Orlando Magic: Exclusive Interview with Point Guard Jameer Nelson
While many of the top high school basketball players in the nation were doing battle at the Reebok Breakout Challenge at Philadelphia University, Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson and newly minted Boston Celtics point guard Jason Terry were going one-on-one on a side court with only a handful of people watching.
The Nelson/Terry matchup was actually part of a video shoot for Reebok’s new SubLite Pro Rise sneaker, but this wasn’t the first time the two have squared off away from the bright lights of the NBA.
During All-Star Weekend, Nelson and comedian Bill Bellamy teamed up to defeat Terry and hip-hop star Jadakiss in the Reebok CrossFit Challenge. As a result of losing the competition, Terry was forced to ditch his signature headband and long socks for the Mavericks-Magic game back on March 30.
After the video shoot, Nelson took a few minutes to talk to Bleacher Report about the Reebok Breakout Challenge, the ongoing Dwight Howard saga and how it feels to be the unofficial mayor of Orlando.
Bleacher Report: You're a native of Chester, Pa., and you went to St. Joe's...Do you make it a point to come back to the area for events like the Breakout Challenge?
Jameer Nelson: Yeah, absolutely. It’s an opportunity for a lot of kids to get seen and be involved with something great. And obviously, I’m endorsed by Reebok, so I’m loving it—this is my area.
B/R: If you were to give some advice to some of these kids here at the Breakout Challenge this week, what would you tell them to work on at an event like this?
Nelson: Well, the main thing is just to play their game and not try to be somebody that they’re not just because it’s a camp and there’s going to be people watching. Just do what they do. Everybody can’t be a scorer, and you shouldn’t try to be…you should do a lot of the intangibles as well and not just score. A lot of the kids have the tendency to come to camps and just shoot the ball every time. But if you’re not that guy, then you’re not that guy.
B/R: Last July, the league was in the midst of a lockout—how does it feel now going into the summer not having to worry about all of the off-court stuff?
Nelson: It feels great, man, just knowing that you have a time set to know where you have to be in your game shape and be ready for action. Last year, there was an uncertainty to a lot of things…mentally, you’re just a lot more comfortable.
B/R: You just agreed to an extension with the Magic this summer—did you ever seriously consider signing anywhere else?
Nelson: Well, there was always an opportunity, and it was always in the back of my head because at the end of the day, it’s a business. I expressed my feelings to them that I wanted to be in Orlando, and they said the same thing to me. I’m just happy that I reached an agreement with them.
B/R: Obviously, there was a lot going on with the team last year in relation to Dwight Howard. How much of a distraction was that to the team?
Nelson: Well, it’s just not anything about one player…we went through a lot as a team, one through 15. And the one thing we did was that we handled adversity well. We kept winning and we made it to the playoffs, and obviously our goal was to win the championship, but we fell short.
B/R: You've been with the Magic for eight years, you're the team captain...Is there a certain level of responsibility that comes with being the longest-tenured member of the team?
Nelson: Absolutely. The younger guys and the older guys are looking for somebody to lead and I think of myself and seem to be a natural-born leader. I can kind of fall into that role easily. I’m not a rah-rah guy, I’m not a guy who’s going to scream and yell, but the one thing I do is that I lead by example. I’ll pull you to the side and help you out and tell what I see whether it’s wrong or right.
B/R: On a lighter note, speaking of responsibility, the NBA All-Star Game was down in Orlando this year. Since you're on the Magic, did that make you the unofficial host of the All-Star Weekend parties?
Nelson: I didn’t get any rest! It was fun, though…it was fun. It was great for the city of Orlando, it’s coming back soon [in 2016], so hopefully, we can do it all over again. No more rest again for a weekend!
B/R: Jason Terry told me about the Reebok CrossFit Challenge that you beat him in…
Nelson: Yeah—he didn’t have a chance.
B/R: Well, he didn’t wear the headband and the socks for the first half of the game that you played against him, but then he put it on at halftime, and he came back and the Mavericks won…
Nelson: Well, he asked if he could do it, and I said: “You know what? Go ahead, man.” Because at the end of the day, I want everybody’s best game. And I know he’s a superstitious guy, and he lives by his socks and his headband. So I let him put it back on. And he beat us.
B/R: Any chance we’re going to see a CrossFit rematch sometime?
Nelson: I don’t know…I don’t know. We have to figure it out. I have to go recruiting.
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