I don’t tell a lot of “back in the day when I interviewed (blank)” stories on my blog, because for one thing, I don’t know how many people really would care, and 2, living in the past can sometimes be depressing.
But I was talking to a friend about this guy the other day and reminiscing about this story I’m about to tell you, and then I saw him playing an NBA game while flipping through the channels that night, so I figured the universe was telling me something.
It’s the story of a young sportswriter, an emerging NBA star, and the biggest “famous person” jerk I interviewed in my sportswriting career.
In the winter of 2001-02, Andre Miller was a rising stud in the world of pro basketball. A couple years before he’d helped lead University of Utah to the Final Four, and now as a super-fast guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he seemed like a natural choice for a feature story in SLAM magazine, where at the time I was an associate editor.
So after a few calls to the Cavs’ PR guys, I arranged an interview with Miller at a fancy NYC hotel (can’t remember which one) when Cleveland was in town in a few weeks to play the Knicks.
Was told to meet Andre at 11 in the lobby, on the team’s off day. Got there at 10:45, and then at 11 … no Andre. Athletes are notoriously late for media interviews, so no big deal.
Then, 11:30, no Andre. Noon, no Andre. I’m calling the PR guy and getting no answer, while silently stewing in the lobby while hotel employees give quizzical looks to this little dude with the tape recorder and briefcase pacing back and forth and getting madder.
Finally, around 12:30, Andre shows up. No apology, no explanation, just a “come on up to my room and we’ll do the interview there.”
We get up to the room, he opens the door, and we’re both surprised to find a very attractive woman, fully clothed, lying on the bed.
Clearly, she didn’t expect Andre to have company. Andre gives her a look and then quietly says, “Could you come back in like a half-hour?”
(Believe it or not, this was the first and only time I’d ever interviewed a player in their hotel room, so of course I remembered what happened there).
OK, so the woman leaves, and I’m psyched I’m finally going to get to do the interview. Sure, we’re off to a rocky start, but he’s a young, exciting superstar and I’m going to ask him great questions and get a great story and …
It. Was. Awful. Andre sits down at the desk in the room, and proceeds to open a magazine. And then answered my queries in a monotone, emotionless voice while reading the magazine the entire time I was in the room. Literally, he made eye contact only once; he was answering some question about a childhood experience and said something like “Man, I didn’t even really want to be there at that time, you know when you really don’t want to be somewhere?”
And at this point I was pretty exasperated with Andre and shot back, “Yeah, kind of like how you don’t even want to be here right now doing this interview.”
And he finally looked up and said “No, man, I do want to.” Then looked down and kept flipping through his magazine the rest of the interview.
After about 25 minutes, I gave up, thanked him and left the room.
If I had been older and more experienced, I would’ve seen how rude he was being and just said “screw it, I don’t need to be treated like this” and left after 5 minutes. No one before or since ever acted like that with me in an interview.
But I was 25, new in the business still, and didn’t have the courage to do that. But I’ve never forgotten it, how small he made me feel, how shabbily he treated me that day. I covered the NBA a little bit more in my career but never had to interview him again, thankfully.
Andre Miller’s still playing all these years later, in Sacramento now, I think. Every time I see him on TV I think about that day, and what an ass he was.
Maybe he’s a great guy now. Maybe he was just having a crappy day, or week.
But sportswriters never forget.
**Finally today, Bob Barker and Adam Sandler, co-stars in “Happy Gilmore” (which somehow was robbed of an Oscar), teamed back up for a Comedy Central charity event over the weekend, and let’s just say it starts out lovey-dovey and then gets violent… and hilarious.