The Good Word With…Sam Perkins

The Good Word is Talia Bargil's weekly Q&A featuring pro basketball's greatest and most interesting legends.

Q: We are just passed the All-Star break. Thoughts on the season thus far?
It’s hard to say where teams will be at the end of the regular season. Everyone is playing on cruise control right now, with games almost every night.

As far as surprise teams, it’s still somewhat the Spurs I believe. Indiana is also surprising, they are the ones under the radar. Minnesota is promising, but it’s tough because that’s a team that doesn’t get a lot of publicity…they’re not the Knicks. Now when it comes to Philly, last year the team wasn’t really together. But, with the young team they have now, in addition to Iguodala, they all seem to be on the same page. That turnout is surprising – they went from in the cellar to near the top of their conference.

Jeremy Lin, that’s a whole other story. From coming out of nowhere to getting people fired up and making up slang and nicknames for him, he has changed the dynamics on and off the court. All of the attention has gravitated toward him, and he’s all over the news. He’s not the prototype we are used to, like Deron Williams, CP3, Rondo, but you have to guard him like you would anybody else.

But I think that if he weren’t in New York, Linsanity probably wouldn’t have happened. If he played in Houston or Sacramento, it would be a story and that would be it. But because it’s happening in New York, he’s in the center of things and all the headlines. I’m sure it will die down.

Q: Your alma mater UNC is having quite a season. What’s your prediction on how March Madness will go for them?
I honestly don’t think they will fare well. I think they need shooters. They get blown out, they have lapses in the last seconds. They are up and down. Look at Xavier, Kentucky, these other teams are so hungry – they come out with conviction. I’ll definitely watch UNC play this month, but it seems they have so much inconsistency that it will be hard to put things together.

Q: Which current NBA player reminds you of a young Sam Perkins?
The closest guy would probably be like a Chris Bosh for a few reasons. He’s left-handed, and he’s not necessarily the guy that gets the pub, but he’s a team player and goes out there and plays hard. I think that’s a fair assessment.

Q: You have really evolved into a global ambassador of the game of basketball. Any particularly interesting trips lately?
I recently went with Dikembe to assist him in Sudan, the home of Manute Bol. We were there to talk about NBA ideas and see if we could develop a rapport or even try to continue what Manute was trying to do in his homeland when he was alive. The people there talk about what he was trying to do for his people, and his relatives are trying to fulfill his dreams and further his quest to help the people of Sudan.

In parts of Africa, the NBA already has implemented some programs, and they were interested to see if Sudan was a possible consideration for NBA programming like Basketball Without Borders. There were a lot of meetings, of course, but we also did some camps with boys and girls. A lot of the locals were taken aback by the idea of women playing basketball – many feel they should be home doing the domestic stuff. But these females were young, and they could play. Sudan is a well known soccer country, but we are encouraging them to try to get behind basketball.

Dikembe and I have been friends because of our Association with the NBA, and we travel in the same circle of people and have been on trips together before. But this was more about he and I trying to collaborate and get ideas to send back to the NBA. It was a really good trip.

Q: And what else do you have going on these days?
A lot of people don’t really know, but I am an assistant coach with the D-League’s Texas Legends in Frisco, Texas. I’m doing a little player development, trying to help the young guys in the Developmental League play at a consistently high level. I never thought I’d be coaching. I’ve had a taste of management, player development, and of course playing, but I never thought I’d coach.

Now I can see why you have to invest so much time as a coach. You have to pay close attention to it; you can’t help but go home with it. I’ve learned a lot from our head coach Del Harris. It’s challenging in the D-League because we have like 35 players coming through the door at any given time, and you have to deal with the highs and lows of players getting cut. The door is swinging a lot…it’s a lot for a coach to take in.

I’m also on the Board for the Special Olympics, which I’m very involved with. There are a lot of things keeping me busy, especially raising my twin girls. I am trying to get them in the right mode for applying to colleges and am making sure they are doing well in the academic world.

A 17-year NBA veteran and lethal three-point shooter, Sam Perkins, also known as “Big Smooth,” remains an NBA fan favorite. Selected fourth overall by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1984 NBA Draft, the 6’9” power forward/center enjoyed a successful NBA career with teams including the Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Seattle Sonics and Indiana Pacers. In addition to making NBA All-Rookie First Team and recording the only 30-20 game in Mavericks history, Perkins was the co-captain of the gold-medal winning 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team. A college standout and graduate from the University of North Carolina and member of the 1982 NCAA Champion North Carolina Tar Heels, he was named to the ACC’s 50th Anniversary men’s basketball team as one of the 50 greatest players in Atlantic Coast Conference history.  

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