Kentucky Wildcats great Jamal Mashburn spoke to Wildcat Blue Nation yesterday. Read what he had to say below the jump.
Daniel Solzman: Jamal, thanks for joining Wildcat Blue Nation today. How are things treating you?
Jamal Mashburn: Things are well. I have no complaints. Enjoying life, enjoying my kids, and wife. Just having a great old time.
Daniel Solzman: Since retiring from the NBA, you have had a successful business career with Mashburn Enterprises while many other athletes tend to not have great financial advisors. It’s my understanding that you majored in communications so where did this business sense come from?
Jamal Mashburn: Well, I’ll give you the short version of it. I think that financial advisors—there are some great ones out there that really want to teach you and really want to share their knowledge with you other than just being a fee from you.
My business sense came when I was a young kid. I always wanted to carry a briefcase. Growing up New York City and having the luxury of being around a lot of different kinds of people. In going to private school in New York City and taking the train from Harlem, New York to Downtown New York, I always saw people on the train carrying a briefcase and I was always curious in what was in it. So that’s where that came from—just the appetite for being curious and asking a lot of questions.
Really and truly, if I wanted to be a professional athlete, I knew my window was going to be closing at either 30 years old or 35 years old, and you were going to have to live a long life. I wanted to still be a productive person in a particular society and increase my brain power as well so not just rely on my physical attributes and skills. I wanted to rely on my brain as I got older.
Daniel Solzman: With 38 Outback Steakhouse restaurants, 32 Papa John’s, and 3 Dunkin Donuts, which is your favorite place to eat at?
Jamal Mashburn: Well, it’s funny you say that (Laughs) because I enjoy them all. They all bring a certain uniqueness to it. I would say Dunkin for its coffee, Papa John’s obviously for its pizza, and Outback just for its overall experience and the Bloomin’ Onions. All of them hold a place in my heart and me and my family try to frequent as much as possible. Also, my portfolio of businesses, I do own Lexus of Lexington and Toyota of Nicholasville. I also drive a Lexus car. Anything that I choose to invest in, I have to really believe in the product. I’m not just a guy that’s going to be a part just to make a lot of dollars. I have to really enjoy the product, believe in the product, and believe in the growth of the company as well.
Daniel Solzman: Kentucky was just starting to recover from one of the darkest eras in UK Basketball history when you arrived and your arrival was vital to returning the program to glory. How did Coach Rick Pitino sell the idea of Kentucky and if he hadn’t taken over at UK in 1989, where do you think you would have ended up?
Jamal Mashburn: Coach Pitino—he really didn’t sell University of Kentucky as much as he sold the thing that I could come in there and help rebuild the program. I think that certain type of individuals and players who want to make an impact on a rebuilding situation and the tradition that was left there at Kentucky and help revive that tradition and believe that the program can win championships. But Coach Pitino, he was very honest. He told me the things that they were dealing with as far as recruiting violations and being on probation. He was just very honest and forthcoming with me so that’s the thing that I appreciate about him. It wasn’t necessarily selling the Kentucky program as much as you can be a part of a winning situation and you’re going to be a part of the foundation for that.
That’s a great question and I’m glad I didn’t have to find that out. Some of my top choices were Syracuse, Wake Forest, and, also, the University of Pittsburgh but if he didn’t go there, I have no idea. I assume I would have found a home somewhere but who knew such story would come to this level of being a part of a great program so I rather not think about where I would have gone but rather where I attended and that’s the University of Kentucky.
Daniel Solzman: Of your time at UK, what is your funniest memory?
Jamal Mashburn: There’s quite a bit. Obviously, we have the memories with teammates are probably the most important ones. Some of the things we aren’t able to discuss because that’s the beauty of the locker room. I’ve had some great times with my teammates and things like that. Former teammates, even different coaches, where they have gone, different things like that that have been there at the University of Kentucky like Billy Donovan, Tubby Smith, and Herb Sendek. For me, I can’t think of the funniest one but I was blown away by the support of the University of Kentucky basketball program that the fans have. When I went to take my official visit to the University of Kentucky, I didn’t go during basketball season. I went during football season so I attended a football game. So I didn’t get the complete effect. It was obviously evident that they supported the program but I didn’t know to what extent until I showed up my first day on campus.
Daniel Solzman: What is your favorite memory from your NBA playing days?
Jamal Mashburn: I would have to say playing with Jimmy Jackson and Jason Kidd is one part of it in my early career. The second part of it is getting traded to the Miami Heat and get a chance to play in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Chicago Bulls, even though we lost that series, it was a heck of an experience. Also, making the NBA All-Star and having a good 11 year, 12 year career. It’s just a whole experience for me. I can’t pick out one single thing or one particular game as much as it’s the experience that helped build me into who I am today and helped build character as well.
