By Reinis Lacis (@LamarMatic)
James Donaldson describes his journey from joining his high school basketball team only as a junior to becoming an NBA All-Star. We also discussed the late 1980s Dallas Mavericks, the Winnebago Wall of James, Jack Sikma and Lonnie Shelton, and why the Clippers were the NBA’s wasteland.
Topics discussed in the podcast:
01:35 – James being born in the United Kingdom, not playing sports until coach Chuck Calhoun started working with him during his junior year, senior year being the first of organized basketball;
08:15 – George Raveling and other coaches starting to notice James, basketball phenom Bill Cartwright helping his cause by attending high school a mere 15 miles away;
11:15 – James working on his physique with track and field coach Rick Sloan during his first two years at Washington State, getting his opportunity as a junior when Norton Barnhill, Ron Davis and Steve Puidokas had started their pro careers;
15:10 – Coach Raveling’s relationship with Lenny Wilkens helping James to get drafted by the Sonics in the 1979 NBA draft, their roster already being full, going to Italy to play more and improve;
17:40 – James’s experience in Italy, a contractual problem he had with the Siena club, Ron Behagen joining the team soon after to take James’s spot on the team;
20:30 – The Winnebago Wall of James Donaldson, Jack Sikma and Lonnie Shelton:
Veterans like John Johnson and Fred Brown taking James under his wing, working with him on his game;
24:50 – James wishing to stay with Seattle his whole career before an unexpected trade for Tom Chambers landed him with the Los Angeles Clippers, Jim Lynam having to convince him to move forward and back up (and often play in the place of) Bill Walton;
31:35 – What was wrong with the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1980s, it being a dumping ground for misfits and players past their primes, management being impossible to negotiate with, Norm Nixon being an example of how players had a sour attitude when joining the Clippers;
35:20 – The trade to the Dallas Mavericks where James had the apex of his career, Dick Motta being the perfect coach for him, a no-nonsense coach who treated everyone the same before owner Don Carter started to interfere;
38:40 – Roy Tarpley‘s abilities and versatile skillset;
39:30 – James replacing the injured Steve Johnson for the 1988 All-Star game, his mindset of not deserving the selection, coaches and management re-assuring him that he was picked by David Stern for a reason;
45:00 – The Los Angeles Lakers – Dallas Mavericks 1988 Western Conference finals, Dallas’s big front court giving them a chance to battle with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a poor fourth quarter in Game 7 preventing them from playing in the finals;
46:50 – The team feeling that they would return and be back deep in the playoffs next year, things unraveling, Mark Aguirre acting up and demanding a trade, Roy Tarpley not being able to stay out of trouble, John MacLeod, a very nice guy, being taken advantage of;
52:00 – James averaging 15.2 points and 15.6 rebounds per game in his last twelve games, playing his best basketball ever before a ruptured patellar tendon, Clifford Ray‘s coaching allowing him to improve;
54:00 – James going through physical therapy and realizing that it is something he wants to do after his career, opening a clinic and working with people;
58:20 – Wanting to make a difference, working with the National Basketball Retired Players Association to help former players develop skills after their career, providing them with programs to be great at something else, the post -career struggles of players like Joe Pace (the blog entry written by James about Joe Pace).
The media related to the podcast:
James’s block on James Worthy to force a Game 7 in 1988’s Western finals:
Notable snippets of the interview:
Thanks to James for coming on the podcast and being so engaged and insightful about his career!