(Interviewed/Written by Tyler Ball)
What makes the difference between an athlete and a legend? Is it their ability to score, pass, and dunk? Maybe, or is it something a little deeper that is ingrained in their personality? Every athlete worth anything has a set of morals and values that makes them the person on and off of the court, and every true fan will see it. Many things influence them, friends, family, environment.
As a kid in the 90’s, I watched my Charlotte Hornets loyally, passionately, and religiously. For me personally, their was one player who set my foundation as a Hornet fan. We all have one, every fan does. That player who you admire and love to watch, the player who you defend to the very end after a rough loss to your friends. A player who you scream and cheer your lungs out for every time they take the court and put up a shot.
For me, their was one. His name is Glen Rice. Rice always took the court and left everything on it. when I would watch him, it was like some kind of x-factor stepped on the court with him like a shadow that made the team better, like a glow. The best part was it was infectious in his teammates, and when Rice was down, vice versa. He was a role model for me personally on and off the court, and it was because of him, and other players to come that I became so passionate about basketball and the team itself.
I was lucky enough to interview the Charlotte Hornet Legend about his time with the team, as well as advice for the current generation of Charlotte players and fans.
- Did you have a favorite NBA player or athlete you idolized as a kid growing up? “Julius Erving “Dr. J” and Larry Bird. When I first got into basketball, as far as shooters, Bird was the guy to me and one of the guys that I wanted to shoot like and try to be like when emulating the jump-shot. When it came to Dr. J, not that bird didn’t have it, but Julius Erving was a show. His [Erving] dunks, his charisma on and off the court just blew me away. As soon as they both stepped on the court you knew something great was about to happen, they are two true hall of famers’ right there.”
- Did you always know you wanted to play in the NBA or did you have another dream career? “When I was about 12-13 I liked football and liked playing receiver, but one day I broke my leg and that quickly changed my mind. At the time I was still playing basketball, mainly in the parks, up to that point I hadn’t played organized basketball. After I broke my leg I said let me think about this basketball thing. Thinking back if I didn’t break my leg, I probably would have been hard headed and tried to play both and would not have excelled as much as I wanted to in the sport I should have been in, it was a blessing in disguise.”
- Who was the most influential person during your career, both at Michigan and in the NBA? “When I arrived in Michigan in 1985 we had some great seniors on my team and some really good leaders, RIP, Roy Tarpley was mentor at the time and guys like Antione Joubert at the University of Michigan. As far as the NBA, where I was in Michigan and Detroit was just down the road guys like Isaiah Thomas and a lot of the Detroit Pistons players would come down and play with us. They really taught us how the game would be played once/if we made it to that next level. They really mentored us. As far as my life, my mom has always encouraged me and reminded me to always be respectful on and off the court to everyone of all colors and faiths. I really had good guidance.”
- What does it mean to you to know you still hold some amazing records at Michigan? “People always had to remind me of the records I that I do have because I never just dwelled on them, people would say did you know you set a record tonight? And I would say things like oh really? Well that’s cool. I honestly never dwelled on it and just kept moving because I guess when you look at it, it is important to have those achievements about how talented you were, but I never put a high premium on it. My thing was more accomplishing things as a team, I always put that first and when records were made and broken I was always like ok thank you, but just kept going.”
- Is there one moment in your NBA career in charlotte that is your favorite and stands out to you this day? “I really can’t say just one moment; we had so many great moments there at the hive. At the time it was me and LJ, Larry Johnson, leading the way and transition to Valda Divac and Anthony Mason, may he RIP, that crew all of those times they made the playoffs at the hive were electric. I can’t just say one moment; I would have to ball all of them up into one and say that was my greatest moment there. That team there had more than any team I ever played on, we really fought together, had our sad time together, we really liked one another and was full of really good people, not just players, but just really good people including the coaches and that is what really made us so successful. In a lot of ways it is different than how basketball is being played today. You see it in the San Antonio Spurs, they don’t care who the star is, they operate as one unit and that is why they have been so successful. When they have older guys who have been banged up through their careers they are still successful because they believe what their coach has instilled in them and they are great as a people.”
