There is no manual for the things that I have experienced and went through. Basketball was an outlet for me. Growing up in the “concrete jungle” of Queens, New York surrounded by vultures and leeches where I was left to grow up by myself. The whole time I thought I was alone in the gym, yet turns out I was watched by millions. My mom could only do so much as she worked two jobs trying to keep me and my family motivated. I didn’t meet my dad until I was thirty years old. My older brother was in and out of jail. My sisters took me down to the park when I was young. My uncle Jimmy was my role-model. Some say I played the game just like him. Turns out those quick hands and silky smooth jumper was no match for the bottle he always kept in his back pocket. He died when I was only six years old. At six years old I felt my world caving in on me. I found my outlet, my ticket out of here, and I never wanted it to leave my hands. Even when it wasn’t my basketball, my sister would beg for them to give me the basketball so that I would stop crying. When I was nine I was staying out till midnight playing basketball. When I was in eighth grade colleges started sending me letters trying to get me to come to their college. While most kids played rec league basketball where everyone got a trophy for participating, I was working on my game. Basketball was work, and I treated it as my job. Turns out I was pretty good at it. Some say I never lived up to my potential.
Guess taking a team to the Final Four your freshman year doesn’t qualify as recognition these days. I gave Georgia Tech my heart and soul for two years, yet where’s the love? I was the best point guard to play in the ACC, best to don a Yellow Jacket jersey. A New York boy left to grow up in Atlanta, Georgia. I went from late nights in an empty gym to packed nightclubs where I never waited in line for a table or a drink. I was a top 5 guarantee for the NBA Draft after my sophomore year, nothing against Georgia Tech that I left early. Guess they might be a little bitter.
I came into the NBA as the youngest player at age nineteen, and was given a five year, fifteen million dollar contract from the New Jersey Nets. What did people expect me to do with all that money? I bought my mom a house, made sure she was taken care of for the rest of her life, and spent the rest experiencing things I wasn’t able to experience growing up. I was a child prodigy back before Twitter and YouTube. My high school games weren’t broadcasted on ESPN, my dad wasn’t there like Tiger Wood’s and Serena Williams’ fathers were. There were no instructions stapled to the checks that I was cashing. The drinking, the partying, the women, all were benefits of my hard work. Sure I regret it now, but I was naïve and immature back then. I wouldn’t have listened to anyone back then. My talent overshadowed my mistakes. It has always been that way since I can remember.
Putting on an NBA jersey, cashing checks, picking them up from school in a fancy car does not make you a great father. I never had a father in my life. So how am I supposed to become a good dad to my kids without making some mistakes? I made mistakes when it comes to my children, and at times I’ve run from those mistakes, but I’m in their lives now. The family photograph hanging over the fireplace doesn’t tell a story. It just captures a moment in time when everyone is smiling. When I was young my mom would always tell me that she knew I enjoyed basketball because I would always play the game with a smile on my face. That smile was a cover up for things that happened while I was a child. That smile dissolved when I got to the NBA and dealt with all the politics. I just wanted to play ball. When given the ball, I played well. Never was given full confidence, but my coaches were quick to lose it.
Toughest defenders I have ever faced are the demons from my life. I never could shake them, and they always had a way of cutting me off from the goal. They followed me everywhere I went, like overzealous paparazzi. You read about me in the papers before you even saw me. You judged me, before even getting to know me. What qualifies a home? I’ve always felt most comfortable in the gym, but have never slept there. I was recognized more in the streets than at home. What do you see when you close your eyes?
What would you give to see what my eyes have seen?
Instructions Not Included: The Life of Kenny Anderson is an in-depth, inclusive view of the life of Kenny Anderson seen through the eyes of Kenny Anderson. You thought you knew Kenny Anderson, but you’ve just heard secondhand stories. Before you label someone, make sure you know that someone. It’s easier to run from mistakes than it is to sit still and have them recreated for you to watch over and over again. Kenny lived life without a manual, and now has written one so that people don’t make the same mistakes he has made.