Daniel Solzman: This is a hypothetical but if you had been born 20 years later, is it possible that you could have been one and done? Or do you think you would have stayed until you finished your degree?
Jamal Mashburn: That’s a tough question. I left as a junior so I think you’re in the same boat essentially as a one and done, just staying a little bit longer—two more years longer. Who knows—the way that the landscape of high school basketball is and how people are training for sports-specific stuff is a lot different than 20 years ago. Some of these high school kids have trainers, they play AAU basketball constantly, and they go to prep schools. It just seems like that would be tough to say.
I guess the better question would be do I believe that kids going one and done and should there be a rule in tact. I don’t think there should be a rule. I think everybody should have freedom of choice to make a decision that benefits them. The basis of college is to go out and get a job. If a kid can do it in one year, more power to them. I think we’re geared more for failure but there are some successes involved. I think where the conversation starts to get a little bit murky is college basketball is not only built on quality players but coaches are highlighted. If coaches can’t have the quality players, they’re not going to stay in jobs too long because of the demand for winning is at an all-time high with the television rights and the money and everything that goes with it. I believe that kids should have the freedom to try the next level but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to make the NBA but there are other avenues to pursue their professor basketball career and that could be overseas or in the developmental league. I think they should have the right to leave, even if it’s right out of high school.
Daniel Solzman: How did it feel to be an analyst at the game in which UK won it’s 2000th win in program history?
Jamal Mashburn: It was a special one. It was against Drexel. I knew the head coach, Bruiser Flint, from back in the day. He was under Calipari. They all tried recruiting me as well. It was a lot of relationships that you develop over a period of time. Being a part of that history and helping them get to 2000 and being able to call it on the sideline for ESPN and the University of Kentucky, it was something special. People got a chance to see me and I was probably signing more autographs than any other analyst during the game than anyone’s ever experienced. It was a cool moment. I really enjoyed myself. I try to get back as much as possible and call some games, different things like that for radio, but it’s very few and far between.
Daniel Solzman: Speaking of autographs, BBN Legends has been bringing UK players back to Rupp Arena to sign for the fans. Have they been in touch with you about bringing you back to Lexington?
Jamal Mashburn: No. No, they have not.
Daniel Solzman: Did you hear the comments that Sean Woods made about this year’s squad? If so, what thoughts do you have on that?
Jamal Mashburn: I have not heard the comments that Sean Woods made. If you could share them with me, I sure would like to hear them.
Daniel Solzman: It was something about players being entitled and not knowing basketball history. It was a few days before the Morehead State game.
Jamal Mashburn: I don’t know what context you put it in and different things like that. I was a teammate of Sean Woods, obviously, and he’s now a head coach at Morehead, different things like that. I know that he had an incident with a kid that he kind of man-handled a little bit, if you say. I thought that was inappropriate. I think that every generation can say something about kids don’t understand the history. I prefer to not, not necessarily, I think kids understand the history but it’s just what part of history do they understand. They have a lot of wealth of information. I don’t think people give them enough credit for studying the game. Obviously, you have 18-19 year old kids—they are playing the game because they love it and they are trying to reach a certain goal. They may miss some things. I give them a pass because at one point, I was 17-18 years old. Those are the same things that people above me once said. I think it comes with a generation and those are always commented. I think that can be like a little bit of easy way out, I would say, for older people for remembering the time when they played that was special.
Daniel Solzman: Similarly, what are your thoughts on the way this team is playing right now?
Jamal Mashburn: I think they are starting to improve. I think they’re a young basketball club. I really like Archie Goodwin, Noel, Poythress, and a lot of those guys from an individual talent standpoint. I think the expectation was set somewhat high based upon them winning the national championship last year with that freshman class. I think we have to pause and remember Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for what they were and also the other veteran leaders that were on that team. I think there’s a lot of pressure to live up to a certain expectation. In my opinion, they’re going to start to gel toward the end of the year and I look forward to seeing how they progress and in the SEC tournament. I don’t expect them to win a national championship right now but they could definitely progress and get hot and definitely be in the conversation down the road if they continue to mature and gel as a team.
Daniel Solzman: Thanks again for joining us. Any final words for Big Blue Nation?
Jamal Mashburn: I will always love Big Blue Nation. You guys have always supported me. I always love to spend time and talk with the fans that have supported me in the past. Go Wildcats!