Back in March (bear that in mind when reading the interview!), Hoopsfix sent Stuart Tanner to go and interview NBA legend Clyde ‘The Glide’ Drexler. Drexler talked about GB-USA, made predictions for the NBA title, and reflected on his own career. Check it out below!
Stuart Tanner(ST): Good morning sir, how are you and what brings you to the United Kingdom?
Clyde Drexler (CD): I’m doing really well, just another beautiful day in the UK! I am here to talk about the game, GB against Team USA, in the summer in July in Manchester, both the women and men’s game, it’s going to be a phenomenal contest. Obviously both teams are stacked with talent and it’s going to be right here in Manchester, very close to London. It should be a magnificent contest, whenever you get some of the best basketball players in the world right in your fair city it makes for an interesting event.
ST: Have you managed to see Great Britain play at all?
CD: I’ve seen a lot of Great Britain players and they’re very good. For the first time you have 3 or 4 NBA players on your team and that’s going to make a tremendous difference (oh, what could have been! – Ed).
ST: Totally. This is the first time I think we’ve actually got a chance of beating some decent teams! Talking about being in the UK, have you been here before?
CD: I’ve been here many times!
HF: What are your likes and dislikes?
CD: The history. I love the history, beautiful history, some of the castles, checking out the (London) Eye, Westminster Abbey. I’ve toured London with my kids and family for many many years and we always have the greatest times.
HF: Any dislikes?
CD: No, no dislikes – I love the black cabs with all the leg room. For big guys, I think that’s a thing of beauty, I wish we had that in our country. Space!
ST: With 2012 fast approaching, who do you think is the biggest threat to the USA on the basketball court?
CD: Every country now is very talented. In ’92 when I played, obviously we were a little bit better than the rest of the world, but the rest of the world has upped their level of play tremendously, as evidenced by Spain has 6 NBA players on their national team, Argentina has 5 or 6, France has 5 or 6, so those teams are going to be really tough to beat.
ST: You were a member of arguably the best team in all of sports, the Dream Team, I believe you said earlier this week and have said previously that you believe this would beat any other USA team that has come since. One question I’d like to ask though, who do you think, out of this team they’re sending in 2012 and the Dream Team is more athletic and also what advantages do you feel you have with the original Dream Team?
CD: I really respect this 2012 dream team – they’re very good, they’re deep, they’re talented. Obviously I’m bias towards the ’92 team as I was on that team, I think athletically we’re better than them, in every way. When you talk about athleticism, you talk about guys like Karl Malone, David Robinson, myself, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan – can you get more athletic than that? I don’t think so!
ST: I don’t know, I think it is quite close!
CD: Patrick Ewing!
ST: But then on the other hand you have Dwight Howard, LeBron, Derrick Rose, Wade…
CD: That’s what I’m telling you, they’re very close! Very similar. But if you had to choose one, we (The Dream Team) have more athleticism. Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, LeBron, Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose – very athletic, but if you take our five against their five on athleticism, I take our five every day.
ST: Ok ok. I’ve heard from loads of different people that the training you had in Barcelona in ’92 was the best basketball ever played and really really intense and competitive. Firstly, can you talk on that, and secondly is there any footage anywhere?!
CD: Everyone wants footage of the training! A lot of that is just basic stuff, we practiced hard, we prepared well, we were well coached. To me it wasn’t a big deal, it was just normal stuff – everyone wants to see the footage of the practices, I think they were as good as the games, maybe better, but for the most part, we were a team and we were trying to get better as a team and so we pushed ourselves so we were a better team.
ST: Moving back to the NBA, obviously you played in Michael Jordan era, do you see it as a gift or a curse playing in that era? Obviously you got to compete against, who people say is the best sportsman of all time, but on the flip side of things, if he didn’t play you would’ve possibly got 2, 3, 4 more rings.
CD: You see, that’s the media. The media made that up. Who’s era was it? It was everybody’s era! I played during the era of Magic and Larry Bird, I played during the era of Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, I played during the era of George Gervin, Iceman, I played during the era of Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, all of those guys are great. When you say one guy, I disagree with that, that’s just me personally. But obviously when you talk about Michael, Michael was a phenomenal player during the same era, I’m a little older than Michael by one year and there are a lot of comparisions but there’s a lot of guys you can call that era for. But it was an era of just great basketball.
ST: Talking about one of your teammates. When they talk about the greatest centers of all time, the names they use are Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal. In my opinion, Hakeem Olujawon is one of the most underrated players of all time, do you believe he belongs in the same breath as those guys?
CD: Absolutely. That’s what I’m saying, you could have called it the Hakeem Olajuwon era, that’s how good he was.
HF: What was it like playing with him?
Phenomenal, phenomenal teammate. I played with Hakeem in college, at the University of Houston, and we had a lot of success there. So to see him have a lot of success in the NBA was not a surprise to me. Phenomenally gifted, very intelligent, hard worker and you knew he was going to be a huge success.
ST: Talking about your career, I’ve got two of your favourite plays. One was the up and under scoop shot which I think you got against the Lakers and got an and-1 against A.C. Green and the other one in LA as well, where you took off basically from the foul line. These were some beautiful moves, but one thing I was gonna say, what was up with the short shorts back in the day?!
CD: The short shorts were cool, that’s what we wore! We didn’t even think about it, the generation before us had worn short shorts, so we wore short shorts. Actually, it made you work on the strength of your legs, if you had short shorts you couldn’t have skinny legs! (Laughs). The next generation after my generation had skinny legs so they wanted longer shorts. We used to say get into the weight room and work on your legs!
