More than a Ball Player: The David West Interview
by David Leonard | NewBlackMan
One of the more thoughtful and socially active professional athletes, David West, a forward for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers talked with NewBlackMan regular contributor David Leonard, about the current NBA season, the residue of the NBA lockout, the stereotypes of NBA players and what he’s reading these days.
DJL – How has the compressed season been physically and mentally?
DW: The games are just coming. It becomes a grind. 4 games in 5 nights. 12 games in 15 nights. This is physically taxing. There have been injuries around the NBA. You do what you can to get your body prepared but sometimes the body won’t respond. It is not going to get better.
DJL: How does the compressed season impact family
DW: Families are rarely taken into account in a regular season and that is even more of an issue this season. There is really no time. Guys make sacrifices in a normal season and that is even greater right now. There is less time to do anything outside of practice and games.
DJL: Describe your assessment of lockout looking back in terms of relationship between players and owners, how race played out
DW: I went to a few meetings and there was some cryptic language that was used. I was offended by the idea we may not understand certain things. Beyond that, when you are dealing with a certain amount of money in business, there has to be a middle and level ground. In the media, we were portrayed as not knowing anything, as greedy and selfish – to just shut up and play basketball. We expected that.
I always tell people that we very fortunate to be in the NBA but there are a lot of personal sacrifices. So during the lockout guys were able to invest time in themselves, something that often went under the radar. This generation of athletes is a bit more conscious than they get credit for, how they spend and invest their money. I have been in the league for 9 years and when I started out there were high-end cars every where in the player parking lots and now you see less of that. That goes unnoticed. The lockout was a personification of that because guys were prepared to miss paychecks, to miss games. This is a change in the mindset of players.
DJL: It seems that one of the struggles was battling the caricature of today’s NBA player
DW: Every guy doesn’t have the machine behind them. As an individual, it is hard to fight the assumptions made about us. When I first entered the league, people were like “David, what are you talking about” because I wasn’t talking about basketball and I wasn’t talking about mundane things that people expected from me. That puts into perspective what people expect of you; people don’t expect athletes to have anything to offer other than being a source for entertainment. The mind is seen as 2nd or 3rd rate. So often the conversation starts and ends with sports. You find yourself boxed in. I have been labeled as stand-offish because when people engage me they often just want to talk about basketball, and that is not what I always want to talk about. Most guys deal with it and just walk around in a bubble because there is no space for original thoughts from athletes within sports.
DJL: What are your passions, what drives you?
DW: I am passionate about knowing more. Every day I wake up, I want to learn something new. I read a lot on African American history, African history, and history in general. I love to read; I want to be engaged with what is going on socially. I love music, the language that is inside the music, what guys are trying to say, especially with hip-hop. It doesn’t have to be the “conscious rap.” All rappers are conscious because they have the wherewithal and freedom to say something. Regardless of what you hear, even the most childlike rapper or those who rap at the highest level, there is a message there. I like to speak to young people; I don’t like to box myself in just because I have been successful as an athlete.
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