Interview from April 14, 2011
Etan Thomas: Tell me how you grew up?
Jamal Crawford: When I grew up, honestly my mom and dad, I don’t actually ever remember them being together. I always remember staying with my mom, or with my dad. It was never both at the same time. Whenever I interacted with them, they always seemed cordial, but I was either with him or with her. When I was younger, I was with her and my 2 older sisters—I was the youngest—up until 4th or 5th grade in Seattle, Washington. Then I moved to Los Angeles with him and I was there, then I moved back to Seattle, then back to LA, and then back to Seattle for 8th, 9th, 10th grade. I was in between 2 places the whole time. In 4th and 5th grade, when I was in LA, my mom felt I needed a male influence. Then I went back to Seattle. 8th -10th grade, when I was running the streets. I was out there hanging with the wrong crowd, I had no curfew, I’m a teenager, even before my teens doing whatever I wanted to do, coming home at 2 or 3 in the morning, sometimes not coming home at all. She was like, Enough is enough—you’re going to stay with your dad. That’s when I started growing, started seeing what was really going on.
Dad played at Univ of Oregon, he was All City, that’s when All-City in Los Angeles was big. He played against guys like Raymond Lewis and Marques Johnson, all types of guys. He was All-City at Dorsey High School. That’s where I ended up going to school in 10th grade.
After that he went to Univ of Oregon, with guys like Ahmad Rashad and Steve Prefontaine, the famous track runner. He played in Europe, had a workout with the Lakers, but he got hurt at the workout. He ended up going overseas, played in Europe for awhile. That was the extent of his career.
Etan Thomas: How were you able to make it without the support of your father? Was that a difficult mountain to climb so to speak?
Jamal Crawford: My thing was, when I came back to live in L.A., for 8, 9, 10th grade, I wasn’t doing well in school, I was focused on basketball. Coming from a house where I had no rules or restrictions, coming to his house, where I had every rule in the book, I had to conform, and my grades still hadn’t transferred over. I still wasn’t serious about school. I was just serious about basketball. To me, at that time he was mean to me about it, you know, “Basketball is your God, and that’s all you want to do is play basketball; basketball this, basketball that—well you’re not going to play basketball for a month, or 2 months or 3 months or whatever.” Sometimes he would give in and he would let me shoot in the back. We had a little hoop in the back and he’d let me shoot back there. I can tell when someone is disciplining you, and they don’t want you to do something or when there’s a little bit of bitterness behind it. For me, that’s what I felt from him at the time. It was my everything. It was his everything once upon a time as well, but when he didn’t make it, he didn’t know how to react toward that. He turned toward other things, and it bothered him for a long time. After he didn’t make it, he didn’t want that to be my future. You know how many guys grow up playing basketball, I saw where he was coming from, but he took it beyond that. I see you can discipline me for loving basketball too much, but it seemed like there was something else behind it. As I got older, I understood a little bit more, but it was kinda hurtful.
Etan Thomas: Question: Was he supportive of you—did he help you with drills and stuff like that?
Jamal Crawford:I always got excited when he’d shoot with me. Probably to this day he can shoot better than me. I was always excited to shoot with him, play with him, but that didn’t really happen too often. When I did play, he always wanted me to do well, but he just wanted me to do other things. He didn’t steer me away to the point where he was like, don’t ever do it, but he was like, don’t overdo it as well. Don’t go too far with it. The majority of people don’t make it, so don’t say this is all you’re going to do, this is it. As I got older, and I moved back to Washington and got my grades together, then I started becoming a natl name as far as high school goes. That’s when he ended up moving back to Seattle—he had never lived in Seattle as far as I know. And he said, I guess my son does have a future. That’s when he became the full father, supportive, all the way in. I didn’t get that same feeling in 8th, 9th, and 10th grade.
Etan Thomas: What do you think was the reason for that?
He saw my dream was about to become a reality. I’m 16, 17, playing in the Doug Christie summer league, with all these pros, averaging 30 points a game. Damon Stoudamire, Yinka Dare, Cliff Robinson. He was like, Okay, my son has a future. I used to hang a lot with Gary Payton and guys like that, so that’s when he moved back and that’s when he was supportive all the way. But the time he wasn’t, that part still sticks with me.
Etan Thomas:How were you able to keep going despite him not supporting you? Usually when guy’s fathers played, they push them too hard.
