Exclusive Q&A: Jalen Rose talks Fab Five, 'Melo, Simmons, paying student-athletes and more
ABC/ESPN analyst and former 13-year NBA star Jalen Rose took the AOL Build stage this week to discuss "Got to Give the People What They Want," his collection of stories and thoughts on basketball, life and everything in between.
As the executive producer of the highest-rated documentary in ESPN history, "The Fab Five," the basketball legend uses his stories to shed light on perspectives that fellow enthusiasts won't find elsewhere.
He also provided a ton of entertaining quips. Check out some of the highlights, which included his thoughts on the Fab Five, college players being paid, transitioning into a broadcasting career, Bill Simmons leaving ESPN, the putrid Knicks, Carmelo Anthony and more.
Q: You became the Fab Five, and you guys were it. You were the coolest players in the world. When you look back at that time, is there anything you would've done differently, or are you proud of everything that came about from that era?
A: I almost stood up to say this one. I wish we could've trademarked everything. Imagine if we got money for every time someone went out to buy black socks. When we first wore black socks, we went to the mall to buy 'em and it was three pairs in the whole mall. I wore dress socks on top of my sweat socks because they didn't have five pairs. So, that's one thing that has changed.
Players now are more sophisticated. LeBron James owned his brand in high school. We didn't necessarily own our brands. So, obviously, there were some things I felt could've been different -- and winning a national championship. Those are the two things I wished would've happened.
Q: You mentioned trademarks. ... In your book you said you want to start conversations, but, even better, arguments. Do you think college players should be paid?
A: Not in terms of being paid like an employee. I think they should get some type of stipend on top of their scholarship. Not something you're gonna get rich off and retire. A couple thousand dollars. Meal money. What do all college kids have in common? 'How am I gonna get ready for the next test?' -- and 'I need money.'
All college kids have that issue, especially athletes because once you sign a letter of intent you are now allowed to work. ... Also, I'm actually earning my scholarship. You can't go to the coach and say, 'I have a big test tomorrow, can I take practice off today.' They'll look at you like you have three heads. You can't say, 'Can I wear a different shoe?' than the school has a contract with. That'd be a violation. That dynamic, I'm not a fan of.
Doing this book, I watched a lot of games because I had to recall a lot of different intimacies. VHS, by the way. I'm fast-forwarding it and there were commercials of Mitch Albom's book about the Fab Five running during our games. A best-selling book, by the way, that we never got a dime for. I boycotted it and have not read it.
Q: Everybody has their own opinions on that subject (players being paid), but do you think it's something that's actually going to happen?
A: Yes, sir, because the fan, the media have gotten more sophisticated. When I was in college people would say, 'Shut up. You're on scholarship and you should just be happy.' That was the undertone of fans and media -- and somewhat a little jealousy. Now, that the numbers are out there, with these schools getting shoe contracts and their apparel deals and their television deals -- it's money blowing through the roof, but they don't have to pay the actual players. That's like having a job or a company where all the work is getting done but you don't have to pay the employees. That's what's happening with the NCAA.
Q: You have a funny story on how you got into broadcasting. Can you walk us through that process?
A: So, I got traded by Indiana in February and I looked at the standings and the team that I got traded to, the Chicago Bulls, had nine total wins. I'm like, 'OK, we're not going to the playoffs.' So what I did was, I had a contact at BET, Mad Sports at the time. I pitched an idea for me to cover the NBA Finals. To let you know how long ago this was, it was Lakers vs. New Jersey Nets. So, I did it. I got the access, they sent a camera, I cut it, I spliced it, they liked it, they ran it. Once they ran it, I took the edit that they ran and pitched it to 'Best Damn Sports Show' on FOX. They liked it and they hired me. So, while I'm playing in the league from 2002-2007, I'm actually working in the media, working the finals every year. Once I retired in 2007, I full-time transitioned to ESPN and I've been there ever since.
Q: When Bill (Simmons) left ESPN, was that difficult for you on a personal level?
A: Absolutely, it was difficult. I would equate it to being a child and your parents get a divorce. I love ESPN, I love the opportunities they've given me, I love my job. And Bill is my friend, mentor and my brother, and we created a lot of quality content together. We've spent a lot of time together, coming up with ideas, NBA previews, job interviews ... these are things we crafted together. The podcast with David Jacoby, which has now become a radio show. These are all things we put a lot of sweat equity into.
But he's not with the company anymore, like you mentioned. I think he's gonna do great things at HBO. I would not be surprised if I'm on his show, if he's on our radio show; the friendship is still there. We'll see what happens in the future.
Q: How do you think the Knicks will fare this season?
A: I'll see if I can count their wins on one hand. ... I think Carmelo Anthony is going to have a strong year. When your friends with LeBron and Wade, who've won championships, and Chris Paul, who plays for a contending team, and you're Carmelo Anthony and you go to practice, you know your team's not really good. So how do you salvage that? I expect him to come out and average close to 30 this year. I expect 'Melo to go off. If he don't, he might be made about what I have to say on TV.
They're in the Eastern Conference. All you have to do is wear shorts and have a pulse in the East, and you'll have a chance to make it in the playoffs. Under .500 teams make the playoffs -- and the Knicks won't be one.
Q: Real quick. What is your NBA Finals prediction? Early picks, just for fun.
A: Hmm. Cleveland wins the Eastern Conference. Right now, I'm vacillating between the Clippers and OKC for the West. I gotta see Kevin Durant's health. This is the best basketball team the Clippers have ever put in uniform. Now adding Paul Pierce, at this stage of his career, if they can't win it this year, they may never win it.
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