From his beginnings in Seattle, Washington to his current position as a Guard on the New York Knicks, Jamal Crawford has already had some amazing lifetime experiences. He started his professional basketball career in 2000 with the Chicago Bulls, and drew inspiration from some of the greats in the game. He moved over to the Knicks in 2004, and has excelled with each new season.
Many players in the NBA have been endorsed by standard athletic brands, and have even started their own sneaker lines. Meanwhile, Jamal took a different path by taking on Jay-Zs S. Carter sneakers for the court. He has been delving into entrepreneurial ventures including a restaurant in Seattle, and is active in giving back to the community whenever he can. We sat down with Jamal to discuss his future plans, the affiliation with Jay-Z and just how good the Knicks will do this year.
[Editors note: This interview was done prior to the Isaiah Thomas trial].
AllHipHop.com: This season there are a whole bunch of transitions that took place with Isiah [Thomas] coming on board. What are the prospects looking like for the Knicks this season?
Jamal Crawford: I think this year well be a lot better, first off everybody is healthy. Q Richardson got hurt, I got hurt, David Lee got hurt, Steph got hurt. Thats basically four starters, I dont think no team in the NBA could have withstood that, losing four starters and still being competitive. But we were competitors every night and that gave our young guys a chance to grow, seeing that everybody got hurt. Boston made some big moves, they got Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett but I kind of look at them like the Lakers that year when they had Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant, Shaq and Karl Malone.
Theres only one ball, theres gonna be some chemistry issues to work out. We also made moves, I think Isiah did a great thing getting Zack Randolph, whenever you can get a 20 [point]/10[rebound] guy I think that helps; Isiah knows talent, he drafted Wilson Chandler and I seen him play today, I think hes gonna be real good. But Isiah also drafted Tracy McGrady and Damon Stoudamire, so he definitely knows how to pick em.
AllHipHop.com: So you think you could be a contender for the playoffs?
Jamal Crawford: Yeah! Why not? I think with everybody healthy the skys the limit for us. Cleveland went to the finals, and not to knock LeBron or anybody on the team but I think if we would have played them in a seven game series I believe we woulda beat em. I think the skys the limit for us, and thats why were here now working out together.
AllHipHop.com: Where do you see your role now in this new fit?
Jamal Crawford: I think well definitely play inside out. Well go to Eddie and Zack to start off games, most good teams have good big men, then they kick it out and we do our thing. I think when the game is close the perimeter players will still have the ball.
AllHipHop.com: But when the game is close you always get the ball at the last second
Jamal Crawford: Yeah Ill still have it for sure, but I think well be really really good. I think everybody knows their roles, Steph sacrificed a lot last year. I think that allowed David Lee, Eddie Curry and myself to grow in particular.
AllHipHop.com: Because youve seen him scale back
Jamal Crawford: Yeah and thats kind of hard to do. Theres only two people in NBA history who have averaged 20 and 8. Oscar Robertson is one and Stephon Marbury is the other. So for him to say, Ill do whatever it takes for us to have the best chance to win – that says a lot about him.
AllHipHop.com: Do you see yourself being a part of the team as far as bringing a championship to New York?
Jamal Crawford: Definitely one day – I think our fans have been really patient. Even before I got here theyve been really patient, and I think honestly now they can see the pieces. We got the pieces to the puzzle and now its just all about coming together and I think well do that.
AllHipHop.com: Youre the eccentric part of the team. When you score those last second shots or even when everybody anticipates you getting the ball as the clock is winding down. How does that feel?
Jamal Crawford: I live for that honestly. I dont smoke weed or drink or anything like that, and Im not knocking those who do, but to me thats the greatest high. To see all your favorite celebrities and your family in the stand and 20,000 people in unison at one time going crazy when you make a shot, theres not a feeling like it. I live for that, I think ever since I was a kid Id count down five, four, three, two, one but now theres a chance to do it on a bigger stage.
AllHipHop.com: Why hasnt the NBA been as exciting recently, and who are the key players that you see that are gonna bring it back?