- Do you ever get to come back to charlotte to see games? “I have not recently, I have been watching them from afar, but I am so glad the MJ has brought the Hornets back. I need to come back, always wished they could get the Hornets name back because now it’s a relief and now we can be THE CHARLOTTE HORNETS again. Basketball was the pulse of Charlotte in the beginning and it is good to see it back again. I give MJ and all the fans credit for being so patient, and that is what true basketball fans are about, hanging in there behind your team no matter what. I hope that now that the Hornets are back that they can rebuild and get to more playoffs. I can tell you this, the Hornets players, coaches, fans, and city deserve to have a championship there.”
- Who is your all-time favorite teammate you had on the Hornets? “Each player is my all-time favorite; you had a different personality from each guy. You loved that about that person and there was not one person on the team ever that I did not like, even the guys who would come and try out and didn’t make the team. We always had friendships, it was all the guys, even when I see Dell Curry and reflect and think wow I remember when his son would come in the gym and shoot with us and think wow I am so happy for him. We did our best to represent the Charlotte Hornets the best way we could, everyone on the team was equal. We would not have been as good as we were if it wasn’t for the fans. If you had the hive buzzing as loud as they did for us you had no choice but to go out there and give everything you had. It was easy to play well because always knew that our fans always had our backs, from the bad games to the good games they always had our backs.”
- Who would you say top 3 greatest charlotte hornets? Who and why? “I would say in terms of being a leader and getting the Hornets going I would have to say Muggsy Bogues. You can’t say Charlotte Hornets and not think of Muggsy Bogues, he was diffidently a great personality, our spark plug for not only our team, but the community. Of course LJ “grandmamma”, he brought that charisma that he had and that likeable personality with that smile, even before I got there I was a Hornets fan because they had players like LJ and Muggsy. In terms of the early stages of the Charlotte Hornets you have to talk about Alonzo Mourning, he was their fierce backbone shot blocking player that held the team the down on defense.”
- What did it mean to you personally to get to play for the Charlotte Hornets? “Personally, it was probably the greatest thing to ever happen to me and my career? Gave me an opportunity to be the best player I could be as well as a person, lifted up my career. My career was doing ok at the time, but for some reason when I got to Charlotte and had the hive behind me my spirit was so uplifted it was really one of the most enjoyable times of my career. The Charlotte Hornets were diffidently the real deal for me.”
- What was it like to be breaking all-star game records past huge NBA greats like Hal Greer, Wilt Chamberlin, and Tom Chambers? “At the time I didn’t know what I was doing, I got hot, but I had no idea I was breaking someone’s record. Coach would tell me to get back in the game and I would be like “um, okay?” but I wasn’t thinking about it I just have to knock down these two free throws, if you break records great, if ya don’t oh well. What gave me the greatest feeling really, better than breaking records, through out that day was honestly being able to play as good as I did in front of the top 50 greatest players to play the game. To be able to have a great game like that in front of all of those guys and your peers that was an unbelievable feeling. I was like oh my god I played that well in front of all of these great players and here it is, I guess I did pretty well. It is hard for me to want to brag about anything, but there is something special about that, playing like that in front of them like I did.”
- Do you think that the game has changed too much as far as how strictly the rules are regulated, i.e. traveling, too many steps, fouls, etc.? “Yes, they don’t call traveling now, players can run with the basketball and that is the basic fundamentals of the game. When you look at the European players of the game verse the American players as far as fundamentals, the European players are the ones being taught the right fundamentals now. The American players might be more athletic, but there is so much more than that. The NBA needs to get back to the basics, and when we talked about the Spurs Tim Duncan, if you want to talk about fundamentals, that is exactly why he got the nickname “the big fundamental” because of his footwork and everything is excellent. When we played in the 80’s and 90’s basketball was a more physical game but people liked that when people would get into the paint and post it up, now it is like players only do fancy moves, dunk, or shoot 3’s. It takes an element out of the game and has taken a step backwards, Since the 90’s I think we (the NBA) lost fans because of it. Travels aren’t being called, ticky-tack fouls are being called instead.”
