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.
Mitchell reflects on his outstanding high school career. From 1987 to 1989, he was named the Southern Section Small Schools Division, Player of the Year. In 1988, he led Oakwood to the (Liberty League) Division Championship, notching an astonishing 47 points, 19 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks, in his team’s 61-60 victory. We talk about his 1988 quarterfinal game, where he tallied a staggering 50, of his team’s 55 points, in an eight-point win (55-47).
In November of 1988 – in the early-signing period ahead of his senior year at high school – Mitchell signed a letter of intent with the UCLA Bruins. He discusses how heavily he was recruited and what led him to ultimately choose the Bruins.
Mitchell also talks about his 1989 (Third Team) All-American selection.
College: University of California Los Angeles
Years: 1989-90 – 1992-93 | Coach: Jim Harrick
At the time of recording our conversation, Mitchell ranked sixth all-time, in total games played (130) for the UCLA Bruins. Whilst researching for our chat, I discovered that in the last warm-up game (November, 1989) prior to his freshman season, Butler’s Bruins played against my fellow countrymen, the Australian Boomers. UCLA defeated the Aussies, 80-68, at Pauley Pavilion.
Mitchell played in the NCAA Tournament, in each of his four seasons. We chat about his freshman campaign, where he made it to the Sweet Sixteen, against Duke – the eventual National Finalists (who lost to UNLV). As a sophomore, Butler started almost every game, before the Bruins were upset by Penn State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. We discuss how close Mitchell came to transferring from UCLA after that second season. UCLA made it to the Elite Eight, in 1992, before losing out to Calbert Cheaney and his Indiana Hoosiers. Though it was a disappointing end to the season, Mitchell won his team’s Player Improvement Award, due to his all-around play and positive mental attitude. As a senior, he was named team captain and also enjoyed (arguably) his best season as a Bruin, with 9.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. We cover UCLA’s near-upset of Michigan’s Fab Five, in a classic, second-round overtime game, in the 1993 NCAA Tournament.
Individually, Mitchell’s best NBA seasons were his first two in the league, averaging almost eight points and three rebounds, in just 19 minutes per game. We cover his first stint with Washington and links to Australian legend – and former podcast guest – Andrew Gaze. Butler twice scored an NBA-career high of 26 points. Mitchell describes the feeling of being ‘on fire’.
Thanks to a tip-off from great friend of the podcast, JimMcIlvaine, I ask Mitchell about his acting career. We briefly discuss his roles in Blue Chips (1994) & Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault (1996). Mitchell talks about his involvement with Space Jam (1996), however, his scenes were ultimately cut from the movie.
Season: 1996-97 | Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Coach: P.J. Carlesimo
Prior to the 1997 season, Washington traded Mitchell (along with Rasheed Wallace) to Portland, in return for Harvey Grant and Rod Strickland. We talk about Mitchell’s thoughts on the deal. Butler made it to the playoffs for the first time in his NBA career – playing limited minutes in a four-game series loss to the L.A. Lakers. He talks about how it felt to be part of a playoff team.
Mitchell signed as a free agent with Cleveland. Barely a month into the season, he suffered significant neck and shoulder problems, leading to surgery. He talks about the impact the injury had on his career, and how he dealt with news that he’d miss the rest of the season.
Following the lockout-shortened 1999 season, Butler wouldn’t return to the NBA until the 2001-02 campaign. During that gap in his NBA résumé, he headed overseas and played in Lithuania, before returning home and playing in the American Basketball Association (not related to the original ABA, I should add).
Season: 2001-02 | Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Coach: Maurice Cheeks
Mitchell returned to the Trail Blazers franchise, signing as a free agent. He discusses what it was like to be back in the NBA and how his second time with the team, differed so much to his 1997 season.
Prior to his final season in the NBA, Mitchell was a key member of the Continental Basketball Association’s (CBA) Yakima Sun Kings. His team won the 2003 Championship. He reflects fondly on his time in the league.
Season: 2003-04 | Team: Washington Wizards
Coach: Eddie Jordan
Butler closed out his NBA-playing career, returning to suit up for the Washington Wizards. We chat about his final season, what opportunities presented themselves and whether he could have played on, beyond 2004.
Mitchell featured in a number of Top 10 Plays on NBA Action. I asked him to choose his favorite move and he certainly didn’t disappoint.
I ask Mitchell to recall “The Game I’ll Never Forget”. In a first for the podcast, he shares three-memorable games – one each from high school, college and the NBA.
We discuss Mitchell’s career in basketball since he retired as a player. He’s been involved in various roles, most recently, accepting a position as a sports agent at Jackson Management Group (owned by Phil Jackson‘s son, Charles).