Jamal Crawford: I definitely see it coming back, I dont know what the dip off was for. You have teams like the Spurs and the Pistons who had their run, L.A. had their run but they were just beating everyone so theres no excitement in that. But now its a lot more parity in the league you see guys like Carmelo Anthony hitting big shots, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, myself, Gilbert Arenas, Kobe Bryant. All those guys are hitting really big shots and that brings the excitement back to the game. It makes it more of a college atmosphere where were really trying to win out there and I think the fans are really enjoying it.
AllHipHop.com: It was a changing of the guards too.
Jamal Crawford: Yeah, were enjoying it. I forgot what our record is but weve only lost one overtime game in two years. We usually win most overtime games and thats what the fans really wanna see.
AllHipHop.com: With reference to ballplayers that have gotten into Hip-Hop [whether starting labels or rapping themselves], do you feel that thats a distraction to what the ballplayers are doing or do you feel it can accentuate what theyre trying to do outside of basketball?
Jamal Crawford: I think they go hand in hand, because if you see a guy like Allen Iverson you see the tattoos, braids and jewelry, thats a part of Hip-Hop. Thats why most ballplayers wanna rap and most rappers wanna shoot the jumpshot. I dont think it takes away from them as a player but I think everybody pretty much finds time to work hard on their craft. You get out what you put into it, its fun to watch Allen Iverson do a rap. You used to seeing him crossover people, but thats different side of himself that hes showing.
AllHipHop.com: Youve affiliated yourself with Rocawear. Talk a little bit about that and where you see that going for yourself.
Jamal Crawford: I think its great, Ive always been a fan of Jay-Z, and Michael Jordan is the one who set up me meeting Jay-Z and the relationship just took off. I came and played for him in the Rucker [tournament] with his S. Carter team and it just went from there. Myself and Jalen Rose were both with Reebok, and our lockers were right by each other. Im a big fan of S Dots, they had taken off and were the fastest selling shoe in Reebok history. I saw a basketball one in my locker, then I looked up at Jalens locker and I didnt see one in his locker. I saw that he didnt have any so Im like, Whats this? I tried em on and I loved em.
I talked to Reebok and basically they were like, If you like it, Jays gonna come out with a basketball shoe and he wants you to endorse it. I was honored like, I love them already. They said, No, you gotta walk around tell me if you can play in them. From there the relationship just took off, we did commercials together and we been doin it for four years now. So I have no regrets at all with that.
AllHipHop.com: Would you look at starting your own line?
Jamal Crawford: One of my teammates, Stephon Marbury, started his own line of sneakers, its wildly successful. A $14 pair of shoes, you got 10-year-olds who can go and get that, and I commend him for that. But Ive never really thought about starting my own line, Im fine with S Dot right now.
AllHipHop.com: Youre a Seattle native and you opened [SPORT Restaurant and Bar] in Seattle. How has the business been for you?
Jamal Crawford: Its definitely been great, I didnt know how it was gonna be at first. Theres this great chef out in Seattle named John Howie. Hes the primary owner, but Im a partner in the restaurant, LeBron James is a partner in the restaurant, some people that work up at the KUBE radio station are partners, and [also] baseball players. Its been great, the first year ESPNs Cold Pizza did the top 25 sports bars in the country and we made that list. So its been good.
AllHipHop.com: Do you see that going outside of Seattle at all?
Jamal Crawford: Yeah I think so, I think theres some areas in Washington that we wanna hit first and from there well expand. Hopefully New York, Chicago, everywhere you go youll see a SPORT.
AllHipHop.com: Youve had some other aspirations in your life. If you werent playing basketball what would you do?
Jamal Crawford: I think Id be an architect, I like designing things. Im not a really good drawer, but just the creativity part that I like. Im adding some stuff onto my house right now that should look really good when Im done. Im not one for the limelight and spotlight and stuff, Im cool just going about my day and not being noticed and stuff like that. Sometimes its hard, but I think artists get paid well and its a great job. Its something you love to do.