- What do you think about the idea of having your jersey number retired as a charlotte hornet at the new hive? Would you ever consider the idea? Are you kidding me, that would be unbelievable, now that’s a buzz right there. It speaks volumes of you influence and what the people and the community of how they felt your impact there and how it was after you left it. It would be amazing and it would be a huge honor. “
- What do you think about MJ bringing back the Hornets franchise back to Charlotte? “It’s fantastic, I am so glad they brought the Hornets name back to Charlotte. Even back in the day the first time around, the Hornets color, name, and logo were it.”
- Do you have any advice for the current Hornets? Especially for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist “MKG” and Gerald Henderson, who both play your position (Small Forward)? “Even when I came in with the Miami Heat we won like 17- 20m games, which wasn’t even close to playoffs. My advice to them is to just keep working hard and be positive, if they do that it will all come together. They need to keep fighting together because it won’t work if you only have clicks. It won’t change unless everyone has the same goal in common or if they play for themselves.”
- Do you think that there is a current Hornet that has potential to be an All-Star? “Everyone has the potential to be an all-star, I never thought I would it was never in my mindset. If you work hard and do everything you can to bring wins to the team then the potential is there for everyone. Right now don’t worry about being an all-star now and just try to do anything and everything you can to help the team improve. If you do that, then you can get wins, if you do that then you have the potential to be an All-Star.”
- What do you think the hornets need most in the draft and offseason? “It doesn’t need to be a guy that can score a lot of points, what they really need is more leadership. I am not saying that they don’t already have leadership, but leadership comes in many different ways and you can always use more. It could be someone who understands how to be vocal, but doesn’t score a lot. You can always use someone who can score, someone who can play defense, but I will tell you this I believe MJ knows this and will get the Hornets who they need. Hopefully whoever they pick will suit the needs of the team. When you look at the draft I don’t think there’s one player that can come in and take over, I think what they have now is a good core, but there is always room for another piece to the puzzle who can help out. They have a young team that is growing together and that is important. When you look at the draft over the past couple of years there has not been a whole lot impact all at once to change a program. The Hornets have all the right pieces, they just need to go into the offseason and train and it will come together.”
- Do you have a favorite NBA player you enjoy to watch now? “Kevin Durrant, because as tall as he is and does what he does, how he is handling the basketball and his shooting. He has been missed this year and I have liked watching him from day 1 that he has been in the league. When you talk about a humble player, he is it. Durrant is so modest, he is a great player but when he talked about his mom being the real MVP, he was so genuine. I always knew he was a good player and good person, but that just stamped it for me. He is just incredible, the real deal, a real MVP.”
- Is there anything you want to tell all Hornet Fans? “I want them to know that from day 1 to the day I left I appreciate every second I was there; they made me the player I was at that time because of their support. I think that if their support were any different, then the outcome would have been different. The fans made me want to work my butt off for them. I am so glad I had the opportunity to represent both the Charlotte Hornets and the fans.”
I will never forget going to my first game wanting to watch you play. To a 90’s kid, the NBA was life. There was no higher praise than playing as your favorite player in a video game or having their trading card at the top of the stack so all your friends could see it, or playing as them in a backyard pick-up game. Glen Rice was that for me, I know I was just a kid and it doesn’t seem like much, but if it wasn’t for Rice, Muggsy, Dell, Barron Davis, Alonzo, and Anthony Mason. I know for a fact I would not be the athlete, sports writer, fan, and man that I am today. Thank You for that.