Tyrone Nesby Interview: Nesby Discusses Playing with Michael Jordan, His Relationship with Master P, Overseas Career, Youth Program & More
Best remembered for dropping buckets as a Clipper and for ballin’ alongside Michael Jordan as a Wizard, former NBA hooper, Tyrone Nesby, joined me to talk about his journey from basketball obscurity to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood where his career in the Association first began. Unsurprisingly, Nesby – who once torched the infamous $119 million dollar man, Rashard Lewis, for 30 points as a rookie – is still very active in the basketball community; this time, as a coach, motivational speaker, and mentor to thousands of kids who aspire to, one day, rock the Jerry West logo on their jersey’s the same way he did over a decade ago. Maybe, if they’re cool enough, they’ll even rock the braids, too.
Kee: I read on the back of a basketball card that you have eight brothers and five sisters. Did any of them have an impact on you playing in the NBA?
Nesby: My brothers liked to play basketball, but they just didn’t take it as seriously as I did. Larry Bird was the reason why I started playing basketball. I enjoyed watching him play. In high school and in college, I wore the number 33 because of Bird and when I got to the NBA I wore number 8 in honor of my brothers.
Kee: You had a pretty unorthodox journey to the NBA. Despite starring at UNLV, you went undrafted in 98' and instead of the NBA, you were forced to start your career in the CBA (Continental Basketball Association). Describe what it was like being passed on in the draft.
Nesby: Draft night was very difficult for me. I was with my family thinking I was going to be selected by the Indiana Pacers. Before the draft, I went to Indiana to work out and it seemed like they were interested in me. When my name didn’t get called [by the Pacers], it was hard sitting there with my family wondering to myself if I was even going to get drafted. When I didn’t get picked in the first round or the second round, I told myself to go back to the drawing board and went to the gym the next day to work on my game. In my heart, I knew I was better than most of the guys that were drafted, but the good thing about it is that it kept me hungry.
Kee: You were one of the first NBA players to sign with Percy “Master P” Miller’s management firm No Limit Sports, which has since folded. In the past, you stated that despite Miller’s reputation as a business mogul, his agency was incompetently managed; causing you to disaffiliate with them. What was your relationship like with Master P? And from a business prospective, why did things work out?
Nesby: Master P and I were good friends and we’re still good friends to this day. When it comes to No Limit Sports, I’d rather not comment on what happened. Let’s just say, when a new business opens up, you need to have trust in one another to maintain the business. Master P had to trust people to do their jobs and if the people you trust aren’t doing their jobs, then the business will fold.
Kee: After an impressive rookie season, you signed a three-year deal to join the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in the summer of 99’. But, since you were a restricted free agent, the Clippers matched San Antonio’s offer sheet, which resulted in you staying in Los Angeles. Were you disappointed that the Clippers brought you back?
Nesby: It would have been nice to play for San Antonio because I thought I would have been a really good fit for their program, but I wasn’t disappointed that the Clippers brought me back because they were the first NBA team to take a chance on me.
Kee: As a Clipper, you dropped 22 and 23 points in back-to-back games against the Lakers, 29 points against the Mavericks and career high 30 points and seven steals against the Sonics. Looking back, were you ever frustrated by the lack of attention you received despite putting up big numbers against some of the league’s best teams?
Nesby: As a rookie, I had a chip on my shoulder because I didn’t get drafted. In my mind, I wanted to destroy any rookie who tried to guard me. But I tried not to worry about the media when it comes to playing basketball. At the time, I was just trying to stay focused and remain in the NBA as long as possible. I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish, but I think that if I had gotten the media attention I deserved, I would probably still be in the NBA today.
Kee: Early into your third season in L.A., you were traded to the Washington Wizards. That following offseason, Michael Jordan announced he was coming out of retirement to play in D.C. What was it like playing with MJ?
Nesby: I knew that trade was going to happen because Mike and I talked a lot about me coming to Washington. I’m glad I got a chance to play with Michael because I was able to learn a lot from him. As for his return, we had talked in the gym about him coming back, so I knew he was coming out of retirement to play the following year. When he came back, I also knew that my minutes were going to drop, which ended up hurting my chances of returning to the NBA. It didn’t bother me though because it’s Michael Jordan and if anybody was going to take my playing time, I prefer it be him.
Kee: After leaving the NBA in 02’, you played overseas in Europe for five seasons. For many players, the decision to play internationally has rejuvenated their careers (ex. Stephon Marbury). What was that experience like for you?
Nesby: Going overseas was a great experience for me because I had the opportunity to travel the world, while playing the game of love. I think that some guys have problems when they play overseas because they get caught up in the attention they receive for being one of the only Americans on the team and don’t end up doing their jobs. As for me, all I thought about was winning and it was a great experience being able to bring the Cup back home to my favorite country Lithuania.
Kee: During your career, you played alongside Michael Olowokandi and Kwame Brown; two notoriously known draft busts. As their former teammate, which factors contributed into them having such disappointing careers?
Nesby: Both of those guys had potential. I think that if they had been given the right type of veteran leadership it would have helped them out a lot.
Kee: Almost three years ago, Donald Sterling, the infamous former Clippers owner received a lifetime ban from the NBA after a private recording of him making racist comments were made public. What was your relationship like with him?
Nesby: It’s hard for me to comment on Donald Sterling because I never had any problems with him and don’t want to judge him for his mistakes. We’ve all said things behind closed doors that would have gotten us into big trouble if someone had heard and recorded it.
Kee: Since retiring in 07’, you’ve remained very active as a basketball coach, personal trainer, and motivational speaker through your company Nesb Sports. Talk about the work you’ve done in the community and what the future has in store for Nesb Sports.
Nesby: I founded Nesb Sports (http://www.nesbsports.com/) and hope that in the future, we will continue to expand until the whole world knows who we are. My main focus is on the less fortunate kids that want to elevate their game to the next level. I speak with the kids, work with them; mentor them and help them understand the game of basketball. I want them to learn how to respect the game and also take advantage of the opportunities that are given to you when you play. I also try and teach them life principles that will help them on and off the court and talk to them about the mistakes I made on and off the court as well. We’re continuing to work on a variety of great basketball programs that we’re using across the country to help kids learn the game the right way.
Kee: Lastly, as a basketball player and as a man, how do you want to be remembered?
Nesby: I want to be remembered as a kid that grew up as the youngest of 14 kids in the small town of Cairo, Illinois – with a population of 5,000 people – who never gave up on his childhood dream of becoming an NBA basketball player. I also want to be remembered as someone who never backed down from a challenge and always wanted to play against the best. I started playing basketball in the 8th grade, which shows that you if you put your mind to it, you can make it too.