Thursday, 27 August 2015

Clyde The Glide: My Life in Basketball (by Clyde Drexler with Kerry Eggers)

What a unique book! If you are Clyde Drexler's fan it's perfect.
My rating: 10/10

This book, like the title says, is mostly about basketball. There are some parts about Drexler's private life, but they are in the background. The main part of the book is all about basketball.

Around half of the book was written by Clyde Drexler himself and the other half are quotes made by his family members, friends, coaches and teammates. All those quotes were gathered by Kerry Eggers who had come up with the idea of writing such a book about Drexler. In his introduction to the book he writes that he spoke with more than 60 people in the process. Here's an interesting part of the introduction:
    Many of his friends and teammates took the opportunity to deliver some verbal jabs. Clyde never flinched, never asked to have the anecdote removed or altered. He took it in good fun and with the affection that it was intended, and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy it all.

The quotes in the book are mixed with Drexler's narration in a very thoughtful way, so they compliment each other as best as they can. But it is not obvious when you flip through the book without actually reading it. At first look I thought that the book could be a disappointment, but I was sooo wrong. It turned out that all those quotes are in fact even better than Drexler's parts, mostly because they praise Drexler so much.

Drexler himself stayed true to his character – a modest guy who doesn't want to brag about himself. I think it was hard for him to write about his own achievements because he was such a big star throughout his basketball career. He decided to take a matter-of-fact approach to write about himself, but his narration about everything else is great. I enjoyed especially the parts about Drexler's teammates and coaches from his best teams – the teams that made it to the NBA finals. You can feel his fondness and his great respect for all those people.

Clyde Drexler describes his basketball career in a pretty detailed way. There are his basic stats, his personal records, his awards, his team's regular seasons results and summaries of his team's every playoff series. Some years are described more thoroughly than others, but that is something obvious – every one of us has some favourite moments from his (or her) past.

It's fun to read so many good things about Drexler, but there are also some things that I was really surprised about, for example the fact that Drexler had a very strong character as a player.

Here are some quotes to give you an idea about the book:

    When the Cougars [University of Houston] were recruiting Michael [Young], they asked him who was the best player he played against. He said, “That's easy. The kid at Sterling.” They said another player's name. Michael said, “No, not him, Clyde Drexler.” They were shocked.

HAKEEM OLAJUWON: After practice [at University of Houston] I was invited to join the players at a pickup game, and there I got to see Clyde's skills. I was impressed with his competitiveness and the fact that his game was not just one-dimensional. He had a complete game – he ran the floor so well, his rebounding and scoring, and one of his specialties was his ability to make steals.

HAKEEM OLAJUWON: (…) I don't know how he did it, but he positioned himself so that every time a shot was blocked it went right into his hands. The ball goes up, everybody fights for it, it gets grabbed by somebody – that's Clyde. When a ball gets swatted away and somebody saves it – that's Clyde.

DENISE PINK [Clyde's sister]: (…) He could spontaneously dunk in a way that people had never seen. If I were to say: “OK, Clyde, count to three and do this dunk,” he couldn't do it. But put him in a game situation and he would always improvise and execute like no other. It was amazing.

    Coach Lewis [University of Houston] didn't want to stop practices too much to talk while you were playing. I thought that was pretty smart. I hated coaches who stopped things every couple of minutes. Let the players play while they are sweating and in a flow. When we were through, Coach Lewis would go to the chalkboard and talk about things. He would stop a scrimmage only if it were necessary. Unless you lose a tooth, keep playing. If one got knocked out, he might stop playing for a minute.

JIM NANTZ: Clyde was exceedingly polite and thoughtful. He was someone who, the minute you met him, you liked him.

HAKEEM OLAJUWON: (…) His jump shot was suspect because all they [NBA scouts] ever saw was him running the floor and jamming. He had a very good jump shot, but no one knew it because he dunked all the time.

