After having heard relatively little from former NBA All-Star point guard Kenny Anderson (outside of Twitter, anyway) beyond the ignominious end of his stint as the coach of a boys' basketball team at a Jewish day school in Florida, it came as something of a surprise when the Queens, N.Y., product popped up earlier this month in "Penis Monologues," an off-Broadway production in which Anderson and several other former NBA players discuss, among other things, the myriad ways in which that particular part of the anatomy can create complications. Another surprise came in the write-up of the performance by SB Nation's Seth Rosenthal, who noted that the Georgia Tech star and No. 2 overall pick in the 1991 NBA draft "grimaced when revealing dark childhood secrets" and that the evening "allowed the players to disinter some inner demons."
On Thursday, we learned the nature of some of those harrowing secrets and demons that the 42-year-old Anderson has been carrying around not only through his 14-year NBA career, but for the past several decades. From SB Nation's David Roth:
Kenny Anderson will say it: he was sexually abused, in two separate instances and by two separate monsters, during a multiply harrowing early life that he will also tell you about. That life — ungoverned by a mother too addicted and conflicted to be much of a parent, then ungovernable by dint of the heavy freedom his talent for the game gave to him — did not prepare him for any kind of life but the one he'd suffered through. It bruised and broke him, as of course it would. It helped make him a person he no longer likes much, or much resembles. He wants to talk about it now, all of it.
And talk he does, revealing in a gripping and heart-rending sitdown with SB Nation's Matt Ufford that he was molested twice as a child.
"I had to think about it. I had to say, 'Hey, am I ready to go into this world?'" Anderson says. "When I sat down and was talking about my life and everything that had happened to me, it just kind of shined on me that maybe I should get this out of me and take a load off of me."
Anderson says he was first abused by "a neighborhood guy on the block" when he was about 8 years old, and that later, after his family moved to Queens' LeFrak City neighborhood, someone in the youth basketball coaching world victimized him again. He emphasizes to Ufford that it wasn't one of his coaches at Archbishop Molloy High School or with the AAU teams with which he was involved, the Riverside Hawks or New York Gauchos; he doesn't share his abuser's name, but said that it will come to light at some point, "because it has to."
"Has to" factors into Anderson's disclosure quite a bit. In the process of working on an autobiography, the off-Broadway "Monologues" and other ventures, Anderson says he found himself facing down a past that he'd shared with his wife several years ago, but had kept very close to the vest beyond that; the more he thought on it, the more felt he had to let the traumatic experiences he'd kept hidden ("I kind of put the wall up; I really just threw it in the closet") see the light of day.
"[The goal is to] just let people know that this is me, that this is what happened to me," he says. "The bottom line: If i could help somebody and they see, you know, Kenny Anderson got molested and he's talking about it, now people are gonna come out and maybe be able to tell their story.
"I wasn't gonna do it. But the trigger went off for me, and it just had to be done."
This disclosure, of course, is just the beginning; as Roth notes, now that Anderson has finally spoken about these horrific experiences, he will have to keep speaking about them, answering more and more questions about some of the worst moments in his life. To decide to do so is remarkable, and brave, and commendable, and I hope that through it all, Anderson finds some peace.