David Aldridge Interview
David Aldridge has been a fixture on the athletic sideline for going on two decades. His journalism is as professional and factual as his reporting and David admirably has a heart felt sense of wanting the field of journalism to flourish with true diversity. He also understands the efficiency of stressing education to our children and the detrimental effect a lack of educational importance can have on our youth. Presently working with TNT, he consistently gives the correct analysis regarding the inside workings of the basketball business. The Philadelphia Inquire was very smart in keeping him around after a well publicized layoff that claimed over 60 jobs. It was truly a pleasure to interview someone who knows what it takes in this business and makes no bones about helping us all get to where we aspire in our collective journalistic endeavours.
MT: Describe growing up in DC.
DA: Grew up in Northeast DC. Dad was a mail man, Mom was a nurse. I just remember that on my block, people worked for a living. They went out to work early in the morning, worked all day, came home got some food and probably like my Dad had another job they went to. It was an environment where you saw people grinding every day. My next door neighbor’s Dad ran a McDonalds. It was a good neighborhood where you learned the value of hard work. You had people looking out for you. Mothers and fathers around the neighborhood that saw you doing something wrong made sure Mom and Dad heard about it. It was definitely a great place to grow up.
MT: Can you describe growing up in the city of our nation’s government?
DA: There’s always been two Washingtons to me. The Washington that people outside of DC envision that was almost like a foreign country to me. We didn’t have any business on Capitol Hill. We didn’t have lunch with lobbyists on K street. We lived in the city–in the city part of the city. You knew people who worked in government, but they were the secretaries, the GS5′s–that sort of thing. My Dad, working at the post office, was a big believer in taking the civil service exam and getting a GS grade so that you can get a job and be locked in. We grew up at a time where there weren’t that many opportunities for Black men. He was always pushing on me, my brother and sister to take that civil service exam so we can get a government job, because the government is not going anywhere.
We never had any contact with the official DC. It just wasn’t part of our consciousness. The one good thing was seeing Black men and women working. It helped shape my world view more than anything. I think everybody is a product of the environment that they grew up in. If you grow up in an environment where people have a hard time keeping jobs, that’s going to affect your world view. Seeing people work hard to achieve had a big influence on me–no question.
MT: You were at the Washington Post during some good sports years. What were those years like?
DA: Everything that has happened to me has happened because I worked at the Washington Post first. There’s no question about that in my mind. It’s a great news paper. The training that I was able to get there in terms of people work their beats, having interaction with editors, having a boss that really pushed you and getting on a beat right away. We didn’t have internships where you answered phones and made coffee. I went and covered the Orioles all summer. That was my internship. They wanted to see if you would sink or swim. You found out real quickly if you could do the job or not. It was great. It was a great experience. I was able to cover three high profile professional teams in DC, and each one was an invaluable lesson for me. Seeing Michael Wilbon literally at the beginning of his career as a columnist–I was there when he wrote his first column. Watching him develop and grow was a great influence on me being that I was a young guy trying to find my voice and my way in the world. Just watching the sports editors like Don Huff working the phones because they knew everyone around town was incredible.
Huff was the high school sports editor along with a guy named Mike Trilling, who actually hired me there as a part-timer. Don left the Post after he had a stroke and went to UDC and may still be over there in Sports Information. I learned a great deal from Huff.
That was a great experience for me because I learned so much about myself and my ability to be able to work at a such a high profile place. People were watching you there. When you made a mistake, it was a big deal. When you get a beat on a story, people see that also. You really gain confidence quickly.
MT: Reflect on your time at ESPN.
DA: It was another learning experience. I learned an awful lot. I had dabbled in television before then, but I obviously hadn’t done it full time. I learned an incredible amount about the business. The amount of collaborative work it takes to develop a product is amazing. In the news paper business, it’s pretty much you. You do the writing–you have an editor that may tweak a story–but for the most part it’s just you. With TV, I can ask all the brilliant questions I want, but if the sound man…if there’s a pop on the tape or if the camera man doesn’t shoot it right then it doesn’t matter. You have to learn to respect everyone’s job and respect when they say that it’s going to take five minutes to set up a room. They are trying to help you out to do the best job you can.
