Television analyst and former NBA player Kenny Smith is now working for NBA TV during the NBA Finals and serving as a guest columnist for the Los Angeles Times and Orlando Sentinel.
I used to say I was the only guy in Queens with a championship ring. In the modern-day era, I was the only guy with a ring. Speedy Claxton then had one for being on the Spurs and now Lamar Odom, with the Lakers, could be next . . . or the Magic's Rafer Alston.
The funny thing is both Rafer and Lamar used to play on the same AAU basketball team that I sponsored when they were 11 years old. I'll tell you the other two: Speedy Claxton and Ron Artest. These were 11-year-old kids.
That kind of talent pool just doesn't happen with that many kids that young, that good.
Ron? Ron was very consistent. His behavior is very consistent. I used to say that some of the things he got praised for were going to be detrimental down the road. And the coaches back then didn't understand what I meant. At the time, I was a young NBA player and on my sponsored team, my older brother Vincent coached.
You could praise Ron's intensity to a point. The coaches would say, "Ron's the only one who cares if we lose or win." The guys should care. There's a fine line.
They all used to see me and Kenny Anderson, the former New Jersey Nets point guard, working out in the gym and I knew what they were thinking: "We're next."
But Lamar grew so quickly. In one year, he grew six, seven inches. He went from being a point guard to being a big guy.
That's why he has all those ball-handling skills. He did the same drills Kenny Anderson did. He plays like a 6-10 Kenny Anderson. They get to the rim the same way.
I don't think Lamar back then ate as much candy as he does now.
I remember seeing Lamar coming back the next summer and I didn't know it was the same guy because he had grown so much. I was sitting there watching the first quarter of the game and my brother was like, "That's Lamar." He had grown so quickly that I didn't recognize him.
We called Rafer "Penny Loafers." He wasn't yet "Skip to My Lou."
He got that nickname when I brought the team to Houston and my brother was coaching them. I said, "All right, you have to wear shoes to dinner." And Rafer didn't bring any shoes, he only brought sneakers. I sent him to the store because we were going to a nice restaurant. "You've gotta wear shoes." He got penny loafers and he put the penny in there. It was pretty funny.