Clyde Drexler: The Bethlehem Shoals Interview

The Sporting Blog's Bethlehem Shoals caught up with NBA legend Clyde Drexler in an interview on Wednesday. They discuss his time with Portland and Houston, dunking on a 12 foot rim, his influences, and what it's like to watch a coach have a heart attack in front of you. Enjoy.
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↵Bethlehem Shoals
: You've got strong ties to both Portland and Houston, which are very different places. How would you compare the two as sports cities?
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↵Clyde Drexler: They're both very rabid sports cities, especially if you're winning. Portland's probably a lot more loyal if the team is having a tough year. Houston fans want a high value for their entertainment dollar, and if you don't win, they will drop you and go on to the next big deal. So you've got to win in big cities in order to get their attention. But both cities have very knowledgeable sports fans and they truly love the game of basketball. ↵
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↵BS: Who today plays the most like you? ↵
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↵CD:
I hate to compare and contrast players. But sometimes when I watch Dwyane Wade make certain moves, I go "hey, that used to be something I'd do. Or LeBron James in a fast break situation, when he takes off from behind the free throw line and tomahawks it down—yeah, that was me. And sometimes Rudy Gay, for the Memphis Grizzlies. He does some of the things I used to do in transition. But those guys are awesome players in their own right. They don't need to be compared to anybody. ↵
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BS: How were you and Jordan different? ↵
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↵CD:
We basically played the same game. The main difference in our games—and I have the utmost respect for his game—is that he shot the ball more. You look at every other aspect of the game, and you'll see that the numbers are startingly close. But FGA, field goal attempts, he almost shot twice as much as I did . . . and scored almost twice as many points. But that was amazing because it's hard to get up 30 plus shots every game. I was getting between 16 and 18 shots, he was getting 30 or 35. That's the difference in our games. ↵
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↵BS: When you were younger, what players Influenced you? ↵
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↵CD:
I'm a year older than Jordan, so he grew up watching me a little bit, and because we played against each other in college as well. But I grew up, as I'm sure he did, watching Julius Erving, Jerry West, Clyde Frazier, Earl Monroe, George Gervin . . . those types of players, who played our position and were dynamic. David Thompson. Those guys were awesome. ↵
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↵BS: How much of these players did you get to see? ↵
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↵CD:
Never missed a game. We had those three channels when we were kids, and the game came on Sunday. So Sunday I would be plastered in front of the tv, and then I'd have the whole to practice what I'd learned. And the next Sunday, I started learning something else. But there's a lot to be learned by watching. I think the younger generation could fare a lot better in their game if they could sit down and watch some of the games of the past. ↵
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↵BS: Talk to me about the influence of Phi Slamma Jamma, and also how you were different from fast-paced, above-the-rim teams that have followed. ↵
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↵CD:
Phi Slamma Jamma revolutionized the way was gonna be played in the future. We had guys who were seven feet tall (Hakeem Olajuwan), a 6'10" power forward, we had two 6'8" swingmen, and a 6'3" point guard. That's an NBA line-up, in college, and all were very talented. And the way we played, with our pressing defense and our up-tempo style, was fun to watch. So people realized that while these guys do have a fair amount of athletic ability, they play extremely hard. And when people play hard, it's infectious. They like to see that; they like to see guys giving you everything they have on every play. And that was our team. We played exceptionally hard, and we were glamorized because of it. But at the end of the day, we had a lot of style because guys were absolutely talented. We had 15 guys, and all 15 could've started for any other team. ↵
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↵BS:Is there anyone you just hated against playing against, either because they rubbed you the wrong way or you didn't like them personally? ↵
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↵CD:
Bill Laimbeer for a while, because he was just so dirty. I just hated to play against him. But when we did, I made not to put myself in a vulnerable position where he could do something dirty and hurt me. ↵
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↵BS: Have you two talked about this since you've been retired? ↵
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↵CD:
Oh, we talked about it when we he was player. I would say "Boy, you are so dirty." And he goes "I don't want to hurt you for a long time, I just don't want you to play well against us." So he had a sense of humor about it, but there's nothing funny about hurting people. Nothing. ↵
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↵BS: I saw something online about you dunking on an 11' rim once. Is that true? ↵
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↵CD:
It was almost 12 feet. It was a dunk contest in Portland in the mid-eighties, and there were like six guys. We kept raising it, and whoever couldn't dunk at that height would get eliminated. Like a high jump competition. It was at 11'7" and I was the only guy who could do it. I could've goen up another four or five inches, but no one else could do it, so no need to. ↵
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↵BS: So do you think the NBA should've let Dwight Howard use a 12 foot rim in the Dunk Contest? ↵
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↵CD:
I tell you what, if they raised the rim, wouldn't nobody else be able to do what he's doing. That's for sure. He's in another stratosphere; he's such a great athlete for a big guy. I think he's gonna win it again. The guy's creativity . . . he is Superman now. ↵
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↵BS: I was never a big fan of the Superman dunk. It wasn't even really a dunk. But the sticker dunk from the year before was an all-timer. He was robbed on that one. ↵
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↵CD:
The guys didn't know what he did. They didn't see him plant the sticker on the backboard. I saw it because I had instant replay. I was not a judge that year, but the judges didn't know it until they saw the replay. Then they went crazy, but by then they had already given their scores. ↵
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↵BS: I think some of the dunk contest judges get a bad rap because they have to give scores off of that first impression. ↵
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↵CD:
They need to let us see the replay before we give the scores. Guys do things so quickly you can miss it. ↵
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↵BS: What's the funniest thing you've ever seen happen in a game? ↵
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↵CD:
Well, the funniest things are bizarre. Quite often, I'd be playing in NBA games with players who were very good and teammates who didn't know who they were. In a game against them, one of my teammates would go "Who's that guy?" I'd go "You don't know who that is?" I always thought that was pretty funny because I've been an avid fan of college and professional basketball for a long time. I used to laugh so hard. ↵
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↵And once, I was in a game in Sacramento, California . . . it was a very close game, and I'd been in foul trouble. We were on the road, and then it was the last five minutes and I got ready to check back in, and we were just getting started to gain a little momentum. And so when [the opposing coach] saw me getting ready to check back in, he looked at me, and he spun around and hit the floor. I'm thinking he's joking, like "Oh no, you're coming back in." But he actually had a real heart attack. That was bizarre. He later turned out to be okay, but they rushed him to the hospital and man, I was just going wild, hoping he was okay. He just made a circle and fell, kind of softly, and we thought he was joking. ↵
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↵BS: That's like. . . [decides not to talk about Redd Foxx's death, which was similar but except for the ending well part]. Okay, that's all my questions. Hope they weren't disjointed. ↵
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↵CD:
I'm glad you didn't ask me about Dancing with the Stars. ↵
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↵BS: Oh, and tell us about the giveaway you're promoting. ↵
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↵CD:
It's called the My Circle Hoops Giveaway, and it's a real state-of-the-art deal. If you win the sweepstakes, you get to go to a regular season college or pro games, anywhere in the country, with 10 of your favorite friends on a private jet. You have till February 15th to enter. It can't be a playoff game, it's got to be regular season. It doesn't get much better than that. If you want to enter, you can text J-E-T to 57533, or go to Alltell Basketball.com. There's going to be five winners, and one of these will get to meet yours truly and have a great V.I.P. experience before the game. ↵
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↵BS: That sounds great. I'll probably enter myself. ↵
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↵CD:
I hope you win. But pick a good game!↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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