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
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
Coach: Bob Weiss
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
Coaches: Doug Collins / Cotton Fitzsimmons
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.
Season: 1989-90 | Team: Chicago Bulls
Coach: Phil Jackson
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
Coaches: Don Nelson / Phil Jackson
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”.
In 2014, Nealy was inducted to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. We talk about how he felt to receive that great honor.
Phil Jackson once said that having Nealy on his roster, was like having another coach. We discuss Eddie’s (possible) opportunities missed and future coaching ambitions.
Our conversation rounds out with a quick chat about the significance (if any) of Eddie’s jersey numbers.
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