I like leftovers. Hope you don’t mind them.
Here are pieces of two interviews I did this week that, for reasons of space, didn’t make the paper. The first was with Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers, the second with Jason Richardson of the Charlotte Bobcats.
Each, incidentally, was a great interview subject, courteous and open and willing to talk about anything I asked.
I had meant to ask Smith about O.J. Simpson but forgot. I don’t like to read questions from a notebook when I’m sitting with a guy. I’d rather make it a conversation. I had memorized the questions in advance but O.J. was forgettable, I guess.
First the Smith quotes that were cut.
Me: When was the last time a celebrity made you nervous?
Smith: The guy from “Fresh Prince (of Bel-Air). I actually got flipped off by the guy Alfonso (who played Carlton). It was in L.A. and he got mad at me about something.
Me: Yeah, but did Alfonso make you nervous?
Me: Next president of the U.S.?
Richardson said that growing up in Saginaw, Mich., which is north of Detroit and of Flint on I-75, he wanted to play professional hockey as well as professional basketball.
“There were only one or two African-Americans in hockey,” he says.
What was your style like?
“Rough,” says Richardson. “There was no finesse scoring. Defense, defense, defense. I liked to check.”
There aren’t many 6-6 hockey players. And it was size that compelled Richardson to give the sport up – the size of his feet.
“When I was in eighth grade, my feet got big,” he says.
He needed specialized skates, which were expensive, and he couldn’t afford them. So he became a basketball star instead.
He admits when he learned in June that he was being traded from Golden State to Charlotte, he was not pleased. The Warriors had announced they would not trade him. He heard about it 10 minutes before the trade.
“I was blindsided,” he says.
Golden State finally made the playoffs last season, an entertaining and suddenly successful team that gave the city a jolt.
“We can do the same thing here,” says Richardson.
He and his family have bought a house. He says if there’s anything about Charlotte that’s surprised him, it’s the abundance of trees.
If Richardson, 27, is as engaging and as unpretentious as he came across during Bobcats caravan stops at a Gastonia elementary school and the Belmont YMCA, Charlotte will have another athlete to get excited about.
“My mom told me never to, no matter what I accomplished, be bigger than everybody else,” says Richardson.
In other words, Elaine Cook told him to remember where he came from.
Words we all can live by, don’t you think?