Jermaine O'Neal RumorsAll NBA Players
B/R: Your relationship with Kobe Bryant is covered in the documentary, but did guys like Jermaine O’Neal and Tracy McGrady reach out to you when they were weighing their decisions? Garnett: Yeah, I tried to make myself available for those kids. I didn’t talk to J.O. or Tracy, but I did talk to Kob. Kob and I had a long conversation. I could tell that he had very similar visions for himself coming out of high school to what I had. I said to him, “You’ve got a father who played in the league. All the stuff you’re asking me, you can go ask your dad.” But he wanted to hear it from me. He wanted my perspective. We remained friends after that. But when it came to Tracy and those guys, they didn’t really reach out. Darius Miles was the one besides Kobe that I actually sat down with. I could see a lot of myself in him. He had already made up his mind of what he wanted to do and wanted some advice. We had similar paths. He was from East St. Louis, so we kind of messed on some Midwest-type ish. But he was a student. I saw a lot of myself.
The most improbable part about four-year-old Drive Nation, though, is how it came to be. Its conceiver, the benefactor who has poured $14 million into Drive Nation without taking so much as a dollar in return, is a six-time NBA All-Star who had no ties to North Texas when he moved his family here in 2012. Jermaine O’Neal says he was drawn by the lack of state income tax; the competitive academic and athletic climates for his daughter and son; and his lifelong fandom of the local NFL team. “That investment has not paid me back yet,” he laughs of the Cowboys. “But I’ve got a good feeling it’s coming.”
As for Drive Nation’s grassroots boys and girls basketball and girls volleyball programs, still in their relative infancy, the early dividends have been eye-opening. Participation in basketball (K-12th grade) and volleyball (2nd-12th grades) has mushroomed to more than 2,000 – despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Drive Nation’s Nike Elite Youth Basketball travel-team program already boasts four alumni who were picks in the two most recent NBA drafts: 2021′s No. 1 overall Cade Cunningham (Pistons) and 2020′s No. 21 Tyrese Maxey (Sixers), No. 24 RJ Hampton (Magic) and No. 43 Jahmi’us Ramsey (Kings).
O’Neal has relationships throughout the basketball world. Himself a McDonald’s All-American in 1996, O’Neal is a committee member for the annual boys and girls McDonald’s All-American games. Suffice to say a phone call from O’Neal carries weight. “Now, what I will not do is lie for a kid or parent,” he says. “It will always have to be earned. Because I’ll always have another kid right behind that particular kid. … If I’m going to talk to USA Basketball or Nike or ESPN voters, I value them answering my call, respecting my opinion.”
Then Pacer Jermaine O’Neal was stunned by the reports and how the scope of the incident narrowed extensively. “All of a sudden, my character is in question,” he says. “These are thugs. That’s literally the word that they used. And everyone signed off, ‘Yeah, it’s rap music and it’s this.’ Well, they are not saying that when hockey [players] are beating the hell out of each other for decades.”
Basketball-Reference: Domantas Sabonis’s 17 rebounds are the most by a #Pacers player in a 30+ point game since Jermaine O’Neal put up 38 & 18 in 2003 stathead.com/tiny/4jpK5 pic.twitter.com/9QAwNW8uDx
That contact is about to become more frequent. McGrady and O’Neal, who have 13 N.B.A. All-Star appearances between them, said in a phone interview that they plan to open a player representation agency this fall. They will call it Seven1 Sports Group and Entertainment. The name is a mash-up of their jersey numbers from careers that propelled McGrady to induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017 and enabled O’Neal to play for seven teams across 18 seasons and sign player contracts worth more than $150 million. If successful, they would become the most prominent players in N.B.A. history to enter the highly competitive and hard-to-break-into agent business.