LUC LONGLEY: A Foot Note in NBA History
On September 27, 2001 the greatest basketball player ever announced he was coming back for the second time. His return is the subject of much debate. It dominated the headlines. That player, of course, is Michael Jordan. On that same date one of the players that most benefited from Jordan's first comeback retired. His retirement did not generate much discussion. It received minimal media coverage. That player is Luc Longley. No, Luc Longley will not be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame, nor does he deserve a glorious send off. He did, however, prove one thing - sometimes nice guys do finsish first.
A high school student in the early 90s, I got a chance to know a young Luc Longley during his rookie season with the Timberwolves. He was the teams' first round draft pick (7th Overall) in the 1991 Draft. Since the Wolves drafted a center, Felton Spencer, a year earlier Luc's selection was not popular with the fans. When Longley's hold out lasted into the beginning of the season his popularity was damaged further. Once he signed with the team all of the boos began to fade. It wasn't his play that won them over, it was his down-to-earth personality and 'no worries' attitude that made him a fan favorite. The boos turned to 'Luuuuuucs.' I got to know Luc after drawing a portrait and giving it to him. After the game he offered to take a my friend, Jason, and I back to the lockeroom and give us some shoes. The security guard wouldn't allow us in, but Luc quickly returned with a pair of size 15.5 Nikes and a warm up shirt for each of us. A friendship was born. Luc supplied us with free tickets for the rest of the year, and even took us out for dinner a couple times. We even stopped by his loft apartment in Minneapolis' trendy warehouse district to shoot some pool.
Luc is a kind, generous man that always seems to be smiling and doesn't take himself too seriously. He seems to really enjoy life and is grateful for all of the blessings he recieved. A perspective that is quite refreshing in athletics today. After Luc was dealt to the Bulls for Stacey King in spring of 1994, he became much more difficult to get in touch with. We did, however, did meet him at the hotel when the Bulls came to town - he would invite us into his room and chat. Our dicussions mainly centered around Jason and I asking questions about the Bulls and Micheal Jordan. He always anwered them all politely and always asked what we were up to. The thing that sticks out most in my mind about those encounters is when Luc would open the hotel room door and his 7'2" 265 pound body would block out any view of the room. This could be intimidating, until you saw the huge smile on his face.
On December 15, 1997 Jason and I headed to Chicago to attend a Bulls - Suns game. Luc, of course, got us the tickets. We sat in the 15th row behind the basket in the first deck of the United Center. The Bulls routed the Suns that night, we had the time of our lives.
There is no doubt that Luc Longley has lived a charmed life. He grew up in a wealthy family in Australia, he came to the States' to go to college in New Mexico where he met his beautiful wife, Kelly. He was a lottery pick in the NBA Draft and then traded to the most popular team in sports history where he won three NBA titles. He played with Micheal Jordan. He has represented his country in the Olympics three times (1988, 92, 00). He is 32 years old, retired, worth millions, owns land in three continents, and has three beautiful children. Yes Luc Longley has had a charmed life, but don't think for one minute that he doesn't know that.
Good luck Luc.
Editors note: During Luc Longley's career he played for 4 NBA teams - the Timberwolves (91-94), the Bulls (94-98), the Phoenix Suns (98-00), and the New York Knicks (00-01). He played in 567 games over 10 seasons, averaging 7.2 points and 4.9 rebounds a game. His best season was 97-98 when he scored 11.4 points and grabbed 5.9 rebounds a game.
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