I was at ESPN when I think it was really starting to establish itself as the place to go. People needed to know about sports, so they really had an advantage frankly over other places. It has than name brand recognition, so when you called from ESPN, you got your calls returned there’s no question about that. It was a great place to work.
I also learned about office politics and how that works so that was a good experience too.
MT: The first time I saw you reporting for ESPN from the sidelines, I said to myself that this brotha just gets it. You make a point of having factual and timely analysis that never comes across as gossip. With some reporters, you never know if what they are saying is truthful. Who or what has inspired you to become such a stellar reporter?
DA: That goes back to working for news papers. When I started out, it was just a different time. There was a respect for people when they really found out information. You were expected to break stories. You weren’t ever supposed to get beat on a story. I don’t think I’m exaggerating, but when I covered the Bullets (now the Washington Wizards) I broke 97% of the stories on that beat. That 3% that I didn’t break I caught holy hell for (Dave and I laugh).
It was ingrained in you to be an aggressive reporter as well as a factual reporter. You couldn’t be wrong because that just wasn’t acceptable. Covering the Bullets and the Redskins–which is the beat in DC–you better be right and you better be first. That type of environment makes you come to expect that you are going to be working the phones and working your sources to get the best information. I just don’t know any other way to do it. I don’t play golf to get in someone’s pocket. I just work phones and talk to people when I see them. Some people are real good at doing it the other way, I’m just not one of those people. I call as many people as I can think of until I find something out that I didn’t know and call some more people up to try to find out if it’s true or not.
Push the rock up the hill with your head down and don’t worry about how far you have to go.
MT: Great quote, I have to use that in my email signature. Talk about your time past and present at TNT and why you think they have become the face of pro basketball coverage. They have the best studio set in sports coverage in my opinion because of their factual entertainment–if you will. Charles is hilarious, but for the most part says stuff people only think about.
MT: They’ve been doing it for a long time, so they know the sport very well. The institutional knowledge is great. You have people that have gone back twenty years there–producers, on air talents or people behind the scenes. It’s not like you come in your first day and try to learn the league because they know the league already. They know people–not just in public relations–like general managers and team presidents. The depth of knowledge reflects itself with the product on the air. They know what questions to ask. They know what people to talk to to get those questions. I feel like I’m coming in to graduate school. Were not learning the ABC’s of reporting in the NBA, we know it already. These people are dedicated and incredibly hard working. Tim Kiely produces Inside the NBA. He just gets it. He understands that the important thing for that show is that Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith have dialogue with each other so no one is staring into the camera for forty five seconds saying something and then turning to his right and asking one of his colleagues, “What do you think of that?” It works much better when you see people just talking to each other, kind of like when you are watching to game with your boys and talking about it. Right?
MT: Yes, exactly.
DA: Well that’s what our show is like. We are abviously very lucky to have Charles, but we are equally as lucky to have Kenny and Ernie. It doesn’t work with out those two. They have great chemistry. The same thing when Magic Johnson and Reggie Miller are on the show–we always have good people who know what they are talking about. That’s really what it comes down to.
Then when you go on air, you have Marv Albert. C’mon, Marv is NBA basketball. We have the right people in the right places.
MT: Next is the Philadelphia Inquirer–a paper I grew up reading. Also clear up any speculation as to why you were let go and subsequently brought back.
DA: I say this all the time. I was very fortunate. They laid off seventy three people and brought back under ten. Forgive me, for not knowing what the exact number is. The Inquirer was sold twice in the span of six months. The new owners came in and thought they needed to save some money by cutting revenue so they made some choices. I don’t think it was more than I was one of the last employees hired. I came in September of 2004. They based it on seniority and I understand and respect that. They tried very hard to protect the people who had been there longer. I didn’t especially like that, but that’s what you have to respect if you are in a union. I don’t think it was any more than that really. I was just very fortunate that someone decided that what I do in sports was worth keeping around. I wasn’t laid off. The layoff order was rescinded before it began.