STU INMAN: (…) The thing that came through from conversations with all of them [college coaches] was that Clyde was the glue on that team. (…) They said he did what he had to do to win a game. His ego never interfered with his will to win. When we brought him for a personal workout and an interview, he impressed everybody with his intelligence. He was a straight shooter, a no-nonsense guy, and he had his life together. I remember noting in our pre-draft material he was working at a bank in the summers, a job that related to the course of study he was involved in at the university.

STU INMAN: (…) Bruce [Ogilvie] called me after Clyde had taken the [psychology] test, and he asked me – it was meant as a joke – is there any way he could have gotten the answers ahead of time?

DARNELL VALENTINE: One day at practice [during Drexler's first NBA season] Clyde threw a behind-the-back pass. That wasn't a part of Jack Ramsay's philosophy about the game. In fact, that was the exact opposite of how Jack felt basketball should be played. Jack said something to Clyde about it. The very next play, Clyde came down and threw another behind-the-back pass. I mean, the rest of us all kind of looked at Clyde like, “Whoa.” Nobody dared to do that with the Doctor. But Clyde had enormous self-confidence, and most of the time could back it up, and I always admired that in him. He believed in himself so much, believed so much in his abilities, that he was not going to be denied.

KIKI VANDEWEGHE: (…) I can remember quite clearly talking to Jack [Ramsay], who had just traded what amounted to five players for me. I said, “Look, you need to play Clyde. He is the best player on this team.” Jack looked at me like I was crazy. He said, “I just traded five players for you, and you are telling me Clyde is a better player?”

BOB COOK: (…) He never had a physical complaint before a game, like a lot of guys would. “That's an excuse for failure,” he would say. He never played the injury card, and I always admired that.

DWIGHT JAYNES: (…) Mike [Schuler] told me, “I used to think Clyde was a tough guy to coach. By today's standards, he is a choir boy.”

TERRY PORTER: (…) He had his moments with the coaches, but on the floor, he always tried to encourage his teammates. The only player I played with who approached his greatness was Tim Duncan. Clyde was the best perimeter guy I ever played with, hands down.

    I worked hard every summer to stay in shape. I didn't work out on stationary machines. I ran and lifted weights and went to the gym and shot every day. I spent five, six, seven hours a day working out every summer. That is how I got better.

    Every day was a new adventure with that group. Danny [Ainge] hadn't received his contract extension, supposedly because management had run out of money on the rest of our deals. At Christmas, Danny bought boxes of chocolates for everybody and gave them out on the plane. He handed Petrie a box; when Geoff opened it, it was empty. “Sorry, I just ran out of chocolates,” Ainge told him. Everybody just roared. Petrie was good-natured about it. He had to admit it was funny.

KARL MALONE: If you were starting a team and looking for a two guard, you would choose Michael [Jordan]. The second one would be Clyde. There is no shame in that. That is just the way it was. Clyde was a remarkable player in all ways. I have a great deal of respect for him.

    The first time I got the ball [after his trade to the Houston Rockets], we were in our set offense, and all of a sudden, my guy left me to double-team Hakeem [Olajuwon]. I was thinking, “I'm not used to this. Defenders just don't leave me like this.” I had an open shot inside the key, looked around, and didn't know what to do. Hakeem had the biggest smile on his face. He said, “Shoot, Drex, shoot!” I traveled, and then I threw up an airball. I'll never forget that. At our next timeout, we went back to the huddle, and Rudy [Tomjanovich] was laughing. Hakeem said, “Drex, you are going to kill people playing on this team.”

    When I look back at my career, one of the most rewarding things has been my relationship with fans. It is always hard for me to imagine how a professional athlete wouldn't fully appreciate those people who are so supportive and, in reality, pay their salary. I have a problem with athletes who don't extend fans the simple courtesies of an autograph, a handshake or a smile. Those guys just don't get it. The fans have always been great to me.

(Sunday, 3 May 2015)

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