bulls after the Michael Jordan era as a teenager?
EC: I went to New York for the draft, and I came right back home. As a kid in Chicago, I never went past downtown. The practice facility was way past downtown on the north end of Illinois. That alone was a culture shock for me. I was 45 minutes to an hour from my mom’s house, where I grew up. I would literally go to practice and go right back to my mom’s house. I hung out with my friends, went to the mall, and did kid stuff.
In regards to playing for the Bulls after Jordan, it hit me right away because growing up, I went to a few games, and even the year before that, I went to a game, and I first met Jamal Crawford. We became friends instantly. That was the first NBA player that talked to me and tried to befriend me. When I got to the Bulls, that was my guy. I was living out of a hotel with a gate that separated the Berto Center. Jamal was coming off an ACL repair, so he was at the hotel.
Tyson (Chandler) was at the hotel. I hadn’t quite become friends with Tyson yet because in high school, we were enemies. I don’t know if people know that. It was a different day and age than it is now. There wasn’t social media. Everybody hyped this thing up between me, Tyson, and Kwame (Brown) because we were all trying to be professionals and go for the No. 1 spot as a lottery pick. My whole high school, I hated Tyson, and I’m sure he hated me also.
Going to the game, right away, you realized the effect MJ had on the organization because we were horrible, but it was always packed in the United Center. It was mostly because these people had already bought these tickets in advance. This was the residual from the MJ era. I felt like if we could somehow win, maybe we’d know how it feels. Unfortunately for me, we didn’t do that until my last year there.
19:42 Should kids be allowed to go pro out of high school again?
EC: Yeah. I think the league is a lot more equipped for it now. What I mean by that is the programming they have and the people they make accessible to you now. I don’t think they knew how to deal with it at the time. It was such a new thing, and it was like the flood gates had opened, everyone was trying to do it, and trying to decipher who was going to get picked and who was going to lose their college eligibility and not get drafted, which would cause a horrible situation for a lot of young men.
I know what it was like for me and to be able to provide that type of relief for my family. You grow up in these neighborhoods, and it just seems like there’s no way out. It seems like everything is hinging on you. I know that’s a lot of pressure on a kid, but that’s the reality of it. I think we all grow up and say, “I want to buy my mom a house and do things so my mom doesn’t have to work again.” In the blink of an eye, you’re able to do that. I think it’s hard to tell a kid no to that.
By the time you’re in a position to be a possible lottery pick, you’re somewhere in your mind competitively thinking I could play on that level. Not only play, but start, be in the playoffs and win a championship. You’re dreaming big.
23:27 Is it true you wanted to be a gymnast before you started playing basketball?
EC: I did. There was a group of tumblers called the Jesse White Tumblers. They’d perform at halftime of Bulls games and the Bud Billiken parade in Chicago. I just always aspired to be a part of that parade. Ever since third or fourth grade, I learned how to tumble. I learned how to do backflips. We used to take old mattresses people were throwing out, and we’d always pull them out of the trash. That was our tumbling mat, and that’s how we learned how to tumble in my neighborhood.
Dominique Dawes was my favorite gymnast in the world. I always wanted to be able to tumble like her. That became almost like a novelty for me. When I’d meet somebody, the first thing they’d say is, “I heard you can do a backflip.” I’d do a no-hand backflip right there. I was at that time 6-foot-11, 280 pounds. I could still do a standing backflip with no hands. NBA people saw that as a display of athleticism.
26:08 How did you get into basketball?
EC: I got into basketball around sixth or seventh grade. I was just tall. In school, I was playing the trombone because I had long arms. I really tried to stay away from basketball because I wasn’t skilled at all. I literally never played basketball. One of the coaches pretty much made me play on the team in seventh grade. His name was Mr. Scott. I was so embarrassed to play that I didn’t tell my mom I was on the team. I told her I was staying after school to do extra work. I’d go to my games and come home. Eventually, my aunt found out, and she called my mom. She said, “Eddy doesn’t play basketball.”
My friend Armon Gates, whose brother Dennis Gates just became the head coach at Missouri, saw me play and said I needed to come play with his AAU team. The coach came out, and the rest is history. He invited me to come to the tryout. I didn’t really want to do it. My parents said it was my decision. I think the day before, they said I should do it. That was the best thing that ever happened. They made me go. I literally cried like, “I don’t want to go.” I just fell in love with it. I was better than I thought I was.
31:31 Speaking of Chicago, what would’ve happened if Jay Williams stayed healthy with those Bulls teams?
EC: People don’t know. These younger people only see Jay Williams as the guy on TV. We know Jay Will to be one of the most electric guards I’ve ever seen. Me and Jamal had been friends since I was in high school… Jamal was coming off an ACL injury. Every year they were drafting a guard. Jamal, who we know today, is one of the best guards ever, but this was him back in 2001-2004. I was there when they drafted Kirk Hinrich. I saw the toll it took on him. I saw the hurt and determination when they drafted Jay Will… When they drafted him (Williams), they did their best to make him feel super special. I felt like they didn’t really do that for all of us. My younger self felt that way. They wanted all of us to be at the training facility when he came. Nobody was there when I came or Jamal.
