We cover a wide range of topics. You’ll soon learn why Adam is a true Phoenix Suns ‘Super Fan’. When he was a young boy, the Suns were Phoenix’s only professional sports team. We chat about the 1976 season and the Suns’ improbable first trip to the NBA Finals. That 1976 team was lovingly referred to as the ‘Sunderella Suns’. Earlier this year, Tom Leander released a fantastic documentary – of the same name – devoted to the 40th anniversary of that iconic squad [Part I | Part II].
Our main topic of discussion, focuses on how the Suns franchise was rebuilt from the ground-up, throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, culminating with their 1993 NBA Finals appearance. We cover some of the off-court issues that plagued the team during the 1980s, then discuss the tragic death of promising Suns center, Nick Vanos. Plus, Adam has a great story about the 1988 NBA Draft and the aftermath of the Suns selecting Dan Majerle. It wouldn’t be a conversation about the Phoenix Suns, if we didn’t chat about Tom Chambers‘ insane jam over Mark Jackson.
In November, 1990, Adam sat next to photographers, near the basket support at Memorial Coliseum, to watch the visiting Chicago Bulls – who went on to win the 1991 NBA Finals – take on the Phoenix Suns. He talks about his unique view and memories of that game. The Suns continued to strengthen their roster and all the pieces fell into place, when they traded for Charles Barkley, not long after the 1992 NBA Finals. We talk about the 1993 post-season. Phoenix narrowly escaped a first-round humiliation to the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Lakers. Paul Westphal boldly predicted the Suns would win in five games, which they did. We then discuss the 1993 NBA Finals and how the Suns worked their way back into the series, after losing their first two (home) games at America West Arena.
As per usual, the conversation is scattered with humor and plenty of insight. A must-listen, for die-hard NBA fans, regardless of the team you support.
Kansas State Wildcats standout and 10-year NBA veteran, Eddie Nealy.
[Note: whilst mostly known as ‘Ed’, I refer to him throughout, as Eddie]
High School: Bonner Springs, Kansas
Eddie’s father was his high school basketball coach. He describes what it was like to have his dad calling the shots. The main focus was an emphasis on developing the fundamentals of his game. This would prove vital, as Nealy’s longevity at the highest level was due in no small part, to his tireless work ethic and mastery of hustle.
College: Kansas State University
Years: 1978-79 – 1981-82 | Coach: Jack Hartman
Nealy was a two-time Academic All-American, largely recruited by two schools – Yale and Kansas State. He talks about the reasoning behind his decision to play for the Wildcats. We also chat about a major role that he played in a fantastic game, in his freshman season. He hit crucial free throws to seal victory in the closing seconds.
Eddie’s Wildcats made it to the NCAA Tournament, in three of his four college seasons. In 1981, they advanced to the Elite Eight. I ask Eddie to talk about some key memories from his time at Kansas State, which also included an oversea tour to Japan, prior to senior season. Nealy left college with averages of 10.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. For three of those seasons, he was teammates with the great Rolando Blackman. We cover his recollections of teaming with the future, four-time NBA All-Star.
Date: June 29 | Location: New York | Pick: 166 (Round 8) | Team: Kansas City Kings
We talk about Eddie’s draft-day whereabouts and how he first heard the news that he was an NBA draftee. He also reflects on what it meant to be selected by his home-state team.
NBA / CBA career | Years: 1982-83 – 1992-93
Seasons: 1982-83 – 1984-85 | Team: Kansas City Kings
Coaches: Cotton Fitzsimmons, Jack McKinney & Phil Johnson
Along with (former podcast guest) Eddie Johnson, Nealy played all 82 regular-season games in his rookie season. He recalls some memories from his first year in the league.
The following year – his first trip to the post-season – Eddie’s Kings lost to eventual NBA Finalists, the L.A. Lakers. Nealy talks about his experiences playing the might of the L.A. Lakers.
After missing most of the Kings’ (1984-85) training camp, Eddie was released, signing on with the Continental Basketball Association’s (CBA) Sarasota Stingers – for part of the 1984-85 season – before signing as a free agent and returning to the Kansas City Kings, in late February, 1985. Following the Kings’ off-season relocation to Sacramento, Nealy was released by the team. He returned to the CBA and was a member of the 1986 CBA Champion, Tampa Bay Thrillers, led by Bill Musselman. Eddie fondly recalls his experiences playing in the CBA.
