2009 NBA All-Star officially tipped off in Phoenix on Wednesday and one of the events that signified the beginning of the celebration was the appearance of Hall of Famer Rick Barry at the Suns Team Shop located inside the US Airways Center. The eight-time All-Star, who played for the Warriors, Nets and Rockets during his professional career, signed autographs for fans for an hour as the NBA debuted its All-Star merchandise in the team shop.
Barry, who was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, allowed Suns.com to fire five questions in his direction about a variety of topics that included 2009 NBA All-Star, his playing days and where the basketball talent lies within his family.
1. Suns.com: What are you most looking forward to about All-Star this year?
Barry: It’s always fun to see what the guys do out there. It’s much more of a show. As a basketball fan I always pray that the game is close in the fourth quarter so that they’ll get serious and really start playing. But they really do put on quite a show these days.
Back in our days when the winners got $3,300 and the losers got $1,500 we used to kill each other to get that money. So now that the money doesn’t mean anything to them, it’s become more of a show. But it’s quite a show that they put on. If the game is close, then the pride comes out, the players want to win and then the guys get serious. That’s when I really enjoy it.
I think the great players take pride in showing that they can play with other guys that they’ve never played with before. If you understand the game of basketball, you don’t really need a lot of practice to play good, sound, fundamental basketball and you can play well as team even though you haven’t played much together. The guys that are playing in the game this year are easily worth the price of admission to see play.
2. Suns.com: What were some of your memories from previous All-Star Games here in Phoenix?
Barry: Had we won the game that year, I think I would’ve been MVP. I actually had better numbers than the MVP but I was unfortunately on the losing team. I think I had a lot of steals, shot the ball well and had a really good game. If I’m not mistaken (he wasn’t), I think Walt Frazier won the MVP for the East. That was a fun game.
3. Suns.com: When look back on your career, what do remember about playing against the Suns and playing here in Phoenix?
Barry: I played on a Warriors team that came down here to test the Phoenix market when they didn’t have a team here yet. We played a regular-season game down here to see what the response would be and it was very positive. It led to them getting a franchise. So, I feel like I’m kind of a pioneer for helping Phoenix get basketball.
What stands out about coming here now is the unbelievable salsa that they have when you go into that little fan area (Courtside Club). In fact, I actually got the chef to give me the recipe, but the recipe was for about four gallons of it, so he had to break it down. But it’s the best salsa ever. And it’s so nice to see the way the arena is now, because we used to play out at the old Coliseum.
Also, I love watching this team play because I love watching Steve Nash. I had the good fortune of playing with some really good point guards in my career, but Steve Nash is amazing. What separates him from the other great point guards – especially in those three years where he should have been MVP even that third year – is that there’s never been a guard that I’ve ever seen that has played the game, and there have been a lot of great ones, that could make those same great passes with both hands. He can do it with either hand. Most of the other greats only did it with their strong hand. He has a great feel for the game and knows when to shoot and score when he needs to. I would’ve loved to play with Steve Nash.
4. Suns.com: How do you think the Suns can meld their old style of running with playing with Shaq?
Barry: All you tell Shaq to do is get the rebound, kick it out and go trail. You don’t need him on the break. How many times was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dunking on the break? It was James Worthy, Michael Cooper and Byron Scott with the Showtime Lakers. You don’t the need the big man to be on the break, you just need the big man to block some shots and get some rebounds for you. I don’t see any issue with that.
5. Suns.com: Out of you and your sons in your respective primes, who would win in a three-point contest, H-O-R-S-E competition and dunk contest?
Barry: Well, with the dunk contest, it would obviously be Brent. He won the slam dunk contest and I was never a great jumper. He would be first and Scooter would be second, then Drew, Jon and then probably me.
A shooting contest would be very interesting because all of my boys were really, really outstanding shooters. I got to be a better three-point shooter later in my career. But Brent was probably the guy that was shooting it as well or better than anybody. Although, Scooter was an outstanding three-point shooter, but nobody knew much about him because he played overseas.
Brent’s known more for it so you’d have to put him as the favorite, but I’d probably be the dark horse. I got to be a better shooter at the end of my career and after my prime because we didn’t have the three-point shot when I played. I never worked at it from that distance because i figured, why would I shoot from that far out when I was only getting two points. So I tried to get easy shots, get to the basket and get to the free throw line.
H-O-R-S-E would be interesting because I played a few games of H-O-R-S-E with Brent before he came into the pros. It was the only time I ever competed against my boys. I always had them play with me because, what did I ever have to prove against them? I always had them play on my team when we played.
So the closest we came to competing, was here in Phoenix, when Brent played in the college showcase here and we played H-O-R-S-E. He won two and I won two. Brent wanted to play a best of five and I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Why not?’ and I said, ‘Because now you’re never really going to know if you were ever good enough to beat me.’