University of Wyoming standout and five-year NBA veteran, Chris Engler.
Chris Engler discusses his childhood in Minneapolis and how his links to the sport of basketball began early in life. Between eighth and ninth grade of high school – whilst participating across numerous sports – Chris had a six-inch growth spurt and a focus on basketball became more appealing.
We chat about Chris walking-on at the University of Minnesota, where he’d play alongside future (NBA) stars Mychal Thompson and Kevin McHale. After two seasons with the Gophers, Chris transferred to the University of Wyoming, where he had more opportunity to develop his game. His final college appearance was an NCAA Tournament match-up against Patrick Ewing and the mighty Georgetown Hoyas.
Chris shares memories from his five years in the NBA, plus, experiences in the CBA, travelling overseas to play professionally and also winning back-to-back gold medals (1994 and 1998) at the World Masters Games.
Senior NBA Photographer and Director of Photography for Staples Center, Andrew Bernstein.
He hasn’t played a single minute in the NBA. However, Andrew Bernstein is a perennial contender for league MVP (Most Valuable Photographer). The 2017 NBA Finals marked the 35th-consecutive time that Andrew has covered the Association’s showcase event.
We discuss Andrew’s rise from amateur shutterbug – his love for the camera was fostered by a (teenage) trip to the Western United States with his dad – to becoming one of the world’s greatest sports photographers.
Highlights of our conversation include Andrew’s memories of an iconic rendition of the national anthem at his first All-Star Game (1983), his crucial involvement in creating the (taken from his bio) position of Senior Director of NBA Photos – a position he held for 25 years – a discussion about the meteoric changes in camera technology over recent decades and of course, he details wonderful stories behind how some of his most-historic photos came to be.
Topics / links discussed (include):
Marvin Gaye’s amazing performance at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game
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”.
SEC Legend, NBA veteran and European Champion, Rick Brown.
We discuss Rick’s early career and his tough, yet rewarding, decision to move to Atlanta and play high-school basketball. His outstanding HS years put Rick on the national radar and he was recruited by numerous colleges, including Michigan and Kentucky. Ultimately, he decided to move back home and played four years with Mississippi State University.
Rick was one of the players that the Golden State Warriors drafted, after they traded away Robert Parish and dealt their number three pick to the Celtics, in the 1980 NBA Draft – that selection would be Kevin McHale – effectively forming Boston’s Hall of Fame, ‘Big Three’.
Rick recalls his years with the Warriors, and talks about playing with personalities like World B. Free, Bernard King and Joe Barry Carroll. Golden State traded Rick to Atlanta, mid-way through the 1983 season – this was Dominique Wilkins‘ rookie year. We talk about his time with the Hawks and also his role in Larry Bird‘s incredible 60-point game, in 1985.
After finishing his NBA career, Rick moved overseas and achieved high levels of success, becoming a European Champion in the process. He played ten years in Europe, with very-recognizable names, including Mike D’Antoni, Bob McAdoo and Arvydas Sabonis. One of Rick’s greatest moments, happened in 1992, when he won his team (Real Madrid) the European Cup Final.
Last year (2014), Rick was inducted into Mississippi State University’s Sports Hall of Fame. He talks about that honor and the importance of leaving a legacy to his family. We also briefly chat about his sons who are looking to make a name for themselves in the future.
After our conversation, I briefly invite my good friend, Cobi Sobrino – who was in attendance at the 1992 European Cup Final – onto the show. He recalls the game and Rick’s impact on European basketball.
Three-time NBA Champion and one of Houston’s Top 10 Players of all-time, Mario Elie.
We discuss Mario’s incredible journey from New York’s Power Memorial High School, through to becoming a three-time NBA Champion – a perfect example of hard work, determination and achievement. Many years before he joined the Golden State Warriors, Mario was teammates with future Hall of Famer, Chris Mullin. We reminisce about Mario’s HS career and decision to play for American International College. He had a stellar run and was named Conference Rookie of the Year (1982), three-time All-American and led his division II team to the Elite Eight in the 1985 NCAA Tournament. He was inducted into AIC’s Hall of Fame in 2005, and earlier this year, had his #41 jersey retired.
The Milwaukee Bucks selected Elie with pick 160 (7th round) in the 1985 NBA Draft. His first NBA game was more than five seasons later (Dec 28, 1990). In the interim, Mario played in numerous countries across Europe – Ireland, Argentina and Portugal, to name a few – further developing his game. He returned to home soil and played in developmental leagues across America, including the USBL, WBL & CBA (where he would become an All-Star).
In December, 1990, Mario’s NBA opportunity arrived, courtesy of then-76ers GM, Gene Shue. The countless miles of travel and perseverance paid off. After a brief stint with Philadelphia, Mario signed with Golden State, where he played alongside the famed ‘Run TMC’ (Hardaway, Richmond & Mullin). Two seasons later (1993), he was a Trail Blazer.
We chat about the moment Mario found out he was traded to the Rockets, and deep dive into his career with Houston, where he played five seasons and won two NBA Championships. In the do-or-die Game 7 of the 1995 Western Conference Semi-Finals, he made one of the biggest shots in NBA history – affectionately known as the ‘Kiss of Death’. He shares the details of how that famous show of emotion, came to be.
Prior to the (1999) lockout-shortened season, Mario signed as a free agent with San Antonio, where he won his third NBA title. He talks about his key role in Sean Elliott‘s Memorial Day Miracle and the leadership of Hall of Famer, David Robinson, and (future Hall of Famer) a young Tim Duncan. I even find a way to briefly talk about another teammate of Mario’s, Australian legend, Andrew Gaze.
We round out the discussion, by chatting about Mario’s coaching background. He has worked as an NBA assistant coach for the best part of ten years. He discusses those experiences, his future ambitions at the highest level and the ultimate moment of his career, to date.
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One of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, Rick Barry.
Rick discusses his first sporting love of baseball – he talks fondly of his hero – the reason behind his choice to wear the iconic jersey number 24. Incredibly, as a high-school senior, Rick almost gave up on his future Hall of Fame career, due in large-part to his then-coach.
We chat about the origins of his unique, underhanded free-throw shooting technique and its impact on his overall game. Rick talks about his passion for basketball and his immense desire to win. We talk about his outstanding college career at the University of Miami and how it prepared him to make an instant impact at the next level. We discuss the 1965 NBA Draft, where Rick was one of 10 future All-Stars selected.
We cover Rick’s NBA Rookie of the Year triumph, playing against Wilt Chamberlain in the 1967 NBA Finals and Barry’s decision to join the fledgling ABA (he won the 1969 ABA Championship) for its inaugural season. Rick talks candidly about being forced to sit out the entire 1968 season, when he was arguably in the prime of his career. We chat about his All-Star Game memories (eight in the NBA, four in the ABA) and his 1975 NBA Championship glory.
We talk about Rick’s last two NBA seasons in Houston and how injury prematurely halted his career; interestingly, an NBA rule-change possibly denied Rick’s plan to join the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers.
Rick discusses his Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement, his foray into coaching (1990s) and the opportunities missed at NBA level. We round out the conversation, learning about Rick’s current-day interests, including a love of fly fishing and his business pursuits.
We run the gamut of discussion topics that shed light on the competitive nature of a true basketball great.