RESPECT. Interview: Former Los Angeles Laker & UCLA Bruin Tracy Murray Talks Angel City Sports Annual Wheelchair Game And More

Photo Credit – Tracy Murray

RESPECT MAG recently had the opportunity to speak with former college standout basketball star Tracy Murray about his thoughts on the NCAA paying their players and about what it was like playing with Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaq, Kobe, and Clyde Drexler. Murray also shares his thoughts on Lonzo Ball’s rookie season so far with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Angel City Sports Annual Wheel Chair Games at UCLA in June.
 
Tracy Murray is a former McDonalds All-American who graduated from Glendora High School in Los Angeles, California. As a senior in high school, he averaged 44.3 points, leading the nation in scoring that year.  Murray would finish his high school career with 3,053 points, setting the mark for the high point total, ever in the state of California. 
 
Murray continued honing his basketball skills as a UCLA Bruin, where he would play in almost 100 games and average 18.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.5 APG all while making the All-Pac 10 All-Conference team, twice. During his Junior year, he averaged 21.4 points and 7.0 rebounds and led the Pac-10 in three-point shooting at 50%. He would also lead his team to the Elite Eight. Upon the completion of his junior, Murray decided to enter the 1992 NBA draft, finishing fifth in all-time scoring at UCLA.  
 
Murray was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs but was then traded twice before he landed in Portland. During the 1993-94 season, he led the league with an almost 46 percent average from the three. He would spend two and a half seasons in Portland before both he and Clyde Drexler were traded to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Otis Thorpe, the rights to forward Marcelo Nicola and a first-round draft choice in 1995. 
 
In 1994 Murray would win a championship with the Houston Rockets, but sign with the expansion Toronto Raptors, recording the best season of his professional career. Averaging 16.2 PPG, 1.6 APG and 4.3 RPG.  Upon the end of the 1995 season, Murray moved on to Washington to play for the Bullets. He remained there for four seasons before he was then traded to the Denver Nuggets for Popeye Jones and a future second-round draft.
 
He only made 13 appearances in a Nuggets’ uniform before he was traded back Toronto. Tracy would only play 38 games following the deal, but the Raptors made the playoffs that year. The following season he played 40 games before he was sent to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002, along with guard Kareem Rush for guard Lindsey Hunter and the draft rights to forward Chris Jefferies. Murray would go on to play two more seasons in the NBA before retiring and heading overseas. After he retired in 2007, he decided to focus his attention on his family and went back to UCLA to finish his degree in history.
 
Murray would return to the Los Angeles Lakers as an assistant coach for the 2015-2016 season as a part of Byron Scott’s coaching staff. Head coach Byron Scott describes Murray as, “one of the purest shooters I’ve ever seen.” He is currently a part of the UCLA broadcast team for Bruins Hoops.

 

You are a former collegiate athlete at UCLA. In your opinion, do you think it is time for the NCAA to start paying its athletes?

I feel the NCAA should have started paying collegiate athletes a long time ago.  The NCAA is a billion-dollar industry.  Jay Williams said, not too long ago, that the NCAA makes more and more money with bowl games and March Madness.  The excitement of college sports keeps growing every year, but there is little to nothing for the athletes generating the excitement reflecting that growth.  Collegiate athletes will continue to get their room, board, and food paid for, which is great, but, for example, back when I played, I could not even afford to go by a suit to travel on road trips. Plus, I was not able to afford to take my girlfriend out to dinner and a movie because student-athletes are not allowed to have jobs.  Finances are the issue to a struggling student-athletes unless they are fortunate enough to lean on their families. I am not suggesting we provide funding to make these athletes rich, but they deserve something more than they’re getting now because of the revenue that they are helping generate for these universities.

If you had a vote in this matter, which method of payment would you choose to use?

I think a couple of thousand dollars a month to help these student-athletes would be enough. We still want to them to strive to be great to make to the next level after their college careers are completed.  There are times where you do not have time to make it back up to the dorms to eat because of practice hours. Other circumstances would include running out of funding on school cash cards are given to many scholarship players. The only alternative would be to go off campus and people need the finances to achieve that. A couple grand a month extra is not something that will hurt the NCAA in the long run and would really, really make a difference in the day to day lives of these players.

Lavar Ball has planted the seed that he wants a Junior League, and Lebron has suggested that the NBA develop the G league more to help give top prospects an alternative option to playing in college. Which path would you choose, if you were looking to start your career right out of high school with the NBA’s one and done rule?

Today is a different game and if I was a McDonalds All-American like I was back in 1992, I possibly would be, “one and done.”  I did not care much for school, which is why I went for only three years initially. I decided not to attend UCLA for all four years, but I did know how important getting my education was, and I went back and later earned my degree. There is more to life than what is just in front of you presently, and that is why I decided to finish my degree, for life after basketball. I know I probably would have been, “one and done.”  On the flip side, it does mean that I would have been ready to enter the NBA. Those who want to go pro, let them go, but send them through something like the G League and allow them to earn their way to the NBA. If that was the route, these kids would get to be developed, making the NBA happy and it would be better and if someone decided to take the college route, to make them go for three years to develop. In my opinion, this would allow the fans and the schools to get familiar with the people in the jerseys.

You are a former Los Angeles Laker who played with Kobe and Shaq during the 2002-2003 season and you won a championship with the 1994 Houston Rockets. If you had to compare both those teams which one would take in a seven games series and why?   