ST: Do you think they should be coming into fashion any time soon?
CD: I think they should be coming back into fashion!
ST: What’s your favourite move you remember doing?
CD: I didn’t really have a favourite move, I had a few signature moves. It was just in transition. In transition you’re not gonna stop a good player 1 on 1, ever, or even 2 on 1, you’re not gonna stop a good player. It ain’t gonna happen, it’s not going to happen. So my signature move was just in transition, I’d wiggle past you guys and either dunk it or lay it up before you could defend me.
ST: At your hall of fame speech you were presented by Dr J – what impact did Julius Erving have on your life?
CD: Julius Erving was phenomenal. First of all he was one of the greatest basketball players I’ve ever seen play. You could’ve called it the Julius Erving era, that’s how good he was and that’s my point. There are a lot of these guys who are phenomenal who didn’t get the same media coverage, so it’s hard for guys who know that to comply with just one guy having an era.
ST: Who do you think is the best player in the game, right now?
CD: I think Kobe Bryant is the best player, right now. It’s because he has been so accomplished in his offensive game but he’s also a tremendous defensive player.
ST: Who do you predict this season to win everything?
CD: I could be wrong, and I hate predictions – that’s why we play the games, but I really don’t think anyone can beat the Miami Heat, they’re really talented. Chicago have the better record, but I don’t see Chicago having the firepower offensively to beat the Heat in a seven game series.
ST: Who do you think will come out of the West?
CD: Now that’s a beautiful question, because so many of those teams are floundering. Think about it, last season’s champions the Dallas Mavericks, they look horrible this season, they look really bad. They’ve lost some key pieces, they’re not the same team. Then you’ve got the Los Angeles Lakers, always tough to beat with Kobe and the two big boys, Gasol and Bynum, but the Thunder have the best record, Oklahoma Thunder, so it’s going to be interesting. I don’t know who’s going to emerge, I wouldn’t bet against Kobe, ever, so it may be the Lakers-Heat.
ST: I’d just like to finish off with some quick fire questions, I’ll say some things and you can answer however you’d feel to.
ST: David Stern
CD: One of the best commissioners in the entire world, of all time. He’s been so good for the sport of basketball, you talk about underrated, he’s underrated – this could have been the David Stern era! He’s tremendously re-made the the game of basketball and made it into a global sport and that has never been done before in the history of our country.
ST: Phi Slamma Jamma.
Phi Slamma Jamma was a phenomenally gifted and talented, perhaps the greatest college team ever assembled.
ST: Luol Deng
CD: Luo Deng has really come along. I remember watching him in his days at Duke University, a very good player, but he’s refined his game, he’s a very good defensive player and he’s having a good season with the Chicago Bulls.
ST: Rudy Tomjanovich
CD: Just a great coach and a great guy, love him.
ST:The new hand checking rules.
CD: I have mixed emotions about that. They’re good for the game today. But it’s like taking away the restrictions from the game. When I played, there was one hand an elbow on you at all times. Now when Oscar Robertson and those guys played, there was two hands – you can move guys around, so the stronger players always had an advantage, which made you have to work on your game to become a better athlete. You had to get in the weight room, you had to become a complete player. Not only did you have to work on your basketball skills but you had to get in the weight room and become a strong guy as well. If you weren’t strong enough you really couldn’t compete. It really put a little bit more pressure on your game. And now when you take away those restrictions, you can have guys just running into you getting to the line, and they really don’t have any skill moves – that’s not what I wanna see in the NBA. I want to see guys making real professional moves because when you can just run into a guy and get on the line and score, that’s not really basketball. I call that, those are cheap points – you can’t win off cheap points.
ST: Ricky Rubio
CD: Phenomenally, phenomenally, gifted player. I really enjoy watching him play, you can tell he’s one of those old throwback players who really has a relaxed sense of confidence. He plays the game like hes at a park and nobody’s watching – that’s kinda the way I played. Real care-free but he’s very effective. The stuff he does just running down the court, you go “wow, did you just see what he did?” – very high skill level, I love to watch him play.
ST: Coack K
CD: One of the most gifted and talented coaches to ever coach. From the dream teams, to the colleges at Duke University, he’s an icon, and just one of the nicest gentleman you’ll ever meet – and I think that is one of the reasons he has had so much success.
ST: Metta World Peace
CD: Ron ron has had his day. He’s a very good basketball player, the fact that he’s given his namesake to help world peace is a tribute to his view on the world and I’ve got to give him a lot credit. He’s playing in LA, got a championship now, he’s had a great career.
ST: Dancing with Stars
CD: Everybody can’t be a great dancer! I was certainly in that category I had a good experience for about two weeks then I would have paid to get off the show – “get me outta here”!
ST: Clyde Drexler.
CD: Clyde is just an easy going…my biggest deal is that I love balance. I have four children, I love being a father, I try to be the best that I can be. I love sports, all kind of sports, I love participating and keeping up with other sports. I love to attend sporting events and I love to travel. My biggest passion perhaps is golf, and in all of that, I try to keep up with what is going on around the world on a daily basis. That’s what we’re supposed to do on top of trying to give back, always doing charity work, always giving back and trying to do the right thing.
ST: Thank you very much for your time and wish you all the best in your future endeavours.
CD: It’s my pleasure guys, I wish you guys all the best and continued success and continue to do your thing. And hopefully I’ll see you this summer.
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