MT: Being that I’m originally from that area, I have a true sense of the voraciousness of their sports reporting. Why is this so?
DA: Because the fans demand that. They have a great passion in Philly. It is a great sports town. They have real passion about all four major sports. I haven’t seen that everywhere I’ve been. Some cities that I’ve been in had all four sports, but you just don’t sense that passion about all four sports. You have die hard, hardcore Flyers fans–same with the Phillies, Eagles and Sixers. They are not going to accept any garbage when it comes to writing about their teams. You have to know what you are talking about. That’s why the reporting is so “edgy” because the fans know what they know and want someone to tell them kind of what they don’t know, so you have to go a little bit deeper. They are real strong about their teams–and always have been. I like that. I like that passion. They just don’t accept mediocity from the Sixers. It’s not OK to be bad for three years because the fans just don’t want to hear it. They want to win. That town hasn’t had a champion in 24 years. They are not trying to hear five year rebuilding plans; they want to win now. I really respect that.
MT: I remember as a youngster watching the 1980 NBA Finals on this little black and white TV and literally crying when Magic (42pts) and Jamaal Wilkes (37pts) gave it to the Sixers in Game 6 in Philly (Magic’s rookie year). My favorite player was Julius Erving and I wanted him to win so bad because everyone was–what I felt–diminishing his talent by labeling him the ambassador of the NBA. My Dad had been following Magic and Bird when they were changing the game in college. He woke me up after their epic battle and told me the result. That moment is most likely the reason why I follow sports. I just didn’t think Magic would be drafted by the Lakers and demolish my team in the process. I had to wait another three years before the Sixers acquired Moses Malone–giving Doc the help he needed to win the NBA title he forever coveted. I know personally that passion. That area has been dealing with so much failure as well as the almost won it moments that are particularily frustrating. Passion is not the word.
DA: I know exactly what you are referring to Michael. When I got there I had the same preconceived notions about the area in terms of the way their fans react. I realized that their fans want to win the same way as any other city does. When they haven’t won as much or as frequently as other towns have won, then their develops a great frustration and a great anxiety. There’s extra pressure on the teams to win right away. I totally respect Philly’s fans because I know where they are coming from.
MT: You covered the Dream Team. What was that experience like? Is the world catching up to us because our top tier superstars are not committing to USA basketball? In Athens–before their bronze medal performance–a lot of the players caught flack for a lot of reasons. It seemed like America didn’t want them to win and subsequently that negative picture that was painted still resonates today. It’s my opinion that a lot of players didn’t commit because of the war. All of this has contributed to a mainstream image problem for the NBA. What are your thoughts?
DA: There’s no question Michael that basketball players–particularily in the NBA–have been fighting this for the last five to ten years since Jordan retired. You try to explain this to people and I guess folks just don’t want to hear it on some level. There’s no question that the NBA is viewed differently than the NFL or MLB. If you look at the problems the NBA players has had over the years to the problems MLB or the NFL has had over the years, I don’t think it’s even close. I’m not saying that NBA players are all choir boys. They had an image problem with aggression, weed a few years ago and they got rid of marijuana. The whole construct that has been set up where you just use the shorthand like thugand things like that. People usually talk about brothas with corn rows and tattoos. They don’t feel that. They can’t say it so they just say thug. So when you say it’s not that way, they say you are just a company man trying to defend the league. It’s the truth!
The truth is that NBA issues are much smaller than what you have in the other sports.
People don’t perceive it that way.
The Dream Team was the perfect storm. You had these great players that everyone generally liked. Who doesn’t like Magic or Michael? It was a great team. The best team I’ve ever seen. The knowledge of basketball that team possessed was incredible. There would be times when the ball would not hit the floor before making a basket off a rebound. The passing was so crisp. They were just on another level.