Jamal Crawford:That was never the case with me. He never really pushed me towards it. It had to be weird for him, for him to turn me from basketball, and then, my adolescent years, when I get to high school, seeing how close I am to almost actually making it. You know how high school is now, you can almost predict whose going to make it because kids get so much hype. You know who’s going to McDonald’s All American and all that stuff. From that point on, he was all the way. I felt that. To this day, I don’t think we’re as close as he would like us to be. I make sure he’s straight, but we don’t have that foundation for a great father son relationship. Yeah, because of how it was in the beginning. I’m like, Dang, you support me now that I’m about to make it?
Etan Thomas: Was that in the back of your mind all along?
A little bit. But I had so much support from my sisters, mom, grandmothers they were always right there. But it’s different. Take that into consideration with my sons now. It’s different. With my 12-year-old now, his mom can say something, tell him something, but when I say something it’s a totally different effect.
I wanted to make it maybe even more. I did an interview with Ahmad Rashad. We were talking basketball and we were talking about my dad. I said tell me about my dad’s game. Cause I’ve never really asked him. They were in school at the same time. Ahmad played football, but they were close friends. Weird for me to have to ask Ahmad Rashad about my dad’s game.
When I was with the Knicks, we were on West Coast, front office brass, owner and everybody, they did an article, President Steve Mills asked me, Why didn’t you tell us about your dad’s basketball game, how good he was? I said I don’t know. Think about it, for me to be there four years, and for the first three and a half years I never mentioned one word about it. I wouldn’t have mentioned it if the article hadn’t come out. They were almost shocked by that. Because that’s something a kid would want to be proud about.
Etan Thomas: Thats deep man, wellwhen you were going through it when young and not feeling that support, what drove you, what kept you straight?
I think that was what I was born to do. Once I got closer, guys were like you actually have a chance to do it, you could do it, I think that’s what kept me straight. At first the non support with my dad was disheartening, it was frustrating, I was hurt by that. That’s your dad, you only get one of those, he played, you would think he’d push me towards it. After I got past that, I was like, Forget it, whoever is behind me is behind me.
Etan Thomas: You were able to get that support from other people? Was it mostly male figures?
Jamal Craword:My grandmother, my mom, my sisters, those were my main support system, every day. I had coaches when I got to high school, athletic director, different teachers, there was more of a support system, as far as males go. Before that, it was all my sisters and grandmother and my mom.
Etan Thomas: Do you haveany advice to young people who don’t have that support from fathers—not just playing ball, but to be whatever they want to be in life?
Jamal Crawford: My advice would be, I know it’s going to feel like it’s more difficult, but it’s really not, it gives you strength. Whenever you can overcome those hurdles you feel like you can get through anything. But you can’t use it as a crutch. I’m dealing with a kid now in Seattle, 17 years old, he’s been in the streets, been in shootouts, he’s one of most notorious guys on the streets out there, but he’s really talented in basketball. He wants to change, but some people in his past won’t let him go. They want to affect his future. He’s trying to do all the right things, but the first thing he’s saying is, My dad’s in jail, my mom, I don’t even really talk to her. That’s why I’m doing this. But I told him, Now you have a support system, you have myself, you have this guardian, this teacher, this coach. Now you have a team in place who cares about you. So now you can’t use that as an excuse. If you’re going to do the right thing, we’re going to meet you halfway, so you have no worries. You don’t have any worries about where you’re going to sleep tonight, if you’re going to sleep on an air mattress, if you’re going to have lunch money, if you’re going to have shoes that don’t have holes in them. We’re going to make sure everything’s in place so there are no excuses. You can’t use that as a crutch anymore. At some point, people aren’t going to care if you have something or if you don’t. Like Jay Z. He grew up in Marcy Projects. He may go down as the best rapper in history; he couldn’t even get a record deal. Would have been easy for him when he first started to say, Oh, I can’t get a record deal, I’m done rapping. Nobody would have ever known Jay Z. He wouldn’t be doing deals with Bill Gates every summer or going to lunch with Warren Buffet or helping to get President Obama elected. Can’t use that as an excuse. That’s the easy way out. It’ hard to do the right thing. Easy to say I don’t have this, this, and this, so I’m not going to do it. Takes that inner drive and inner determination to do it. I don’t think “can’t” is in a man’s vocabulary. You can definitely do it.