Clog: What do you think the biggest myth we fans buy into about the NBA?
JA: Uh, that they do it for nothing.
Clog: Do the players care?
JA: Deeply yes. A vast majority is highly professional in some of the ways the other leagues are not. That’s not–it’s not fairy tale land. It’s not this place where people are so in love with sports that they care about nothing else.
Clog: At our school, you spoke of the business culture of the sport. About how fans want to believe that players are caught up in winning, when the players have been conditioned to care about making money. Does any particular example of this sterile business culture stick in your mind?
JA: Is there nobody who watches basketball games and realizes it’s a corporate sport? It’s full of corporate sponsors. Executives sit in the front row.
Clog: You spoke of certain players dumbing themselves down, specifically mentioning Mark Jackson. Why do you think they do it, and are there any other guys like that whom you could name?
JA: There are lots of guys who are much sharper than they come across. I don’t know about naming them. Why do they do it? There’s a prerogative for people to just fit in, and being that person who writes poetry or goes to the theatre or studies, the person who’s smarter, it doesn’t do him any favors to stick out like that. People want to be outstanding for their athletics alone.
Clog: Now, we at the Clog sort of feel that David Stern is out of touch with basketball fans currently. Perhaps this is because a fear of black hip-hop culture has clouded his recent judgment. What is your assessment of the commissioner and the job he does with promoting a largely black league to a largely white audience?
JA: I think that he does a very good job. He’s taking basketball from the brink of collapse to being unbelievably popular. And yes, he’s selling black athletes to white consumers. I don’t think he has tremendous fear, but he worries about the corporate image of the sport. You can’t scare off the sponsors.
Clog: Any other thoughts on the commish?
JA: I’ve always had a good relationship with him, not equipped to know about his business acumen. My absence from any official NBA stream of info was kind of odd.
Clog: You played with Tmac (Tracy McGrady) for a year. Bluntly put, is he as self-absorbed as he seems? Any stories?
JA: One of the hallmarks of being superior in every way is that you are more focused inwardly than others. It seems to be one of things that comes with the territory
Clog: We were also wondering what John Stockton was like?
JA: John Stockton, like, I don’t really have any nuggets. He was just a consummate professional, and I don’t know. He had a family or was interested; he wasn’t involved in the trappings of the NBA.
Clog: And as long as we’re mining for a little NBA dirt, there’s a famed NBA groupie culture obviously. How exactly does it function? And do most players, um, how will we say this, engage in it?
JA: Wholeheartedly it exists. No, it’s not a question of not engaging or engaging. It’s just constantly around. There are people who hang on in different careers, and basketball has its very share. I’ve heard more stories than I’ve seen.
Clog: We can’t let you go without at least one question about the issue everyone asks you about. Well, it’s tangentially related. It seems that people in our culture can often get caught up in battling what they perceive as hatred or bigotry in arts or entertainment. But often, misogynistic and homophobic frat-guy focused commercials get a free pass. What’s up with that? Any thoughts?
JA: Um, I do think that there is a feeling that some people mistakenly think political correctness has run rampant, and now people can express more freely. And there is freedom of speech but you have to accept the consequences. And certainly commercial people are trying to be clever and cute and get a rise. And certainly commercials have drawn that kind of attention.
Clog: Why do you think quasi-gay cultures like sports and frats so often have homophobic elements? Any theories?
JA: I don’t think they are. I think it’s a great excuse for society that they can complain that sports are really the homophobic bits and not everything else. Sports are a reflection of society. It’s condensed into a smaller space. Society isn’t blameless when they see ugliness in their sports.
Obviously, we wanted cool NBA insider info from the Amaechster (damn, why does this compelling character not have a sick nickname?). We were tired of the cliché questions regarding Tim Hardaway and what not. We just wanted juicy NBA dirt. Actually, juicy dirt sounds really fucking unappealing.
Anyway, at his talk on campus in April, Amaechi was affable and candid. In this interview, he seemed somewhat cranky and very much guarded. Perhaps our crappy, rambling questions were to blame. Or maybe the grind of a book tour has worn down the formerly loquacious master of the baby hook.
No, it was definitely our crappy questions (none of which pertained to his book, by the way). And it may have been foolish of us to secretly hope for Amaechi to say something crazy like, “By the way, Yao Ming is actually in the closet.”