What happened in regards to the competition is that the rest of the world has inherited advantages over our system of play. Those teams practice all the time–sometimes three times a day. They are together eight to ten years. If you look at the Argentina team that has done so well–Ginoboli and all those guys–you will see that the’ve been together since they’ve been twelve years old! They know each other’s games. They know how to play with each other. They’ve been playing together in international competition since what ’92? ’94? So they just know how to play. If we had the same team together for 12 years, I still think we’d beat them. Our system is different. We wind up rotating guys in and out because they don’t want to play for twelve years. That’s one advantage. Add to that the international game is different than the NBA game. I maintain that if we played NBA rules, we’d still win. We don’t play NBA rules obviously, we play FIBA rules. Other countries have an advantage because their adjustment to the rules and officiating is different than ours. We just don’t adjust as quickly and that’s how you can lose. Another thing, as a country, we just don’t think the World Championships are as important. The rest of the world thinks so. We think the Olympics are the most important. Our focus is the Olympics, while the world focus is geared to the World Championships. Teams are peaking in the World Championships and we end up losing. We then have to qualify for the Olympics. All of the aforementioned factors contribute to why we aren’t doing so well. We also can’t get Shaq, Duncan or Garnett to play for more than one Olympics in a row so we end up rotating different people and coaches in a new system that takes time to get used to.
MT: The Starting Five was spawned because we collectively were frustrated of perceived nonconsequential reporting that definitely has resulted in a diminished athletic legacy. Why do you think a large segment of our society would rather see an athlete castigated than ultimately successful?
DA: There’s a couple of factors at work here. One, I think some people have a problem relating to successful Black men. There’s a segment of society that still has a problem with that. When you see that and there’s also a group of people that just aren’t feeling athletes right now even though they watch the games. There’s also a cultural difference. We operate in a culture that we feel comfortable in. That culture is not one that the majority of society is comfortable with. Instead of focusing on what a Hip Hop artist is articulating regarding the climate in his world, there becomes a focus unfortunately on the lyrics. Don’t judge him by the curse words–that’s just how some communicate. Maybe it’s the circumstances in which he grew up. I try to understand that people come from different places. Everyone has got to understand that. We didn’t all grow up in the country club and we didn’t all grow up in the inner city. You have to be respectful of people that grew up on farms or people that grew up in the ‘hood. If we just met each other half way, we could solve a lot of these problems that we are having. We tend to lionize our own world view and denigrate someone’s view who grew up differently. If Allen Iverson is trying to explain something and he uses slang, it’s not that he’s trying to be rude because that’s just how he rolls. We just have to respect that, try to understand it and not judge him on it. People tend to judge each other based on how they talk or dress and that’s unfortunate.
MT: Speaking about Iverson, is there a difference in him now that he’s in Denver? Growing up a Sixers fan, it’s hard for me to watch him in Denver. I get this queasy feeling in my stomach.
DA: It looks weird doesn’t it?
MT: Yeah it’s so weird. It’s crazy to me. Coming from Georgetown…
DA: I know what you are saying. Just in terms of being a person, Allen has grown trememdously. He says all the time that he is in his thirties and he’s not going to have the same beliefs that he had when he was twenty one or twenty two. It’s part of maturing. Having children makes a big difference. I don’t think he’s changed, he’s just evolved. He understands how the world works now. He’s got to make sure the people in his life are on point with certain things. He seems to have gotten a handle on that and the things that were a problem previously aren’t a problem anymore.
MT: We met when I was covering the Donovan McNabb/Rasheed Wallace softball game for charity. You took me back to J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan and Kevin Bass when you rocked the throwback Astro’s jersey. I remember asking you about the lack of Black journalists in the field. Do you ever see that changing? It seems like we’ve been talking about this for over a year now and there seems to have not been much progress.
