Second Round KO
While the Kevin Durants and Greg Odens of the basketball world will meet their fortunes early in the draft, many others, like former second-round pick Gordon Malone, will only come so close. Being taken in the NBA draft is only one small, and non-essential part, of making it in "The League.â€ The time some of the players drafted tonight will spend in training camp is as close as they will get to rock an NBA uniform.
In the hours proceeding this year's draft, KING-MAG.com spoke with Malone, a Brooklyn-born seven-footer selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 1997 draft. Although second-round picks aren't guaranteed a contract, many of them llike Rashard Lewis, Stephen Jackson and Cliff Robinson are not only major assets to the teams they play for, they're also millionaires. Malone, now 32, has salvaged a career on the court playing on the bus routes and back roads of the American basketball world. With a three year old son to support, he makes ends meet by picking up a paycheck playing ball wherever he can.Â Having spent the past few years traveling with the Harlem Globetrotters and working NYC Pro-Am circuit, he hopes to play in Europe next year. The journey continues.
"I only played two years of college ball when I went into the draft. I sat out my first year and then played the next two. I went to a small high school in Brooklyn that no one had ever heard of, but I was the man at the University of West Virginia. You can go check my tapesâ€”I was really doing my thing down there. It wasn't like I had academic problems, nothing like that. Everybody at West Virginia loved me. I did my thing in camp with the Timberwolves too, and it seemed like it was going to be easy at that point. I mean, I'm telling you it's easy. I felt like I had it.
There are a lot of politics involved though. I played in the CBA and with the Globetrotters, overseas since then. I can say I really don't know what happened. You can ask [then-General Manager] Kevin McHale and the Timberwolves organizationâ€”they would be able to tell you better about what happened then I would. I found out I didn't make the team on the last day and I had to learn, though, like everybody has to learn. I don't want to say I got bad advice. But I feel likeâ€¦if I was going to get picked so late in the draft and that I wasn't going to get signed, I feel like the Timberwolves could have left me in college. I would have finished my education and then come out ready for the league.
I don't feel like I took bad advice because I'm a good ball player and I had a shot. It's like, it came to a point where it was about me getting a chance to do what I had to do. I feel like everybody deserves an opportunity. I really didn't have any money. I've been playing ball for years and money is what everybody needs. I've played in Poland, Austria, CBA, USBL, Argentina, but playing basketball in the NBA is bigger. It's the highest level and everybody wants that chance in life. There was no worst place I had to play ball in. I mean, these places are nice, these places aren't bad places, but I didn't really go to them. Basketball is basketball. I just wanted to play in the NBA. I haven't worked out for an NBA team in eight or nine years now. I worked out for San Antonio a while ago now, a good minute. My job is to play ball and because of how it is to be outside the NBA I have to speak to these business guys from different teams, too.
My advice to these young kids coming out into the draft is; look, in this world you need to have good people that's in back of you. Doing it by yourself won't do it. You need more than that when you're dealing with a higher, corporation business like the NBA. This is a business where everybody wants to get what they can get out of it. So when you get into it you have to make sure you have things in writing. You have to be sure of things, you have to have stuff documented, just in case. You have to be making sure that things are going to happen like they are supposed to. You put a lot on the line when you leave school, you need to look out for yourself all the time. It wasn't about school for me, I did good in camp. I just feel like I didn't get the shot I was supposed to get. I'm not even looking at the NBA like that no more. Back then I was more than ready. I was 22-years-old coming into the NBA man. I feel like I didn't have nobody in back of me. I didn't really get that good support system watching out for me. It's like me taking on a whole army. The only thing I knew about was basketball. I didn't know anything about business and it comes down to business. My agents were really working for my. They were good guys but we were more friends than business partners. But that is in the past. I let all that go, it's not still built up in me.
Come watch me all summer. You'll see all these NBA guys and they can't do nothing with me. I'm in shape. I learned from a lot of things and it's still all about the game to me. I still feel like I'm doing a great job. I'm still living my basketball dream. I'm not doing any negative things. Maybe in the long run it will pay off and I could give my knowledge back to these kids in basketball. Every kid from the street is good, they just need a chance.â€