When I was in sixth grade, my basketball team played a weekend game against Anthony Tolliver‘s basketball team. I think we were the Bullets at that time, and we played in what I thought were pretty fancy reversible jerseys — one side was white, but most of the time we wore it on the black side. We were an ordinary team of sixth graders.
Anthony’s team, on the other hand, was not ordinary. They were the Heat, but they weren’t the Heat like we were the Bullets; they actually wore jerseys that looked just like the ones the Miami Heat wore at the time. As far as my team was concerned, they may as well have actually been the Miami Heat. The jerseys weren’t the only thing out of the ordinary about this team, you see. They were also really, really good.
Not long into the game, I found myself in the corner with Anthony standing in front of me with the ball in his hands. “Hey Spence,” he greeted me cheerfully while simultaneously burying a jumper right in my face. By the end of the game, the score was 100-2. I’m serious. They scored 100, and we scored 2. This memory may be 20 years old, but when you lose that badly, you don’t forget it.
A few years later during basketball tryouts, we were all split up into small groups and positioned at different basketball goals throughout the gym at Cherokee Middle School one fall afternoon. My group included Anthony. The plan was to have a series of one-on-one matches, and the person who scored on the other got to stay and the next person in line rotated in. The problem is, Anthony wouldn’t let anyone win. The rest of us went in and out as if through a revolving door while Anthony waited for the next person in line to face him — and lose.
Finally the coach overseeing tryouts took note that our group wasn’t getting a chance to run the system the way it was meant to operate because Anthony was too good. “Why don’t you sit the next few rounds out, Anthony?” he suggested wisely, realizing that if he didn’t step in the entire drill was going to be Anthony dominating everyone in one-on-one instead of different matchups taking place. Anthony sighed and removed himself from the group, disappointed that he was being forced out of the action he was so clearly enjoying. I’m pretty sure he made the team that year.
Twenty years later, he’s getting paid to wear real NBA jerseys, and people can even pay money to wear a jersey with his name on the back of it. Being that my basketball love has reached all-time heights this season, I thought it would only be fitting if I caught up to Anthony in the cyber universe and fired some interview questions at him via email. The following are the results.
This is your eighth NBA season. How has your mindset changed as you’ve transitioned from the young, unproven guy who first busted out with the Warriors to the veteran leader you are today?
My mindset is completely different now! When I was first getting a shot in this league, I was constantly needing to prove myself. It takes a long time to establish yourself, so the first few years are always tough. Now that I have a reputation, my mindset is focused on staying in the league!
You’ve played with several NBA teams and learned a lot of different systems over the years. What sets Stan Van Gundy’s system apart from some of your other stops?
His four-out one-in system fits what I do perfectly. Since I am a big guy who can shoot it from distance, being in an offense that allows me to be spread out really plays to my advantage.
You guys have proven to be a very strong contender in a tough conference. With the halfway point just having passed, how does the team feel about where it’s headed?
We feel that we are in really good shape. We have definitely dropped some games that we feel we should have won, but we have also stolen some games too, so it all evens out. We are a very confident bunch of guys, and we look forward to pushing for playoff positioning.
Andre Drummond doesn’t let anyone else get a rebound. Why is he so selfish?
That selfishness will make him an All-Star one day… hopefully this year!
You’re on record as saying you’d love to stay in Detroit, but I’d appreciate a pinky promise that you’ll come to Dallas if that doesn’t work out. I’m tired of watching Charlie Villanueva miss all his threes, and I think you’d fit in great with the Mavericks. I think I even read that you make your home in the Dallas area now. It’s destiny! You can tell Mark Cuban we already came to an agreement.
I love Detroit, but if the opportunity came about, Dallas would be very high on my list as well! That is where my family and I live so that would be tough to pass up. We shall see what free agency brings!
I know you’re a huge NBA fan, not just a player in it for the paycheck. Am I accurate in guessing you’re a League Pass subscriber who watches as many games on TV as possible when those rare downtime periods come about?
I have been a fan of NBA basketball since I was in pre-school, and that is part of the reason why I became so good — because I watched so much. Now that I have a family, I actually do not have League Pass. I know if I did have it then it would be hard to pry me away from the TV. That is my way of balancing out my job and my life.
You spent a year playing with current Mavericks Zaza Pachulia and John Jenkins in Atlanta as well as J.J. Barea in Minnesota. Please tell me you have some embarrassing inside stories about those guys. Fond memories will also suffice in a pinch.
Zaza Pachulia would always get really mad at me when I farted out loud. He would look at me with complete disgust every single time, so I really tried not to fart around him much. Finally at the very end of the season, I farted in front of him and he gave me the glare… then smiled. He said that he was joking about being pissed off. Still to this day, I’m not sure if he meant just that once… or for the entire year! No stories about those other guys… good guys though!
What’s a typical day like for you when the Pistons are off and you’re home?
A typical off-day for me starts out by playing with my son in his toy room for awhile before we eat breakfast. Then I usually go into the gym and get a few shots up (like 200-300 makes or so) followed by a massage and some other recovery. Then in the afternoon, I usually find some activity for my family and I to do, whether it be a local car show or maybe an indoor play place so my son can run off some energy. I usually finish off the day by watching a movie with my wife and kids, and then it’s off to bed.