AllHipHop.com: With Eddie Curry and Antoine Walker getting robbed, whats your take on the whole situation with people coming at ballplayers [to rob them]?
Jamal Crawford: I think first off it has to be somebody that both of those guys knew. To have the courage to come in somebodys house anything can happen to you. I played in Chicago before so theres definitely some rough spots. Theres some people and areas you stay away from, those guys were in good neighborhoods and areas. For people to come in their house and invade their privacy, and take their friends, families and relatives up that sounds like a movie or something. I know Toine as well, but me and Eddie, thats one of my best friends. So my heart goes out to him and his family.
AllHipHop.com: How is he now? Is he alright?
Jamal Crawford: Yeah hes alright, hes in New York actually but hes alright. That shakes anybody up, when you see you, your wife or girlfriend duct taped they can take your life if they want to. Some knuckleheads out there might, you never know. I know he loves where he stays but Im not sure I could stay there still. Being invaded like that, theres no way.
AllHipHop.com: Whats your take on Randolph? They say he has his problems in Portland, and coming to New York this is bright lights and a big city.
Jamal Crawford: First off Ive known Zack for a while and then Brandon Roy is one of my best friends in the world. He played with Zack this last year and he loves Zack. He said he pretty much got a bum wrap. Hes loyal to his friends, these are the friends he had since hes grown up. But I think Zack kinda needed a change of scenery and theres no brighter stage than here in New York. I think everything a person does is under a microscope, but I think that would help make him more responsible and kind of sway him away from different things.
AllHipHop.com: With the recent referee [Tim Donaghy] scandal, do you think theres gonna be anymore of those refs coming out?
Jamal Crawford: Thats tough because I would have never predicted that he was involved with that, so Im not sure. You never can tell but I think Commissioner Stern will do the right thing and get it under control.
AllHipHop.com: Where do you see yourself two years from now, on and off the court?
Jamal Crawford: On the court, hopefully Ill have a championship or be right there contending for one and off the court keep adding to my family maybe, I wanna get into movies. Its such a short window, a basketball career on the average is four years but if you play 14-15 years thats just one small part of your life. Different things, movies, real estate. I just want to get into different things and enjoy life.
AllHipHop.com: We dont see you really out there at the parties. Why is that? Do you feel youd be swallowed up in the whole city life?
Jamal Crawford: I think my first year here I went out the most. Then I scaled back and now I hardly ever go out. Its cool to go out but sometimes the same thing and the same people you see it, it can be Hollywood, fake people. So I just kind of stay away from that and stay in my own cocoon. You get attention by playing basketball but thats not really what Im really about, Im a homebody.
AllHipHop.com: What are your top ways that you like to stay in shape?
My top things to help keep you in shape, and this is something anybody can do. Number one: Just get a walk in, it doesnt have to be far. It could be half a mile but that half mile everyday will add up. Even if you wanna do it with one of your coworkers or your partners, I think it makes it a lot easier. Number two: Doing pushups and situps, stuff like that really helps because you lift up your own body weight all of the time.
Number three: Run on the treadmill, its always good. I even hate running on the treadmill but I think that it definitely helps your stamina and your cardiovascular and it continues to help give you energy. Number four: Eating right, I think thats very important, because if you dont eat right then all is for naught. If you go work out and have that half mile work then you go have burgers and chicken dips, then it was all for nothing.
AllHipHop.com: What helps your jumping ability?
Jamal Crawford: For me squats, I do a bunch of leg exercises jumping around with weights, wearing weight vests, running bleachers, running stadium stairs, doing monsters and lunges that all helps. The form is just repetition; thats the best practice, to keep doing something over and over again. If you wanna be great at your craft and you wanna make it, I think you gotta put the time and work in.
AllHipHop.com: Do your S Dots help you run faster?
Jamal Crawford: Yeah, they help me jump higher too. The first time I got 50 points, Jay paged me like, It must be the shoes and started laughing. So they give me that extra oomph.