A Few Minutes With…….

By Anthony Harris
Updated: December 17, 2004

Kevin Willis
Kevin Willis

NEW YORK — Kevin Willis has seen it all. From Dominique, Magic and Larry to Michael, Tim Duncan and today’s collection of new jacks led by LeBron James.

Yeah, that’s right from the high top fade, tight shorts, and knee-high socks to braids, twists, locs and baggie shorts.

Mr. Willis is the NBA’s elder statesman at the age of 42, but for those of us who remember his early days, age has not turned those arm muscles into Jell-O.

The Los Angeles, California native is currently playing in his third decade.

You may recall that just two seasons ago he celebrated with Duncan and David Robinson as the Spurs captured the title. It was one of the many feel good stories during their championship run.

I recently had the pleasure to chat with the former Michigan State star, who led the Big Ten conference in rebounding and field goal percentage as a junior.

Willis has also been a frequent contributor to community projects, including the Atlanta Children’s Village.

The Atlanta Hawks are his eighth team, ironically where he first tasted life in pro ball as the 11th selection overall in the 1984 draft (yes, David Stern was the commissioner then too).

Q: So, you’ve kind of gone full circle here back where it all started

A: Yeah, it’s full circle man; coming back to Atlanta has been great. It’s just been a blessing man, this is the 21st season and still being able to perform and play. We’ve got guys on the team like Kenny Anderson and I call him “antique” because he is older than I am (laughs), but seriously it’s good.

Q: How have you been able to stay in the league for so long

A: Just the love of the game man, just love it, appreciate the game, respect the game; take care of myself first of all and God’s good man.

Q: Talk to me a bit about the appreciation you have for taking care of your body

A: Very important, you got to take care of the body because if you do the right thing your body takes care of you, and it’s our temple and when we take care of it it responds right and it does everything you need it to do.

Q: What’s your role right now with the team

A: Basically providing leadership – giving the guys a little experience here and there and helping them out in tough situations and letting them know what it takes to win and go from there.

Q: I know that you’ve been designing and had a clothing line for quite some time, how is that coming along

A: Yeah, still doing my clothes. Wilson Walker is the name; we specialize in premium denim for big and tall guys. Very nice stuff, high-end kind of stuff so it’s going to be good and we’re going to have a big launch this spring in ’05.

Q: That’s cool, talk to me about the importance of having something on the side in addition to the basketball career

A: Yes, that’s very important because I’ve been playing this game for 21 years, but I also knew that you have to have something to fall back on and designing clothes is just one thing that I’m interested in doing. I love it, I studied it in college and you have to have a career afterwards because basketball is short-lived, and not everyone is going to play 21 years.

Q: Everyone’s talking about what happened a few weeks back in the Pistons-Pacers game, can you just tell me how – in your eyes – the league has changed, because you’ve seen quite a bit

A: It’s just changed tremendously. The passion and love has changed, it’s more global, it’s more hype and media, kids coming in from high school more often now – before you know it there will be 17-year olds coming in – but we have to change that and put some guidelines in for the younger kids where they are at least a sophomore in college before they can enter the NBA.

Q: You think the early entry into the league is a problem

A: Oh yeah, because the league is getting very young right now, and when it gets young like that it gets out of hand.