HORACE STILL BULLISH ABOUT NBA

Horace Grant talks to MVP ahead of NBA London 2016.

Grant, now 50, won three titles with the Chicago Bulls (1991-93) and one with the Los Angeles Lakers (2001), is now an ambassador for the NBA and in addition to his media duties will be taking part in a number of NBA clinics during his time here.

He spoke with MVP’s Niall Gray on a number of topics including his time in Chicago, playing in the NBA finals and the two teams who are in London this week.

Horace, what was it like to get drafted into the NBA and join the Chicago Bulls…

Joining the Bulls back in 1987 was one of the highlights of my life. Being there and knowing you are going to be playing alongside Michael Jordan was like, wow! I could hardly believe it.

I had a very good friend in Scottie Pippen in the same draft and we became friends that particular night, and we’re still friends to this very day.

We kind of leaned on each other as we didn’t know what to expect [as rookies]. I don’t think we would have made it without each other because the expectations of being drafted in the top ten; there’s a lot of expectation on you.

You must hate remembering that loss to Detroit in that infamous 1990 Eastern Conference Finals series…

Each year, our thought was get past the Pistons. They were like that big brother that when you get here, we’re going to spank you and then you are going to go home for the summer.

As we matured as a team we looked at our big brothers like we can’t allow this anymore. That seven-game series really turned the franchise around in terms of us maturing as team to get [past] the Pistons the next year.

What is it like to finally beating the Pistons in 1991?

It was great. Michael Jordan being our leader said we couldn’t beat them mentally. He said, “If we as a team get mentally caught up in their antics, they are going to beat us. So keep your cool.”

And that’s what we did, keep our cool and play ball, and we were very successful.

If I could go back in time, I would go back to when we beat the Detroit Pistons and they walked off the floor. I wish I had a cigar when they were walking off the floor and I could have a puff!

Talk about reaching the NBA finals in 1991 and facing the Los Angeles Lakers.

I have never been so nervous in my life! Being in the finals for the first time and you’re looking over at Magic Johnson and James Worthy, who have multiple championships.

And then you’re looking our leader Michael Jordan and he is cool, calm and collective and I think that rubbed off on us as a team.

The turning point in the series was we had a chance to win the first game in Chicago. Michael Jordan had a shot which went in the rim and then bounced out. For some reason, even losing that game gave us confidence and then we came back winning four in a row, the next one in Chicago and the three in LA.

What memories do you have of the Bulls’ former home, Chicago Stadium?

It was magnificent. It was one of the most run-down, rodent-infested places. Sometimes the heat didn’t work or the air [conditioning] didn’t work, but the fans and the building… it was fantastic there.

Whenever you have fans like we did, just crazy fans, they expect you to win every game, but they also expect you to work hard and give them their money’s worth. Believe me, when you have fans like that, you want to dive in the crowd to save a ball and things of that nature. It was fun, fun, fun.

Grant talks to MVP's Niall Gray (Mansoor Ahmed)

Grant talks to MVP’s Niall Gray (Mansoor Ahmed)

Tell me your favourite finals moments while with the Bulls.

Me personally, the ‘93 finals when I passed John Paxson the ball for his three-pointer [which put the Bulls ahead and on next play] I ended up blocking Kevin Johnson’s shot [to clinch the title]. And also the 93’ series for the three-overtime game that they beat us in.

Was it cool to reach the Finals again in 1995, this time with Orlando Magic?

We were young and when you have two leaders like Shaq [O’Neal] and Penny [Hardaway] being young, I brought some stability, but they were our leaders.

I think a lot of the guys were just happy being there and they didn’t know what it took to win a finals and you have to give credit to Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, Clyde Drexler, Robert Horry… They played very, very well.

How was your fourth and final Championship in 2001 with the Lakers?

Shaq and Kobe Bryant had just won their first championship with Phil Jackson as the coach and I knew exactly what he wanted from me. He wanted some stability and he wanted me to do what I did in Chicago in terms of rebounding, blocking shots and help with the running of the triangle [offense]. That’s basically what I did in a supporting role.

Your nephews Jerami and Jerian Grant are both playing in the NBA now..

Proud uncle, oh yes! They text and call all the time and I give them advice. Jerami, who is in Philly, they are not having a great season, and I just said, “keep playing hard because your team is going to depend on you and you’ve got many, many years, so just keep playing.

My nephew in New York, Jerian, I told him, I said, “look, if you get down and you play some great defence, you’ll be a star during the year.”

My brother [Harvey, Horace’s twin] goes see them play all the time. When they play each other, he sits there quietly and critiques! A lot of critiquing!

I haven’t been to see them play yet, but I will.

How about the Magic and Raptors…?

I see two young basketball teams in the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic. Toronto, you know, have made the playoffs a few years in a row with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, and they are one of the best teams in the East.

The Orlando Magic are such a young basketball team that I still feel have a way to go, but under the tutelage of Scott Skiles, I think they are ahead of the timeframe. I think as long as they play some good defence, I think they will be ok.

The Eastern Conference has really improved..

The NBA is so competitive right now, especially in the Eastern Conference. You have Cleveland [at the top] and then you have the Bulls, Atlanta, Toronto and Miami is playing some good basketball right now. The East still has a way to go, compared to the West. When you talk about the West you are talking about Golden State, San Antonio, the Clippers and so forth.

What are you most thankful for?

I am very thankful to the Chicago Bulls and the teams I played for, the Lakers and Orlando for giving me the opportunity to showcase my skills and be part of three great families.

The Orlando Magic host the Toronto Raptors at The O2 in London on Jan. 14 as part of NBA Global Games London 2016. The game is live via NBA LEAGUE PASS (www.nba.tv).

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