DA: I hope progress is on the horizon. I have to stay optimistic because the alternative is despair and I don’t want to despair about this. I’ve written about this and I’ve talked about this. I can’t make people see that it’s important to have diversity in the news rooms. I can only tell them just how critical it is for all of us to have a level and objective understanding of the news. Until APSE and organizations like that make it a priority, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I remember having this conversation with someone while I was at ESPN. I give ESPN credit, they have made a great effort to diversify their news room in the last ten to fifteen years–in front and also behind the camera. I remember having the discussion and hearing: “Well, we can’t find any Black people. We can’t find young Black journalists.” I asked them where they were looking. Are you going to the HBCUs? Are you bringing in a couple of their kids ever summer to do internships? They would respond that they hadn’t thought of that. I would say go where they are! Set up training programs like Leon Carter does. Then if a kid comes in and doesn’t have the skills that you are looking for, you can get him/her at age fifteen and teach them to write a lede. We can teach you how to do an interview. So when they get to college, they can start practicing. To me, that’s what college is for. You practice the skills that you have and develop them further. So it’s got to be a priority. It’s got to be somebody out there that will see the importance and put some money into development. It’s not enough to get up and make a speech about the need for more diversity, how to go about making it happen and then spending a year with a committee that doesn’t do anything.
Just go and do it.
I hope we can all continue to press the need in the news rooms, on TV and everywhere else in the media that diversity is not some quaint notion–it’s a necessity. It’s something you have to have in a modern news gathering organization so that you don’t have this group think that happens on occasion where people have the same background the same world view and make the same decisions that usually have adverse consequences for Blacks. Hopefully people with do it, but I can’t make them do it.
MT: What can we do in the our community to stress the importance of becoming a journalist? I’m sure you are aware that this field is beneficial to your overall mental growth. We do a huge amount of reading and add words to our vocabulary daily.
DA: We’ve got to have a frank discussion about the whole notion of education. We have devalued it to where it has almost no impact on our community. We accuse people who want to get an education and excel as wanting to be “white”.
What the hell does that mean?
What kind of self defeating garbage is that? If a kid is good at math or a kid is good at english or wants to get a degree we demoralize him? That’s ridiculous! We do that to ourselves. We have to stop doing that. We have to get back on point. When I was growing up and I’m sure when you were growing up, education was everything.
MT: Yes, no doubt. I didn’t always adhere to that responsibility, but it was definitely stressed.
DA: My parents busted their butts for twenty years to help me get a scholarship and to put my brother and sister through school. They did that because they knew that’s what they were there to do. I’m so disappointed that we have just devalued education. It’s the key. It opens up every locked door. I’m not saying that it’s the only way you are going to get to the top, but it is the fastest way. If nothing more, it improves your life and your present situation. We as a community have to get back to the idea that education for our children is not bad it’s good! That’s the best thing we can do to help ourselves.
I think what The Starting Five is doing is great stuff in that regard because if you find that the message is being blocked, you set up your own megaphone. You know what I mean? You guys are doing that. That is going to help, you guys are truly helping. The Internet could be a great tool for us. You see what kind of impact it’s having on politics and we have to get in front of that. It’s not hard to set up a web page or a blog. Citizen journalism can be very beneficial to us down the road. We can have these discussions among ourselves like we just did with Jason Whitlock. I’m not telling any tales here, I think that was beneficial.
MT: It was, no question.
DA: The difference is that we should be having that discussion among ourselves as opposed to having it outdoors somewhere where everyone else can listen in and that’s where scrutiny happens. We have as a community get it together because it’s almost genocidal. That’s how important I think it is. Allowing kids that want to do the right thing to be stigmatized, picked on and bullied is just killing ourselves!
MT: Give an overview of the playoffs, LeBron’s emergence, Detroit faltering, Chris Webber’s career and Tim Duncan’s NBA legacy. Who do you think will ultimately be crowned champion?
