Kenny Anderson Goes From Baller to Bankrupt to College Grad
It might be the proudest day of his life.
"It's going to be a very emotional moment for me,'' Anderson told FanHouse Thursday. "It might surprise a lot of people. To be honest, I wasn't always sure I had it in me.''
Anderson, 39, has traveled a long and winding road since starting school at Georgia Tech in 1989, looking for fame and fortune.
There have been tremendous highs -- he was the No. 2 pick in the 1991 NBA Draft, an NBA All-Star in 1994 -- but also some mind-boggling lows -- squandering a fortune made in a 14-year NBA career.
And much of it seems so long ago.
"At times, that all seems like a different life,'' Anderson said. "I felt like I had a good career -- I'm proud of my basketball -- but that NBA lifestyle just isn't real. It can gobble you up. And it did me. I just wish it hadn't taken me so long to mature as a person.''
Anderson, a point guard who could handle the ball like a magician, played for nine different NBA teams, accumulating more than 10,000 points and 5,000 assists. He became an All-Star once, in his third season in New Jersey when he averaged 18.8 points and 9.6 assists.
He also made close to $50 million in his career, yet he also declared bankruptcy shortly after he retired in 2005 with expenses far exceeding income and assets, results of a free-wheeling, careless and once extravagant lifestyle.
He was both benevolent and stupid with his money, far too generous with friends and family, and far too engrossed in his own rich-and-famous reputation.
"I'm an athlete who made bad decisions,'' he said. "But I'm a better person now. This is a new, more rewarding chapter. I just shake my head at the last one.''
Anderson has earned his Bachelor's Degree in Organizational Leadership, a major that forced him into a variety of classes, like business law, management, marketing, speech and mathematical equations. It took little more than two years after transferring 37 semester credits from Georgia Tech.
"There were times I almost gave up. It was tough after being away. When you're an athlete, there is always someone holding your hand, helping you get it done, guiding you every step,'' he said. "I was on my own in school this time.''
He did because he wants to move into college coaching, mentoring young athletes, helping them avoid the mistakes he made. He did it for his mother, whom he promised a degree before she died five years ago. He did it for his own children, so they could see what their father could accomplished.
Two of his five children live with him and his third wife, who works at a Miami hospital nearby, in a middle-class, South Florida suburb. She worked and received her degree two years earlier while he managed the household as a stay-at-home dad. Then it was his turn for school.
"Part of this is me trying to be a better parent. It helps me preach to them about doing well in school. When they saw Daddy back at school, they knew he was serious,'' he said. "It's been a long time coming, but I'd say this was the toughest challenge I'd ever taken. Basketball came easily to me. This was work.''
Anderson has been running a basketball academy near their home, training young players. He is both well-spoken and insightful. His energy and enthusiasm for the game, for his new life, for his future, is easy to hear.
He can joke about his mistakes, about his past because they don't really seem real anymore. He still has a video of him walking across the stage in 1991 to greet NBA Commissioner David Stern, who announced him as the No. 2 player in the Draft. He has shown to his youngest son several times.
"Not many people can say they were the No. 2 pick in the draft,'' Anderson said. "That's part of history. But this time when I go up on stage, it's going to feel different. And it's going to last.''