When there was a break in the action, Mercer Island basketball campers surrounded 6-foot-5 Jamal Crawford, staring up at the NBA star and asking tons of questions.
Crawford, a Rainier Beach High star who played 20 seasons in the pros, was soaking up every second at his Summer Basketball Skills Camp held on Aug. 3-5 at the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club. Sixty-five boys and girls players attended the camp.
“I want them to have fun and get better. There’s so much stress and pressure now on different walks of life and this should be something fun,” said Crawford, 40, during a lunch break on the final day of camp. He’s been tipping off camps since 2004 all over the Seattle and Eastside areas and across the country.
Building relationships is crucial at camp as well. Crawford recalls attending a Sonics camp when he was a kid and not knowing some of the participants, but he ended up forming what would become lifelong friendships with some of them.
At the Mercer Island camp, he enjoyed seeing the energetic kids improve their skills during such a short period of time. The kids were dedicated to their hoops, and Crawford pointed at some boys who were playing one-on-one ball during their lunch break.
Crawford’s dad, who played at the University of Oregon, placed his son on the hoops path at an early age.
“He put the ball in my hands when I was 2 years old and I’ve had the ball ever since,” Crawford said with a laugh.
The hoopster said he may put his 6-5 frame back into NBA action in the future. Crawford joked that he’s still that tall and isn’t shrinking during his time off the professional court.
“The good thing is I’m still in shape, I’m still feeling great, so we’ll see how it goes,” said Crawford, who last played with the Brooklyn Nets in 2020. During his career, he’s also hit the court with the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns.
Crawford said that while he’s enjoyed playing with talented NBA stars like LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Paul, Joe Johnson, Blake Griffin and Stephon Marbury, it was the wisdom and guidance of older guys like Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups that especially rubbed off on him.
One time when the Clippers played in China, Hill took Crawford under his wing and the duo went shopping for a suit for the younger player to wear to an important dinner that night.
During his time trotting across the NBA terrain, Crawford said he’s appreciated how the components of teamwork, selflessness, sacrifice and discipline have been crucial on and off the court.
“No matter how good a person is individually, even some guys score 50 points or 60 points, it’s still probably only half the points it was to win the game. So you need your team, right?” he said.
The Reporter asked Crawford a series of questions to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into his life:
If you could go to dinner with one person, who would that be?
Barack Obama. A solid choice.
What’s your favorite movie of all time?
“Coming to America.” Eddie Murphy playing so many different characters. I guess the message (is) he didn’t want somebody to love him because he was a prince, he wanted to find somebody to love him for him.
What special skill would you like to learn?
I’d wanna learn how to cook. I think my wife would appreciate that. Instead of eating out a lot.
What superpower would you like to have?
I would say fly. I actually hate planes. If I could fly under my own superpower where I don’t have to go as high, and I could just kind of fly around, I think that would be pretty cool. Or be invisible — one or the other.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Be with my family, for sure. My kids, my wife, just kind of chill out. My wife is really good at picking places for us to go, whether it’s driving up to the pass… we went to Wings Over Washington last week.
What’s something that frightens you that maybe you want to overcome?
Flying, I guess. It’s crazy, I played 20 years and we’re flying all the time, so I guess I’ve overcome it in some ways. You feel different when you’re on the team plane. You feel safer.
So when you’re flying all the time with your teams, how do you get that (fear) out of your mind?
Honestly, I feel a little bit safer, because when turbulence hits, I’m usually the one underneath the chair, like, ‘Oh my, god.’ But all my teammates are laughing at me. Actually by them laughing, it calms me down. If they laugh, it will be OK.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Treat people the way you wanna be treated. I think sometimes people treat people based on their perception of them. ‘Oh, this guy’s a billionaire, let me treat him nice.’ ‘This guy doesn’t have a place to stay right now, he’s on the street, I’m not gonna listen to him. I’m gonna treat him a different way.’ That’s not right. So for me, I think treating everybody equally. Everybody’s important, everybody’s a person.