It would be difficult to choose one of those teams; both teams were very similar. You have two studs in the middle with Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaq and then you have two great wingmen in Kobe Bryant and Clyde Drexler. Both teams had great role players and one of those players, Robert Horry, played on both teams. I think the issue that became a problem during that 2002-2003 season with the Lakers team was fatigue. Three straight years to the finals and long seasons finally caught up to us and all that playing wore out our legs. During that season Devon George and Rick Fox were both out with injuries and we had to rely on Kareem Rush at the small forward position and I was on the injured list. The same issue was present with the 1994 Rockets team, we had injuries as well; Carl Herrera and couple others with Mad Max leaving the team. This caused us to only have a nine-man rotation with only seven playing on a regular basis. All the role players were key on both teams. Sam Cassell was key coming off the bench for that Rockets championship team behind Kenny Smith.

Do you think Robert Horry should be in the Hall of Fame?

It is up in the air because of all the big shots he has hit throughout his career and the championships he has won. The argument for him to be in the Hall of Fame is valid, but looking at his regular season numbers, the argument is not as strong. Rob would just chill until the playoffs came around *laughs*. So, that is the argument against Rob, but he was a great player and a significant role in the history of the NBA.  I’d say it is a possibility that he will get inducted into the Hall of Fame.

You were on the Lakers team before the year that would be the last time Kobe and Shaq played together. Did you see any signs that the team was heading in that direction?

With every great team, especially those that have a history of three-peat victories, eventually, things must come to an end.

You were also teammates of Clyde Drexler. What did most people underestimate about his game?

Clyde was very familiar with his own personal game of what he could and could not do on the basketball court. I really appreciated his leadership. He took me under his wing as a rookie in Portland. I would later go with him in the trade to the Rockets and he really mentored me and cared enough about me as a person to teach me the way to be a professional. Every young player needs that from a veteran in the leagues. It is not normally a star that is the teacher.  It is mainly a role player on the team. Clyde made the time for me and that is something that I always appreciate from him.

Growing up you had the opportunity to watch some of the All-time greats at the collegiate and professional level, for instance, guys like Len Bias, Magic, Jordan, Bird, Hank Gathers, and Reggie Lewis to name a few. Scottie Pippen has gone on record that Lebron should be compared to him more than MJ and Magic, but in your opinion does Lebron James remind you of Len Bias?

Lebron is appropriately named King James and what that man is doing is unbelievable. He and Vince Carter are two individuals that set themselves apart, and they are hybrid basketball players. Lebron is mixed with Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson. This is rarely seen; the athleticism and the defensive paralysis of a Michael Jordan combined with the body and strength of a Karl Malone, and he can pass like Magic.  Lebron is on an entirely different level than all the people mentioned in the question.

What are your thoughts on Lonzo Ball production during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers?

I think people need to leave Lonzo and let him play. If you look at his numbers, they are fine. The Lakers play better with him than without him. That is how you know someone’s impact on the game. Leave his shot, him alone. Lavar is the one that is creating all this chaos for Lonzo. Lonzo is quietly going on about his business and not asking for this at all. I think his numbers are great for someone that is a rookie in the NBA. If people did not know what they were getting with Lonzo than they have not been watching him play. He is probably the most unselfish young player on the court today. The only thing I think he should improve is the defense of his peers.  The point guard position is the most difficult as that person is always guarding the pick and roll and the fast guy on the court.

You will be a part of the Angel City Sports Annual Wheelchair game in June at your Alma Mater, UCLA.  Can you tell us more about this event?

The event is outstanding, and I have always been a guy that wants to give back, especially to handicapped children and people who cannot walk. Being strapped into a wheelchair and trying to play basketball is the toughest thing I have had to do in a long time. And on top of shooting, remember that one must also pass, dribble and try to stop to shoot, all while in the chair. It is a very humbling experience.  I was able to participate last year and I had a great time at the game a raising money for this incredible organization.  I look forward to being a part of the game again this year. After the game last year, I left the gym and started watching other events on the track and it is an incredible charity to be a part of and witness first hand. I think everyone should come out to UCLA and show their support for these people.

You went to a Big 3 game last year in Los Angles. What do you think about the concept of the league?

I think it is a great concept. Not a lot of the guys playing want the wear and tear of running full court. They might still do it to stay in shape, but three on three, with that much space on the floor is tough. When we train the youth, we conduct a lot of three on three drills and if you can cover ground and rotate and scramble defensively in three on three, you can do same with another two people. Due to the spacing on the floor, if you run the pick and roll, players on the floor can score the basketball, but someone must always help and recover and there will always be someone open to score. With the right players on one team, it is difficult to cover. I really enjoyed watching last year the whole thing with the league that Ice and his team have done.

Shareef O’Neal just committed to attend UCLA next season.  Being that you are a part of the broadcast team, what are you looking forward the most out of him? In your honest opinion, how will UCLA stack up against Duke and Zion Williamson?

I do not think Duke is on the UCLA schedule next season, but I want Shareef to come in and perform to the best of his abilities. That includes him coming in and being a great student-athlete and enjoying the journey. If I was to give him any type of advice, it would be to come in, enjoy the journey, and play every game like it is your last because you never know when it will end.  The comparisons to his father will come, but he must realize they both have different skill sets and the game has changed since his father was at LSU.

Finally, what advice would like to share with aspiring sports journalist looking to make an impact in the industry?

This is not an easy industry. It is more about who you know in comparison to what you know.  If you know the right people or have the right agent who knows the right people, you can get in the door. Also, if you do get in the door, you need be prepared, sharp, and know what you are doing when the opportunity presents itself.  My advice is to get an agent and network.

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About Landon Buford

Washington State Graduate Past Interviews include Grammy Award Winner Kenny G, David Banner, WNBA President Lisa Borders, Whats Trendings CEO Shira Lazar, Ice Cube, NBC's Chicago PD LaRoyce Hawkins, Family Matters Darius McCrary, En Vogues Maxine Jones, Team USA Track & Field Member Norris Frederick, James Kyson, WNBA Great Lauren Jackson, and more.