DA: I don’t think there’s any doubt that these playoffs are as good as last year. Last year you had some seven game series and these just haven’t been as good. I think San Antonio is the best team. They have three great players who are all playing on a high level right now. Their role players are also playing well.
Doesn’t surprise me that LeBron is ready for prime time, but it shocked me that his teammates (Boobie Gibson?) were. I think it says more about the state of the East than him, but I’m not hating–he earned his spot and he should get props for it. I was surprised that Detroit self-destructed; the Pistons usually don’t beat themselves. Thought Chauncey and Rip didn’t rise to the occasion, and the team takes its playing cues from them. Tayshaun was awful. Wasn’t surprised by ‘Sheed; that’s what he does.
If Webb is done, he had a great career, and like a lot of other guys, it wasn’t quite good enough. No shame in that; just fall in line next to Malone, Stockton, Barkley, Ewing, etc. Chris was the best-passing big man of his generation, and I think Walton may have been the only player in league history that was as good or better. Never was the same after the knee injury, obviously.
Duncan’s legacy is already assured with three titles; a fourth and he goes to legend status (Magic, MJ, Russell, etc. Speaking of which–if SA wins, Duncan is still SEVEN behind Russell. That’s why Russell is the baddest man walking the planet today.) But to win four titles out of a conference as hard as the West is, and has been, is a great accomplishment. And it’s not like Duncan’s playing with two or three Hall of Famers; in fact, can’t see anyone from the current group getting to Springfield (maybe Ginobili?). Makes what TD is doing even greater.
San Antonio beat Phoenix three out of five with Stoudemire on the floor so they’ve proved that they are a team focused on winning it all. They are playing at a great level right now and I just don’t see Cleveland beating them.
MT: In the nineties, you had all kinds of brawls and altercations–especially in the playoffs. It was fresh in the minds of players that if they left the bench, there would be repercussions. Why do you think there wasn’t a
black backlash then as opposed to now with the Phoenix Suns? There hasn’t been much of a time difference.
DA: What happened is the league put in all these fancy fighting rules because they didn’t like the fights going on with the Knicks in the nineties as you’ve mentioned. I think it was Derek Harper and another player rolling around fighting on the floor in front of David Stern. That was a bad visual when he’s sitting a couple of rows up. So then come the rules, and I think they’ve had consequences that they didn’t envision. I tend to believe that you would have less fighting if you had less stringent rules. Players used to take care of stuff themselves. If a guy took a cheap shot at somebody, the next time down the floor somebody would take care of him and it would be over. You wouldn’t have these escalations. I think what happens now is that people takes shots at each other, no one is allowed to retailiate, so it builds and builds and builds and then you have a fight and people get suspended. It’s partly that and also the Aurburn Hills thing–that’s obvious. Ever since that fight got so out of hand the league was terrified that it would have another fight that was similar so they put things in place to make sure it didn’t happen again. That shook the league to its economic core. When Madison Avenue starts to say that they aren’t doing NBA stuff anymore, the league listened.
MT: I think if David Stern would have come out just as harshly against the fans as much as he came down on the players, it would have helped society stomach NBA players more. Because of that incident, love for the game has devolved into what it represents now. I know it’s all economical, obviously, but what other reason do writers have for not criticizing unruly fans en masse?
DA: You’ve mentioned it. Fans are the life blood of every sport. I don’t think there’s a motivation to be as critical about fans when fans are the ones who buy the tickets. I don’t think you should pull back from criticizing players. I wouldn’t agree with that. Wrong is wrong. Stephen Jackson was wrong. You can’t excuse that and say that’s OK because someone threw a beer on you. You can’t go into the stands. You have to have the self contron to not give into that impulse. Fan behavior has gotten so harsh and so out of hand. I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago in the Inquirer. Fans get all liquored up and think they can say anything because they spend money for a ticket. I think that is wrong. It’s wrong. It takes away from the enjoyment of the game. Other fans want to be entertained also, they don’t want people screaming and hollering at players just because they’ve spent the money. There’s no question that it’s a two way street. Players can’t react and fans have to be held accountable too. I do think they took the guy’s (who threw the cup that instigated the brawl) tickets away. I think Stern is more focused on the players and the particular arenas have to also do their job where the fan is involved.
