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In 1988, Kenny Anderson was the best basketball player in New York City, maybe the greatest high-school player the city had ever seen. He eventually became an NBA All-Star and enjoyed a 14-year career.
These days, Anderson lives a much more laid-back life.
“I wake up and try to run 3-5 miles,” Anderson said in an interview with Amico Hoops. “I do speaking engagements, I do camps and clinics, I coach my South Florida elite team. I am always giving back to the youth, telling my story.”
And why did the best high-school basketball player in the country, who was from New York City, choose Georgia Tech?
“My mother wanted me to go there,” Anderson said. “Coach (Bobby Cremins) was from the Bronx. I fell in love with Atlanta, it was a great match for me.”
Adding a player of Anderson’s caliber to an already-stacked team was another reason.
“They had Dennis Scott there. When I decided to go there we had the No. 1 recruiting class,” Anderson said.
The No. 1 recruiting class would eventually live up to the hype. In 1990, Georgia Tech advanced to the Final Four.
“We made a very good team with the junior leadership of Dennis Scott and senior leadership of Brian Oliver,” Anderson said.
Anderson had all the confidence in the world; he knew he would make the NBA. This was a never a question in his mind.
“I think it was destined,” he said. “I was a child prodigy from New York. If I kept my nose clean, I was going to be a pro.”
A 6-foot lefty, Anderson was drafted by the New Jersey Nets with the second overall pick in 1991. The Nets played their home games just 15 miles from where Anderson grew up.
“Staying in the Metropolitan area was a dream come true,” he said.
Basketball was a passion of his, but he loved his mother above all else.
“I was gonna play the game I love to take care of my mother,” Anderson said. “She lived 20 years of carefree. I lost my mother in 2005, but I am alright. I did the best for my mother.”
When Anderson arrived in New Jersey he was the youngest player in the NBA. He became a budding star in just his second season. The Nets boasted a solid young core of Anderson, Derrick Coleman and Drazen Petrovic.
Unfortunately, in the summer of 1993 Petrovic died in a tragic car accident. The following season, Anderson and Coleman would be All-Stars. Anderson wonders what could have been had he not lost his star teammate.
“I always think about what if me and Drazen and Coleman would have stayed in longer,” Anderson said. “What that trio could have done.”
What could have been? That would have to stay in the past. Anderson was eventually traded to the Charlotte Hornets, and signed with the Portland Trail Blazers the following offseason.
“I’m blessed to play in the NBA for 14 years, the faith and the notoriety since I was 18 years old,” he said.
The 2005-06 season was the final time he would appear on an NBA court. His mother was his everything; she was in some ways his driving force.
“I only played four games with the Clippers and that’s when I lost my mother in 2005,” he said. “I lost the passion for the game and it was time to do something else.”
HOOPS AT HEART
These days, he will still watch games and follow the NBA.
“I like the NBA as a whole; I always root for the teams that I played for,” he said. “I love all the players. I love Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant. I love those guys.”
What about the Nets? His first team, his hometown team, and the only team for which he was an All-Star?
“I think they’re doing great,” Anderson said. “(Nets general manager) Sean Marks is doing a good job to get rid of those big-time contracts.”
Being a former New York City point guard, Anderson had high praise for Brooklyn’s current point guard.
“I think D’Angelo Russell is going to have a big year,” Anderson said. “He’s the leader of the franchise and a great talent.”
Anderson’s documentary, “Mr. Chibbs: The Kenny Anderson Story,” is available on Amazon, as he shares the story of trial and tribulations through his perspective.
Anderson concluded with his favorite saying.
“And my slogan: Basketball is easy, life is hard,'” he said.