I knew he was incredible. When I played in the McDonald’s Game, it was at Cameron Indoor stadium. I remember when he walked in with his letterman jacket on, and the crowd went crazy. I’m like, “Wow, this dude is a basketball God. This is crazy.”
37:10 What were the best stories of wild stuff that happened in the locker room or off the court during your Bulls years?
EC: The first road trip I went on, Kendall Gill was the first male that I saw who put so much into his hygiene. We’d take a shower, put on some lotion and get out of there. Kendall would take a shower, come out and do his hair, give himself a fresh haircut every time he got out of the shower. He’d put oils on and spray himself with all types of cologne. We went on the road, and the first time we got off the elevator going to our rooms, and there was a trail of rose petals going from the elevator to Kendall’s room. I’m like, “What the heck is going on?” He winked at us and said, “Yeah, young fella. You’ve got to step your game up.”
Ron Mercer used to call me and Tyson, “Baby sh*t.” It really bothered me because we were so young and the baby Bulls. He’d never call us by our names.
I remember Ron Artest got a job at Circuit City so he could get a discount because he wanted the employee discount. It was right down the street from the Berto Center. He went there and got a job there. That was amazing.
I’ve got Charles Oakley stories for days. I remember him and Tim Floyd getting into it in the film room. They’d curse each other out. Floyd compared Oakley to Charles Barkley or somebody like that. Oakley challenged a lot of the stuff Floyd tried to implement. Floyd would tell Oakley he needed to be more like this guy. Oakley was like, “Man, he’s a b*tch.” Floyd said you need to be more like this person. Oakley said, “He’s a b*tch too.” They blew up. Oakley called him a name in a meeting. After that meeting, Oakley told me and Tyson he thought he’d be gone after that.
I remember one time Tyson and Gill got into it. Gill knew mixed martial arts. They got into it one time at practice, and Gill did this weird move on Tyson, and he had him all wrapped up on the floor and twisted up. Everybody was saying let him go. Gill told Tyson, “Tap out.” Tyson couldn’t tap out because Gill had his arm in a way he couldn’t touch the ground.
I remember Oakley made me late for the plane. He’s my guy. After a home game, we’d be leaving and had a certain amount of time to get to the plane, but he had to go get his soul food. He’d always make me take him. I’d take him in his car. He could never get his food and leave. He knew the guy who owned it. He’d hang out like we had nowhere to be. They wouldn’t say anything to Oakley, but they’d say something to me for being late even though they know I’m with Oakley. He’d have me in his Range Rover on the highway. Every time we ran late, he had a switch that had police lights. He’d hit the lights and had me riding on the shoulder and barked out these orders while I was driving. I used to be so scared. I was like, “Oak, I’m going to get arrested.” He’s like, “F*ck that. You heard me. I got you. Don’t worry.” We’d barely make it to the plane.
44:45 On The Players’ Tribune, you previously talked about going to Philippe Chao and spending $2,000 on a meal. In Chicago, you said you went to get chicken for $20?
EC: That was just for me and my wife or one of my friends. Of course, there were crazier nights. I was talking on average. When I was in Chicago, I’d go to Harold’s Chicken all the time. I’d spend $20, and I was full. In New York, it was different. That was another monster.
46:25 What were the best stories of wild stuff that happened in the locker room or off the court during your Knicks years?
EC: New York was crazy. The stories in Chicago were funny, but they’re pretty harmless. The stories in New York? That might break up somebody’s home. I can tell they had Philippe Chao and Mr. Chow’s. I’m thinking, it’s the same food and if you’re on this side of town, you go here. If you’re by the Financial District, you go to the other one. One night a teammate of mine was there. He told me, “It’s cool tonight, but from now on, we bring our work to Philippe and your wife to Mr. Chow.” I was at Philippe with my wife. He was like, “It’s cool now, but from now on if you ever find yourself about to come here, you call people and let them know, so they don’t come here with their girlfriends.” That was the craziest thing to me. It’s really like a code or a method to cheating.
52:03 The Knicks had talent with Jamal Crawford, David Lee, Stephon Marbury, etc. Why didn’t it click?
EC: As a player, you realize it’s a business, but you want to feel some sort of stability and trust. When I got there, it was training camp. I went to my room, and there was a fruit basket in my room. It was partially eaten. It had the tag on there, and it was to Mike Sweetney. I get to practice the next day. I’m talking to Jamal Crawford, and he’s super hyped that I’m there. A lot of guys are hyped I’m there, but they’re sad Mike is gone. They told me he cried because they told Mike about the rumors, and they kept telling him, “We’re not going to trade you.” They traded him. It just messed him up and was tough on him.