MT: Much has been said about Boston, New York and to a lesser extent, Philly not being about to capitalize on the NBA draft lottery. What’s it gonna take for these classic NBA franchises to reacquire their shiny armor?
DA: I was doing a radio interview last week in Boston. One of their guys was saying that the rules in the NBA are so hard and you can’t get better–which is a bunch of nonsense. The way to get better is the way Detroit, San Antonio and Utah got better when they were down. Draft smart. Sign the right free agents. Don’t over pay for free agents and coach players well. There’s no secret to this. It isn’t brain surgery. The Celtics could have had Brandon Roy last year, but they made a trade to save luxury tax because they didn’t want to pay another year on Raef Lafrenz’s salary. So they traded the pick. That’s on them. I’ve got no sympathy for them. You have to make the right decisions. It’s not that other teams are making perfect decisions, but they are making the right decisions. Joe Dumars saw something in Chauncey Billups when everyone else thought Chauncey was a journeyman. He saw the same in Rip Hamilton. He drafted Tayshaun Prince at twenty two. Those teams have to do what every other team does which is manage your team properly. You have to be in a position to have enought cap room to be in position to afford a free agent when he’s available. You have to be disciplined. Rashard Lewis is up. Rashard could help each one of those teams, but it’s gonna be hard for them to get them because they are out of cap room. That’s strictly management. It means you don’t over pay players who don’t deserve 12 to 14 million dollar a year contracts. It’s just not signing the free agent, it’s signing the right free agent. It’s drafting the right player. I go back to Detroit, they drafted Jason Maxiel last year at number twenty six. San Antonio drafted Tony Parker at 29. Ginobili was fifty seven in the second round. Don’t tell me that you can’t do it. Every team had a chance to draft Tony Parker–every team. Those teams you’ve mentioned have to do a better job of coaching, drafting, signing and trading–which are the basics of building a team.
MT: I know you aren’t a basketball scout, but is there a name out there that we definitely are going to hear about in the NBA in next couple of years that’s playing overseas?
DA: Some people have already written about him, but Ricky Rubio is supposed to be that man. He’s supposed to be phenomenal and when he becomes draft eligible, is going to be a great guard and a great player in this league. He has all the things that you look for.
MT: Who are some of your greatest interviews?
DA: Karl Malone comes to mind. He was always a great interview and always gave you great stuff. Shaq is always great and always has something funny to say. Allen Iverson. I’ve had some great Sunday Conversations with Allen when I was with ESPN. He’s honest about the faults of others while also being honest about his faults. I like that about him. I’ve always enjoyed talking to him because I like hearing what he thinks about things. When I covered football Steve Young was a great interview. That guy is smart man. He broke down football to me like I’ve never heard. When I covered the Indy 500 I got a chance to talk to Rick Mears and some of the other racers. I just remember how different it was. Great atmosphere and it was great to talk to them. I admired them for just having the courage to get into a car that’s going 200 miles an hour. They don’t see it that way. To them, it’s just part of their job. They never really think about the fact that they could die at any second–at least what they told me (David chuckles). I found that fascinating. It’s been nice just talking to people. To be able to talk to Magic when I initially broke in. I idolized Magic when I was a kid, so to be able to talk to him about basketball and interview him? Man, that was great.
MT: Why is Kevin Garnett so loyal to Minnesota? Why doesn’t he get the proper credit for having that loyalty?
