Remembering a failed interview with the X-Man

Here's Xavier McDaniel in a Seattle promotional poster. The dog was not with him at the interview :)
Here’s Xavier McDaniel in a Seattle promotional poster. The dog was not with him at the interview :)

 

Xavier McDaniel will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame tonight. This brings back memories of my first summer in Wichita, Kansas … and having the NBA player basically kick me out of his gym.

I moved to Wichita for the summer of 1992 to take on a sports reporting internship at the Wichita Eagle newspaper. I covered a little of everything that summer – minor league baseball, the annual NBC amateur baseball tournament held in Wichita every year, professional tennis {Martina Navratilova was on a visiting team}, horseshoes {not kidding}, auto racing, motocross racing and a lot of youth sports. Then there was the time I was asked to interview Xavier McDaniel; it was one of my first assignments of the internship.

The assignment: localize a national wire story about the one-year anniversary of Magic Johnson announcing he was retiring from basketball because he had the HIV virus. NBA player Xavier McDaniel was in Wichita conducting a youth basketball camp, so my job was to go ask him how Magic’s announcement had changed the league.

I’d heard of him — known as X or the X-Man — but I didn’t know much more than he was an NBA player. There was no Google in 1992, so I did a quick search of the newspaper’s archives before heading out to interview him. Turns out he’d played college ball at Wichita State University in the early 1980s, where he became the first collegiate player in history to lead the nation in both scoring (27.2 points per game) and rebounding (14.8 rebounds per game) in the same season. He was drafted fourth overall in 1985 by the Seattle Supersonics, which was the team I remembered him playing for, and lost the Rookie of the Year award to Patrick Ewing.

Some of the archives and/or stories shared by my fellow Eagle reporters also pointed to some anger issues that had gotten some publicity over the years. To say I was a little intimidated walking into a high school gym to ask the X-Man about the risk of HIV and its effect on the sex lives of pro basketball players would be an understatement!

I was 20 years old and this guy was 6-foot-7, 220 pounds PLUS his baldness gave him an even more menacing look. I mean, the guy was known for his intensity!

It might have been the world’s shortest interview, and I recall it went something like this:

Me: So we are running an article about whether Magic Johnson’s announcement has changed the behavior of pro athletes over the past year.

X: OK, so what’s your question?

Me: Um, well … has Magic Johnson’s announcement that he has HIV changed your behavior, or that of your teammates?

X: You want me to tell you if it’s changed who I sleep with? No way, I’m not telling you what me or my teammates do personally. You’re crazy.

His words were a little loud, not yelling but … intense :) It was clear that the interview was over.

Looking back, I don’t blame X for his reaction. I think I’d be able to approach the topic differently now that I’m a little older and wiser, and I’d get a few usable sentences out of him!

So there you have it, my brush with a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. Sometime I will tell you about Norm Stewart yelling at me on the phone and hanging up on me, or how friendly Martina was not.

This entry was posted in Randomness, Sports, Weird shit that happens, Work.

4 Comments

  1. Doug November 25, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    There should be a repository for goofy things we did as young journalists. But to be honest, you found a question no one had asked before. Good for you.

    • Melinda November 25, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

      It would be fun to read and laugh at all the goofy things I did, for sure. And to have photos of some of my assignments. Too bad those old Radio Shack “portable computers” didn’t have a camera :)

  2. Erin O'Donnell November 26, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    I had more embarrassing cub reporter moments than I care to remember! Someday I will tell you about the time Mary-Chapin Carpenter went all diva on me.
    Erin O’Donnell recently posted…Getting to Know Me: a Kansas Women Bloggers Link-Up

    • Melinda December 1, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

      I would love to hear about that!! lol

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