I started developing a friendship with Jerome James. I remember one of the first things Jerome said to me was, “This city ain’t big enough for the both of us.” I’m like, “Huh?” As we developed a friendship, we talked along with Malik Rose, and he told me his viewpoint of it, which was that when he was in Seattle, he had a good playoff run with them. They used to call him the trash bag man or something like that because they were close to cutting him. He had that good run, and he signed a nice deal with the Knicks. When he signed the deal with the Knicks, he signed it thinking he was going to be the starting center, and it was going to finally be his chance to be that guy. That’s why he went there, but then they got me.
The first person I saw when I stepped off the elevator was Stephon (Marbury). I never really had a personal relationship with Steph. I was with William Wesley and Tim Grover. He (Marbury) was sitting right outside the elevator, and he welcomed me to New York. I was hyped. I grew up loving this guy watching him with KG. I still love Steph. He told me, literally the first thing he told me, “Welcome to the team. This is how this is going to work. When you get the rebound, you’re going to give it to me. Always look for me, even on an offensive rebound. Then, I’ll do my thing, and I’ll make sure that you get yours from time to time.”
I remember Zeke (Isiah Thomas) called me one summer. He said we had an opportunity to get Zach Randolph. That’s my guy. We go back to freshman year at Nike camp. I always loved Z-Bo. But I told Isiah, “I love Zach’s game. I think he’s incredible. But I don’t know how that’s going to work. He gets his around the same places I get mine. I don’t know how that’s supposed to work, but I’m going to trust you.” He said, “Alright, let me think about it. If something happens, I’ll let you know.” The next day, I heard about the trade.
Quentin (Richardson) was coming there from winning the Three-Point Contest. He has his own idea of what a successful team looks like and is supposed to be. Then you had the Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas dynamic. All of that kind of played into what we became as a team. I think it wasn’t as team orientated as it should’ve been.
1:01:50 What was the Larry Brown and Stephon Marbury beef like behind the scenes?
EC: They were neighbors. Literally, we all lived in the same neighborhood. Me, Stephon, Isiah. They literally were neighbors. Their backyards backed up to each other. They didn’t have fences. If Isiah went into his backyard to his pool, he could be standing right there shaking Steph’s hand if he wanted to. They were that close. Knowing Steph, he felt betrayed in a lot of situations. He felt like he had Isiah’s back in situations, and Isiah didn’t have his back in situations. Once that trust is broken, and somebody feels this isn’t about a team, everybody starts pointing fingers. Once the media picks up and starts pointing the finger at Steph, he’s like, it’s not me. You need to be looking at this guy. By that time, these guys have relationships with Frank Isola and Marc Berman, so it’s not hard to get a narrative going if that’s what you wanted to do. I personally didn’t play into any of that type of stuff. I know guys were talking to people and putting stuff out.
I was there when Steph went home from Phoenix after he decided not to start him. Then, to see it play out in the media how it did was crazy. Some stuff I won’t say because I always love and appreciate Isiah because he gave me a chance. That was a really crucial time for me. My career could’ve been over when the heart issue came up. He took a chance on me. I’m forever grateful and indebted to him.
At the same time, if someone asked me my opinion on what happened, there was a lot of distrust and things that went on behind the scenes people don’t know about.
1:06:17 What was your impression of Isiah Thomas as a coach and executive?
EC: I respected it because I felt like he felt that was his situation. He felt like I hand-picked these guys and this situation. I’m going to be the executive to get us out of this situation, and if I have to, I’ll be the executive and the coach to get us out of this situation. I think things progressed to a point where it was irreconcilable.
1:07:43 What are your thoughts on your career overall, and what advice would you give to young NBA players that you learned the hard way?
EC: I’m not ashamed or upset about my career. A lot of times, I get met with anger. I think people wanted my career to go a certain way. It’s like if you’re mad that I didn’t do this or that, how do you think I feel? I’m here now. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s not like I can go sign with a team and try to correct this or that. It is what it is. I’m trying to build from here on. I think people still harbor this real anger about my career. I find that intriguing.
If I had some advice to give a young player, I’d say life is about balance. I think guys are doing a great job of balancing stuff on and off the court. Sometimes, you tip the scales so heavy with your on-court stuff that you begin to feel that your off-court stuff doesn’t matter. You don’t realize the scale is tipping the other way until it’s too late. I think because of social media, everything is such instant karma, where the moment you do something, it’s out.
I think people are really able to capture their image these days and are aware of that. I remember appearances where we had to do a certain number of them. They were based on where your team wanted to put you. These big corporations weren’t calling and saying they wanted this or that person. They just wanted two players. The Bulls were determining who was getting a cell phone deal or a Mercedes deal. Now, everyone is so accessible and visible that they’re able to go right to the player. I think that’s dope.
Don’t let your highs get too high and your lows get too low. Just stay aware and focus on this short window. I played for 11 years in the NBA, and it went in the blink of an eye. I tell my children that all the time.