DA: Michael, I’ve written that very thing a number of times. I wrote about it again last year. People keep saying poor Kevin Garnett, poor Kevin Garnett. He doesn’t get a chance to win. I think it should be the exact opposite view. I think we should be respectful of Kevin sticking with a team that frankly hasn’t done much to help in in a decade. They haven’t done a whole lot to make the Timberwolves a championship contender. He feels loyal to them because they took a chance and drafted him out of high school at a time when high school kids didn’t get drafted. I respect him for that. He could have been like most guys and said that he wanted out of there. I can’t play there any more. He’s never done that. He says that he’s the type of guy that will not give up when things get tough. He’s going to continue to work hard until it gets better. That’s old school. That’s like Jerry Sloan old school. Wes Unseld old school. You don’t whine and complain when things get bad, you buckle down and try to work your way out of them. I truly respect Kevin for that. It would be much better from a pr standpoint if he did demand a trade.
MT: Comment on David Aldridge new journalism professional to David Aldridge journalism veteran. If you could create a dream job for yourself what would that be?
DA: I don’t think as journalists that we truly convey how difficult and demanding jobs in sports are. To be an athlete, head coach or general manager, you are placed in pressure packed situations daily with hardly any job security. Part of the problem with talk radio is that everybody thinks they can be a GM. Everybody thinks they can be a head coach and you can’t! We never lay that out for people so they can understand that they have very very hard jobs. I’m not saying digging a ditch isn’t a hard job, because it is. I’m also not saying being a janitor isn’t a hard job because it is.
What I would like to do is get into the process of how these people get to where they are. Whether it’s following a guy around when he’s working out or practicing just to show that they don’t get good by accident. I remember Isiah Thomas saying that people thought he came dribbling out of his Mother’s womb–no! It doesn’t work that way. These guys work to become great players. I would like to convey that in a way it’s understandable. In all sports. If you watch Tony Gwynn taking batting practice, or Cal Ripken taking infield practice–taking ground ball after ground ball Or Tony staying in the cage until his hands are bleeding. Vijay Singh doing the same thing at the driving range, or the putting green. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s how these players get good. It wasn’t an accident. I would also like to write some books. I have some ideas for books–some sports related and some aren’t. I want to go chase topics that are interesting to me. I would love to be able to do that.
MT: You answered a lot of questions before I asked them.
DA: You guys are doing a great job. You’ve done some great interviews and the writing here is A plus. I truly mean it. It’s very important for you guys to have your own voice as opposed to working your voice in some place else. I think it’s outstanding that you guys had the vision to do something like this and also the vision to do it with each other. That’s terriffic. It doesn’t mean that we are going to agree on everything, but that’s not the point. The point is that you have a vehicle to express yourself that is real. You guys are doing something phenomenal here and I hope you all are enjoying it.
MT: The irony of it is that I thought of TSF when you were going through your thing with the Inquirer. I read some of D.K. Wilson’s work and called him sight unseen while I was in Vegas. He was receptive to the idea. I think we spoke that day for 2 hours mulling over how to get something like this initiated. Initially it was going to be called Superwriters–something D-Wil talked me out of quick. The hard part was finding the right kind of talent. The writers we have here are very talented so we were fortunate that it’s worked out this way. To be honest, I had you, Dave Zirin and Scoop Jackson initially in mind with D.K. Wilson and I–before D-Wil and I sought out the other writers. I knew I had no shot of that happening because of the stature the three of you share (also contractual obligations of course). D-Wil and I then searched the web for talented underground writers to see if we could build something. It’s coming to fruition.
DA: Honestly Michael, I think it’s better to have done it this way because you have given yourself and the other writers here the opportunity. That’s what it’s all about, the chance. It also lets you all write about your personal views of the world. I can do that whether it’s in Philly or some place else. I’ve had that opportunity. You guys have set up a vehicle to show the world what you can do and I think the concept the idea, the whole nine is wonderful and you personally and the other writers should all be proud of yourself. We frequently don’t act on ideas and you all did, so you deserve credit for that.
MT: Thank you so much, DA. You’ve said some real positives about us and I’m sure I can speak for he rest of us in expressing my personal gratitude for giving us the opportunity to speak with you because you are one of the best.
Keep pushing that rock up the hill.
DA: You know I will.