By Nate Rose
Former NBA All-Star and current Kings Assistant General Manager Shareef Abdur-Rahim breaks down highlights of his playing career and his current role in the team’s front office.
How would you describe your day-to-day duties as the team’s assistant general manager?
“Right now we’re doing a lot of different things within the community and trying to catch up on different work and watch games from last season to help us prepare for next year.
“I spend a lot of time with the team watching practice and watching our games. I go out and do a lot of scouting as well. Pretty much all of the guys who were in the Draft this year—one way or another — I saw them, even going as far as Spain and Lithuania to watch some of the foreign players. Also, I spend some of my time dedicated to scouting the (NBA) Developmental League. So I kind of have a feel for what they’re doing and the players that are in the D-League if we need to call somebody up.”
How does your experience as a former player in the NBA affect the way you evaluate talent?
“I think I have a feel for what it takes to be successful and how being in different situations will affect guys. I don’t think it’s an exact science, and it’s not an easy thing to do — which is to project how a guy’s game translates from college into the NBA. You try to evaluate a guy and look at his skill set and have a feel for what he will do in the NBA.”
What made you want to get involved with the business side of basketball?
“I can’t think of one reason in particular. I’ve been really fortunate since I stopped playing. Meeting with the Kings, the Maloofs, Geoff Petrie and Wayne Cooper gave me the opportunity first to (be an assistant) coach and help and work with the guys. I thought it was really good for me because it allowed me to look at the game from a different perspective. As a player you can really get sucked into just paying attention to yourself. Even when you are watching film and watching the team, you are still paying so much attention to your own game. I think as a coach you’re forced to be so much more objective and you’re looking at the complete picture. So I thought the time I spent coaching was really productive for me. Then, having the opportunity to come over and learn the business side, I think, is really valuable. I’m thankful for the opportunity. As a player I never gave much thought to how I would be involved with basketball after playing. I didn’t think about going through what I did coaching-wise and I didn’t foresee this opportunity being presented to me. I feel really fortunate to be in this situation, and I try to take advantage of it and contribute.”
How did growing up in a large family impact your competitive nature?
“There were 13 of us. I think all (NBA players) kind of grew up in somewhat of an athletic family. All of us played sports and competed. It was just competitive, and we all wanted to do well. For me, I’m the second oldest. I always saw myself as a leader or as setting a trend, or mark, of wanting to do well and wanting to compete. I didn’t necessarily have the pressure of following behind an older brother — that was probably a big difference. I’m the older brother everybody is following behind, and it’s kind of a pressure in itself in that you have a lot of younger siblings looking up to you and pulling for you. It’s fun, and I’ve enjoyed watching my younger brothers and sisters develop and come into their own as well.”
What do you remember about the first time you made the NBA Playoffs as a member of the Kings in 2005?
“It was great. It was a lot of fun. I didn’t really realize what I had missed in terms of the excitement and level of competition. I’m really excited and looking forward to the team getting back into the Playoffs.”
How would you describe your gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic basketball experience in 2000?
“It was a great experience — something that stays with you. It was a really exciting time. I was with a great group of guys and a great team. It was really exciting and fun — one of the highlights of my playing career.”
Did you save anything special from the Olympics?
“I have something I think everybody signed for me. I have pictures and stuff that I took. Obviously, I have the gold medal. I have memories. Maybe a year or two ago when the Opening Ceremonies (were on TV), my kids were watching it and I told them their daddy did that. It made me go back and show them all the pictures and the gold medal. Probably since I had played in the game, I hadn’t really looked at any of that stuff. Again, it was a good time and probably something as the years go on that will stay with me more and more.”
After reflecting on two major events from your career, what is a lesser-known memory that stands out?
“I went away to college, and I was drafted to a place even further (Vancouver). When I had the opportunity to play two or three years at home in Atlanta, I thought it was really special just because my family had a chance to really be a part of my NBA career. My father, I don’t think he saw me play in college in person. Before I went back to Atlanta he saw very few games, so it was a special time.”
What was it like to leave Georgia for California to play at UC Berkeley?
“It was a big shock. It was really different. I don’t think I really understood how big of a difference there is between the cultures in California and where I grew up. It was really different, but it was nice. It was a great experience. I met some great people – great friends – people who are still my friends or who have been my friends for a long time that I met there, and I met my wife — so it was great.”
How did you decide to go to Cal?
“(I had offers from) Georgia Tech, UNC and Arkansas. I had developed a really good relationship with the guy who was the head coach. I think he did a really good job of selling me on California. I took a visit to the campus and the campus was really nice, so I went with it.”
With experience as a player who entered the NBA after one year of college, how does it help you in your role now?
“I can relate to what guys are going through — the ups and downs over an NBA season or NBA career. Because I was a young guy, I can understand the different things (the League or team) put on you off the basketball court. I think it’s sort of an ancillary role I play in my position. (I’m) somewhat of a sounding board – someone guys can talk to and help them through their career and help them be successful basketball players and successful people.”