Doing a phone interview with Brooklyn's John Salley while he is walking through Manhattan is like chatting with everyone on the block. Every few feet, someone stops Salley with a comment, "I've always liked you on TV." "I always have too," he answers.
When he stops to ask a police officer where to find an ATM, you are privvy to an entire conversation about the Knicks. And that kind of banter and humor is exactly what Salley brings to a new television series on SPEED called simply, 'The Car Show.'
Hosted by comedian and car enthusiast Adam Carolla and featuring Salley, Dan Neil and Matt Farah, 'The Car Show' is hoping to provide - as stated in a news releases - the best of automotive culture. The show has a fun vibe and the feel of Fox Sports' "The Best Damn Sports Show Period," of which Salley was a staple.
Salley, who has won four NBA championships, brings levity and balance to the broadcast. He knows cars, but not as much as Neil and Farah, and that's why he fits. He's the jock in a room full of gear heads.
Trading Paint spoke with Salley last week.
Trading Paint: You guys really look like you are having fun making this show.
John Salley: We are having fun and it's been a learning experience. It's a good formula. Everyone likes cars, right? We all get along really well. Matt is a prodigy. He's like Amadeus. You can ask him anything about a car and he knows it. He knows who did it, how they did it, why they did it.
TP: We didn't know you were a car guy.
JS: My father was a mechanic. My father used to fix our car, just so we could use it for the week and then on Saturday he'd have to fix it again. I didn't really like that as a mechanic, your fingernails were always dirty. I didn't like cars when I was a kid. I finally became interested in cars when I had enough money to buy one. I used to sit and look out the window and say, "That's my car, that's my car. that's my car." To some people they are like pieces of art. Will Smith's dad asked me once, 'How many cars do you have?' And I said, four. He said, 'And you have one [butt].' And that put it all into perspective for me.
TP: We watched the segment on your show about the '24 Hours of Lemons,' which is an endurance race for cars with a value of $500 or less.
JS: That was a lot of fun. Everyone was hamming it up. We're like Diana Ross and The Supremes. But we're all Diana Ross. To me, that was an endurance race, you now it was slow and steady. We all got the chance to drive. And they took it seriously. That race just showed me what man can do, how if he really wants to, he can make something out of absolutely nothing.
TP: Brad Daugherty talks about NASCAR for ESPN, he's also owns a racing team. Is there now going to be some kind of car-basketball rivalry between the two of you?
JS: Brad Daugherty is one of my favorite people. He turned me on to driving and racing when I did 'Fast Cars and Superstars.' But when you are from North Carolina, all there really is is basketball and NASCAR. Brad taught me that you can see more when you are driving at 178 MPH than you can when you are driving 55. It's true. Because you have to see more.
TP: Do you have a different appreciation now for racing and drivers as athletes?
JS: I'm a huge NASCAR fan, a huge F1 and Indy fan. I fell in love with the technology of the car. I don't really watch much basketball on TV any more but I watch racing all the time. Michael Schumacher is still racing. At his age, he still has the will and the skill. I like Townsend Bell. He becomes part of his car, that's how in tune he is with the car. There's no fooling around in a race car. You have to have that focus for hours and a respect for the guy driving next to you. In driving there is so much to think about and process. In basketball, all I really had to think about was, this guy shoots lefty and I have to stop him from scoring. In racing, kids today are starting to race Go Karts at the age of six. They are already better drivers than most New Yorkers. At the age of six, I was playing basketball. These kids are racing.
TP: Right now, there is a work stoppage in the NBA. With the NFL having endured a long lockout, fans are tired of this. The average fan sees it as millionaires fighting with billionaires over money. Are they right?
JS: Remember one thing, the owners have locked the players out. All the players want is what's fair. NBA players have a very short amount of time to make a living. You need to make as much money as you can. What the NBA did was genius sending the dream team to the Olympics in Barcelona. Look what it did for the game in Europe. You have Dirk Nowitzki, Manu Ginobili. Yao Ming in China. There is a lot of international money out there.
TP: Will the NBA lockout threaten the upcoming season?
JS: The NBA won't miss any part of the season. I don't think it will be a major problem.
TP: How good will the Knicks be?
JS: If I could have Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony on my squad, I would take it every day of the week and twice on Sunday. When they decide they want to play together, no one can stop them. But there's a lot to give up. There's a lot to sacrifice in order to win. It's not what you want to do, it's doing what needs to be done. Chuck Daly told me, 'I need you to block shots and rebound.' I have four rings because I listened. Brad Daugherty used to ask me, 'What happened to you? You were killing us in college, you were scoring.' What happened was, I listened. I was coachable.