Seasons: 1986-87 – 1987-88 | Team: San Antonio Spurs
In mid-July, 1986, Nealy signed as a free agent with the San Antonio Spurs. He played with the team for two seasons. These days (2015), Eddie resides in Texas. We talk about his playing days in San Antonio and what it could have been like to play with David Robinson. Eddie also reflects on some former San Antonio teammates.
Season: 1988-89 | Teams: Chicago Bulls / Phoenix Suns
Prior to the 1989 season, Nealy signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bulls. He played 13 games in his first stint as a Bull, before Chicago traded him to Phoenix (mid-December), in exchange for Craig Hodges. Eddie talks about the move to Chicago and how he responded to hearing news of a trade to the Valley of the Sun. He also recalls a great story from the Bulls’ practice court, involving him and Michael Jordan.
In October, 1989, Phoenix traded Eddie back to Chicago. He was a Bull for the second time. We discuss what he was thinking, when he learnt he was headed back to the Windy City. Nealy played a pivotal role in Chicago’s playoff run. We reminisce about Game 4 of the 1990 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals – Chicago at Philadelphia. Eddie had a terrific performance, scoring 9 points and pulling down 9 rebounds. Jordan torched the Sixers for 45 points. Nealy and Jordan were interviewed by Jim Gray (CBS), post-game.
Season: 1990-91 – 1991-92 | Team: Phoenix Suns
Coach: Cotton Fitzsimmons
Before the 1991 season, Eddie signed with Phoenix as a free agent. He played with the Suns for two seasons – an exciting team, with a very-promising future. We talk about his return to Phoenix.
Season: 1992-93 | Teams: Golden State Warriors / Chicago Bulls
Nealy was waived by Phoenix (early November, 1992), signing with the Warriors, later that same month. He played 30 games in Golden State, before – with the help of Don Nelson – they traded him back to Chicago, for his third stay as a member of the Bulls. After the regular season, the Bulls placed Eddie on the inactive roster. We discuss his memories of the 1993 season, his involvement with the team and how he felt, watching from the sidelines – particularly, when John Paxson launched his famous three-point shot that sealed Chicago’s 1993 NBA Championship.
I ask Eddie to recall “The Game I’ll Never Forget”.
NBA Sixth Man of the Year, Illinois great, TV analyst and author, Eddie Johnson.
The timing of this episode is perfect. Eddie was recently honored, in a half-time ceremony, at Illinois, commemorating the 35th anniversary of his game-winning jumper, against Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans.
We learn about Eddie’s early sporting career and how he first became involved with basketball. He chats fondly of his playing days at Westinghouse High School, where he first appeared on the national radar. We discuss his great college career, where he was a four-year star at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Eddie talks about his return to Illinois, just last week, as mentioned above. We also touch on his collegiate link to future NBA star, Derek Harper.
We cover Eddie’s memories of 1981 NBA Draft day and the motivating factors that ensured his place within NBA history. Eddie chats candidly about his professional career, where he was a scoring machine with the Kansas City Kings (who became the Sacramento Kings, after the 1985 season). We chat about his three (full) seasons in Phoenix, where he won (1989) the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award. We talk about his trade to the Seattle SuperSonics, his one season in Charlotte and decision to play overseas, in Greece (1994-95).
Eddie talks about his return to the NBA, for the 1996 season, as a free agent addition of the Indiana Pacers, before ultimately signing with the Houston Rockets in March of 1997. We talk about Eddie’s vital role on a Houston roster, loaded with future Hall of Fame players. I was also compelled to ask Eddie about his incredible buzzer-beating, game-winning three-point shot in the 1997 Western Conference Finals, too.
We round out this great conversation, chatting about his post-NBA career. Eddie has been as a TV analyst for well over 10 years and recently found time to publish a book – with a fantastic title: You Big Dummy – An Athlete’s “SIMPLE” Guide To A Successful Career. We even find time to chat about a guy named Michael Jordan, plus plenty more topics.