We met New York Knicks star Al Harrington at the NBA Store in Manhattan recently. We also talked with teammates Danillo Gallinari and David Lee and Orlando Magic player Dwight Howard by video conference. It was a good afternoon!
Being in the NBA do you think you have anything to prove to your fans or to the league or anything like that?
You always got something to prove. I think the biggest thing you have to prove is that you get better every year. That’s my challenge to myself is that every year I do something better than the year before. So that’s what I have to prove.
We read that you wear a size 17 shoe. Where do you buy your shoes?
That’s not true! I wear a 15. I don’t know where that 17 came from. There’s a thing, once you cross over 15 it’s clown shoes. So I’m at 15. I’m at the threshold.
You played with other NBA teams. Do you know their plays?
No, not really. Maybe the team I played for, but sometimes the coach changes year by year. Or sometimes a different coach so every once in a while. But the ones you remember usually were the plays that were for you. So if that was a play that was for me and I hear it. Then I know what the play is.
It seems as though you like to sing and act. We’ve read that you played Frank Butler in “Annie Get Your Gun” in high school. How has playing basketball affected your acting career?
It hasn’t yet. I want to get in the movies, but nobody called my number yet. Man, I need you to get it out to my agent. You want to be my agent? I need you to call some people, Letterman or somebody, to get me on TV so I can let people know I’m trying to get out there. But obviously that was nerve wracking for me. That was probably one of the scariest moments of my life right before the play started. Once I got going I was a natural.
Do you have plenty of family time to spend with your family with your busy schedule?
Definitely, definitely. We have a lot of time. The season schedule is kind of hectic, but we have a lot of down time. They do a great job of being able to mix work with pleasure.
What do you plan on doing after you retire from the NBA?
I haven’t really decided yet, but I want to do something in business. Obviously you work hard in the NBA to be able to save enough money that you never have to work again. But at the end of the day I can’t see myself at 36 years old sitting at the beach everyday for the rest of my life. So I have to figure something out. Maybe I might be a journalist or something.
How about a coach for the NBA?
No, not a coach for the NBA. It’s too much hard work. I’d rather coach high school kids or something like that.
Do you have any pre-game rituals?
Yes. I got to make sure I get a two-hour nap before I have to be in the arena and I usually make sure I eat pasta with chicken. Those are my two.
How do you think being the first high school player getting drafted in ’98 affected your career and your life? How do you think it will effect you once you’re done with the NBA? How do you think it will effect your life?
Well, the one thing I’ll be able to tell my kids, daddy didn’t have to go to college. I was one of those special guys to go and other than that obviously it put me in a position, like I said before, just to help my family and it was just a great decision for me. I’m happy that I did it. Especially I came out into the league and I played with a bunch of veteran guys like Reggie Miller, Antonio Davis. So they taught me how to be a man and be a professional. So I was happy about that.
How do you feel now being drafted right out of high school into the NBA?
I feel great. I feel like I made a great decision. I hate that they changed the rule because at the end of the day all the guys that went from high school to the NBA have success stories. But that’s something that the Commissioner felt that he had to do and there’s nothing I can do about it. At the end of the day I made a great decision and obviously it helped put me in a position to help my family immediately, but also allowed me to mature because I became the man of my whole house at that time. And it turned me into a man young and I had great experience and story.
What is a typical week being in the NBA, a typical week with the Knicks?
A typical week depends on what’s going on. Some weeks we have ball games in five nights, sometimes we only have two games in a week. But usually if we don’t have a game there’s usually a hard practice day. They bring us in and we practice for about an 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Lift weights. We have a cafeteria that makes great lunch. So you go and get some lunch or maybe some chocolate chip cookies and stuff like that for the way home. Then you go home and spend some family time. Obviously on the day of a game we have shoot around the arena so we have to be there around 3 o’clock. We work, go over what the other team is going to do and shoot some baskets. We get ready to play that night. Then go to a great dinner afterwards.
You’re not only a fantastic basketball player, but you’re also a kind person. You gave several kids the opportunity to have a holiday that they’ll never forget by giving them a shopping spree in this very store. Do you plan on this again and how can we get the word out to families who are struggling in our community?
I’m definitely going to do it again. And you can go to either my Facebook or you can go to my Foundation page which is the Al Harrington Foundation. I have a lot of stuff up there. But you know a lot of times when I pick the kids I usually use the state to help me because obviously I can’t go into each person’s home to find what’s really going on, but the state usually does a great job of figuring out the people that really need it the most and I try to be there for them.