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interview

opowieści z nba

Sidney Moncrief

Zdjęcia: gettyimages

Przemek Opłocki:

Let’s start in 60s, in Little Rock. When you grew up who was your favorite basketball player?

Sidney Moncrief:

In 60s I was a young and didn’t think about basketball till junior high school, but when I was younger I watched Boston Celtics. It was my favorite team. I didn’t have any specific player. I liked Russell, Havlicek, Jo Jo White, Sam Jones, all those guys. Just watching Celtics playing basketball.

PO:

Why did you chose basketball?

SM:

When I grew up I loved football. I played football, my love was football, and basketball appeared later. When I got older I started growing taller, but I was too thin, and didn’t have a body to play football at high level, so I tried to play basketball. I just enjoyed an attitude to practice basketball.

PO:

With Marvin Delph, and Ron Brewer you made Razorbacks one of the best university teams. You were, and are the legend in Arkansas. How looked yours road to be at this level?

SM:

I played for very good coaches, and had a very good fundamentals coaching, with passing, dribbling, defense, and not as much shooting. I always played against good competitions, and it made me better.

PO:

Milwaukee Bucks selected you with 5th pick in 1979 draft. In those days I guess it looked different, without official gala, or live coverage on national TV. Could you tell us how did you find out about being drafted in top 5?

SM:

I didn’t know that Bucks till the draft day. I didn’t know when I will play, because there were rumors I could be drafted by Chicago, Los Angeles, or Detroit. Don Nelson, and Wayne Embry put me in the Milwaukee Bucks. None of the team who didn’t draft me earlier were afraid about my knees. Don Nelson had a doctor in Boston. He trusted him, so he sent me to Boston, to look at my knees. He said that my knees are not in a great shape, but I should have a good career in the NBA. And Bucks chose me with 5th pick.

PO:

Jerry West considered to choose you with 1st overall pick. You pointed out it to him during Hall-of-Fame ceremony.

SM:

Yes, he did. He was a shooting guard, or even partial two guards. I was two guards. But of course, Magic was Magic. He was what they were looking for. I have not regret where I started, and had my career.

PO:

What were your ‘duties’ as a rookie? Was it more fun, or tough time?

SM:

A rookie is adjustment. When you go from the high school basketball to the college basketball that is adjustment to make a transition from being a good high school player to now just a player, because of number of very good players at college. The straight factor is that a high school player physically, mentally, emotionally not really mature for college level. This is the same with the NBA. Everything changes. Speed of the game is totally different. Players are faster, stronger, more athletic, and it takes a time to adjust. You need to play more physical at this level. If you are 21 year old college player you play against 28, 29, or 30 old man, you need time for transition.

PO:

You played with Bob Lanier, and Jack Sikma, one of the best centers in 70s, and 80s, both Hall-of-Famers. What was so special in their game?

SM:

They were very smart, high basketball IQ players. Totally unselfish. They could execute the play, made you a screen to get you open. They were good position defenders. They could score, or rebound. They were complete basketball players.

PO:

You played for many great coaches, but I guess Don Nelson is at the top. He was with you during Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech. What was his impact on your career?

SM:

My whole career is based on things learnt from coach Don Nelson. I wouldn’t be in Hall-of-Fame player without his guide, and ability to take advantage of your skills, and just put player in the position to be successful on the basketball court. He was also two guard. I wasn’t a great shooter, when I came to the NBA, but I could post-up, and he used my athletic ability to get an advantage on my opponent. He was the best match up coach.

PO:

Your prime was during 1982-86. 5 times in All-Star Game. 5 times in All-NBA Team. 5 times in All-NBA Defensive Team. Twice won Defensive Player of the Year award. 21 pts, 5,8 reb, 4,7 ast, 50% FG, 84% FT%. What made you elevated to this level?

SM:

Apart of my game, where I needed to get better, I worked on my basketball skills very intensively every summer. I was dedicated to get better every summer. I also played for great coaches, and players, started in college. It gave me some confidence, and when I got to the NBA I had a chance to be in a team with Bob Lanier, Paul Pressey, Marques Johnson, Jack Sikma, and others. Each year I played with better players. Coaches every year understood my skills step, and gave me more freedom to do things that I could do on the basketball court.