Our conversation rounds out with a quick chat about the significance of Mitchell’s jersey numbers.
Adam & Aaron celebrate the 30th anniversary of Michael Jordan‘s (1984) arrival in the National Basketball Association. This episode covers:
* Michael Jordan’s NBA regular-season debut with the Chicago Bulls (October 26, 1984)
In this special episode, we detail Michael Jordan’s regular-season debut in the NBA. Until very recently, specifics of MJ’s first professional game have been scarce. Wait no more, as we break down the entire contest – from pre-game, to quarter-by-quarter discussion and post-game statistics.
You may be surprised to learn that His Airness only just avoided serious injury in the game’s first half, after landing awkwardly following his first slam dunk attempt. He lay motionless on the court, for almost 30 seconds.
This episode commences our coverage of the 1984-85 NBA season. We encourage your interaction. Feel free to suggest specific games, moments and events from within the season, for us to cover in future episodes of the series. Thanks for taking the time to listen to the show. If you enjoy the content, please share it with your friends!
Historically-important footage of Michael Jordan has emerged. Here is the pre-game show, including player introductions, from MJ’s NBA debut – October 26, 1984.
Michael Jordan gets his first taste of NBA-stardom. He receives a rousing-ovation from the Chicago-faithful; even though it is clearly, far from a full house. In the 1984 NBA season, the Bulls were a lackluster 27-55; missing the post-season completely. The 1984 NBA Draft changed all that and the Windy City welcomed a young Michael Jeffrey Jordan into its arms. Jordan had just led Team USA to gold, at the Los Angeles Olympics. Prior to that, he was the 1984 NCAA Player of the Year and collected a slew of awards and honors in a decorated, three-year career with the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Prior to this footage surfacing, a ‘Hardwood Classics’ version of MJ’s first NBA game, was all that existed. The game was joined in progress, in the 3rd quarter. It’s remarkable that it has taken almost 30 years since this game was played, for it to appear in its entirety.
In the first half of this game, Jordan, on a strong drive to the hoop, was met at the rim, by a man mountain named Jeff Ruland (my recent podcast guest):
For the record, Michael Jordan finished with 16 points, in a 109-93 Bulls victory.
High School All-American, NCAA great and NBA All-Star, Jeff Ruland.
Jeff discusses his early sporting life and the major growth-spurt that coincided with his decision to focus on basketball. He was named High School All-American in the same class as Magic Johnson and was heavily recruited across the country. We chat about his decision to remain in New York and commit to Iona College, led by future luminary, Jim Valvano.
Jeff opens up about the 1980 NBA Draft and why he opted to head overseas and play in Spain, before commencing his rookie season in 1982. We talk about Jeff’s excellent first three full seasons, that resulted in NBA All-Star selections in 1984 and 1985. Jeff recalls Michael Jordan’s debut game in the NBA and the rude awakening that MJ would receive on his first dunk attempt in Chicago Stadium.
We chat about the impact of the Showtime Lakers and Boston’s Big Three, plus, the onset of injury issues that began to halt Jeff’s career. We also talk about one of the most memorable trades in NBA history; the Bullets’ decision to trade Jeff to Philadelphia, in exchange for Moses Malone. Jeff details his (first) retirement from the NBA in 1987 and how he went back to college to complete his degree, before making his remarkable comeback attempt in the 1992 season.
We also learn about the successes of Jeff’s coaching career, that are also mixed with trials and tribulations you need to hear to fully comprehend. Our conversation covers a broad-range of interesting topics and is an open and engaging look at one of basketball’s most underrated – in my opinion – careers, ever.
Marquette star and seven-year NBA veteran, Jim McIlvaine.
In part two of this special double-episode, I welcome back Marquette great and NBA veteran, Jim McIlvaine. If you missed part one, we discussed Jim’s college career in-depth, where he was a stand-out at Marquette. He talked about his selection in the 1994 NBA Draft and first three NBA seasons – including, a completely open and honest assessment of his free agent move from the Washington Bullets to the Seattle SuperSonics, in 1996.
This episode features part two of our chat – we continue discussing Jim’s playing days with Seattle, his relationship with George Karl and the coaching staff, plus, more great stories from on and off the court. Jim talks about his career-ending injury whilst a member of the New Jersey Nets.
We also talk about some of the radio and TV commentators he admires, and chat about his current role as a broadcaster at the university where he starred; Marquette. Towards the end of our mega-chat, Jim shares a wonderful, funny story about Gene Hackman – star of the excellent basketball movie, Hoosiers.