PO:

One of your colleagues, Terry Cummings, was also All-Star format player. Could we describe him as a one of the most underrated players in 80s?

SM:

Absolutely. Sometimes he was overshadowed, because he played with other great players. He was easily one of the most talented players I ever played. Tough, did a lot of things on the basketball court.

PO:

Sometimes when players go to other club, and a city, their career change. When I look at Terry Cummings from his period in Bucks, and compare it with his time in Spurs, it looks like he was there a different player. What did happen?

SM:

If you look at Terry Cummings, but LA Clippers first, and look you numbers when he played for them, he was one of the best forwards in the NBA at that time. In Bucks we had a different roster, and his role was different. In San Antonio coaching and players were different, offensive strategy was different, and he had to sacrifice his offensive ability for the team.

PO:

You won two, consecutive DPOY awards, in 1982-83, and 1983-84. What was your secret for such a successful defense?

SM:

I think preparation, and playing in solid defensive system prepared by coach Nelson and his assistants. Crucial was also our effort on every position, and that is why I became a very successful defensive player. It had started in high school, and developed in college.

PO:

What is your top 3 rating for players who were tough to guard?

SM:

I had to guard Michael Jordan, or Andre Toney, both tough to guard. If I got back and looked at the roster of all players I played against, there would be more than three. I played so long that I really don’t remember a lot.

PO:

I guess that for sure you would appear in this rating if Michael Jordan would prepare it.

SM:

He could do whatever he wanted to. With great offensive players all you could do is to make it difficult to them as much as possible.

PO:

How do you remember your All-Star Game appearances? Just fun, or you focus to win a game?

SM:

I don’t like All-Star Games, and when I was selected there I was never rocked in. However, we wanted to play at high level, because you were tried to win a game. You were paid extra money if you won, but if you couldn’t make it if weren’t played hard (laugh) We played our best basketball, because we didn’t want to lose.

PO:

You played in All-Star Game with your colleague, Marques Johnson. All-Star caliber forward, 5 times in All-Star Game, still not in the Hall of Fame. Do you think this is, what we could call, small market club syndrome?

SM:

I don’t know. I would say now we have the Internet, the game is more international, and it’s not a big difference to be in the small market. But, you are correct, when I played in Milwaukee smaller markets didn’t get the same attention than the larger markets, like New York or Los Angeles. It was certainly different. But I played in Milwaukee, got my opportunity and I am in Hall of Fame, Marques Johnson will be in Hall of Fame.

PO:

You had a very good team in 80s. Only Celtics and Lakers had more winning %. Each year with you in the roster Bucks reached play-offs. Even three times you were in Eastern Conference Finals. Do you feel ‘a victim’ of 76ers and Celtics eras?

SM:

Yes, I think there always would be a case for a team were the team was just close, but the other team was better. That was with Celtics and 76ers in 80s. If you look at winning % it shows that our roster was good, but there were better teams.

PO:

When I look at the Bucks roster from 80s, I see a very good team, great coach, All-Star caliber players, a lot of important role players, the defense which could stop the best league talents, like Jordan, Erving, or Bird. What was the main reason Milwaukee Bucks didn’t won Championship, or even played in NBA Finals?

SM:

Our opponents had a better players, deeper bench. Sometimes is not healthy, or size of the market. There is no difference in the 80s or now.Our opponents had a better players, deeper bench. Sometimes is not healthy, or size of the market. There is no difference in the 80s or now.

PO:

What does it mean being in Hall-of-Fame for Sidney Moncrief?

SM:

I still try to figure it out, that I am in a group of the best of basketball players in the world. I always thought that my college career was overlooked somewhere, based on winning percentage. When you take my college and NBA career being in Hall of Fame is a very good resume. My feeling about being Hall of Famer? Certainly pride, appreciative, grateful, but I am not sure about it.

PO:

How do you find current Milwaukee Bucks chances to win NBA title in the next 2-3 years?

SM:

Absolutely. I don’t like to judge team in November or December, I like to see how the team will play in April and May. The thing is how they put things together. They have got extremely dominate player in Giannis, and I like they chances.

PO:

Currently, which NBA player has got style similar to yours?

SM:

No one. There are different types of greatness. I think players has got unique styles of how they play the game. The same is with me. I had the unique style.

PO:

Thank you for the interview