December 08, 2008
When you first speak to Chris Webber you get the sense that he really doesn't have the personality that is made for television. He is extremely polite, and well-spoken, but he doesn't have that "edge" that most television executives crave. When the camera's red light goes on, though, it's a different story. Webber seems to break out of his shell on camera, and isn't afraid to say what's on his mind.
The former Sacramento star has teamed up with Ahmad Rashad and Gary Payton as part of NBA TV's Tuesday night crew, in which fans have the ability to choose which game they want to watch. In the process, Webber has started to make a name for himself in the television world. When I asked "Inside the NBA" senior producer Tim Kiely if he would ever be able to recreate the success of the show, once Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley finally move on to something else, he actually mentioned Webber as a possible successor to the Inside Throne: "I've actually told people, you need to look at Payton and Webber," Kiely told me. "Who are doing very similar stuff with Ahmad on NBA TV."
While there's no telling if and when Webber would even consider such a move, should it arise, it's clear that the Michigan native has plenty of other stuff going on in his life to keep busy. This is the second interview in a series of Q and A's with the NBA TV personalities.
Ball Don't Lie: What's the biggest difference between the "Inside the NBA" set and the NBA TV set?
Chris Webber: The biggest difference is the time that the people on the TNT had to bond. We're all like teammates, and we look up to [Ernie, Kenny and Charles], and we know that they're really good. When I'm on [Inside the NBA], it's an honor to be on there. I see similarities [in the two shows]. The biggest difference is that they've been doing it a lot longer; hopefully we can gain that experience as a unit.
BDL: It seems like you and Gary Payton have already built up a good chemistry on the show. Do you feel the same way?
Webber: Yeah, definitely. We played against each other, we're in the same age group ... I respect everything that Gary does, and if I have my own opinion, he respects it as well. As long as you know that there's nothing personal [in the analysis] you can joke all day.
BDL: Were you and Gary buddies before you started working together at NBA TV?
Webber: I've known Gary forever. He's always been somebody I've talked junk with on the court ... [The television work] is natural. It's almost as if we've been best friends [for a long time], as far as how we are, on camera, it's a lot of fun.
BDL: I read that one of the messages you have for young people is that they can do anything, if they find something they love to do, and work hard at it. How do you improve as a broadcaster? Is there a secret you've come up with?
Webber: A lot of it is repetition. A lot of it is studying, just like you would with [game] film or anything else, so I watch Ahmad [Rashad]. I don't just want to be an analyst; there are a lot of other things I'd like to do. So I watch Ahmad, and he's one of the best at it. I watch him with everything he does. I read the [tele]prompter with him, I look at his notes, I see how he sets up, I see how [one second] he's joking with us, and then the next second, [he can] turn on the professionalism right in front of the camera ... the biggest thing I've learned is that you have to be yourself. I can rely on my experience [which helps], but I think I'm learning how to be myself, and how to be comfortable [on camera] and say what I feel.
BDL: Is there any part of this experience that has surprised you?
Webber: (Pauses) It's just enjoyable. I knew it when Ahmad and Gary we're going to be [my] partners. It's going really well, and that is surprising. You hope for it, but when it happens, it's really surprising.
BDL: When you guest-star on Inside the NBA, do you feel like you're going from triple A to the big leagues?
Webber: (Smiles) Not really. I love [being on Inside the NBA], because I'm a big fan of Charles, but I've been doing it for a long time, so those are my guys over there ... but it can be intimidating. Ernie, [and] everybody over there is really professional, and great at what they do, so it's fun going over there, so they make you feel welcome.
BDL: One of the new features on NBA TV is that you guys are allowing viewers to pick the game they would like to see most on Tuesday nights, but what happens if you guys get stuck with a bad game?
Webber: That's already happened. Ha! My friends in LA love to see the Lakers, [and] the Lakers are a really good team, so we're going to watch a good team blow people out [a lot] ... [The Tuesday game] is a lot of fun because it's the people's [choice]. At least the people get to pick, it's not the [executives] saying, "We're going to make you watch this game." If we have to watch it, we're all the same boat; we put ourselves in that boat.
BDL: Do your buddies ever give you a hard time about your television work?
Webber: (Smiles) Oh man. I get text messages. I got my own crack of old basketball players that try to hit me up; guys that I'm actually talking about [on the air] are hitting me up. It's a lot of fun, but you've got to be careful, everybody's listening, that's one thing you gotta remember.
BDL: I read that you actually own a comic book called Webber's World. Is that true?
Webber: I did, I did, but that was a long time ago. Ha!
BDL: Wikipedia has to update itself.
BDL: So what else are you doing these days besides the TV work?
Webber: I'm heavy into business and real estate. I've got my investment company. I represent several players in both basketball and football, in their financial areas. I'm writing a book, doing some film work, so there's a lot on the plate.
BDL: There's always something going on.
Webber: Yeah. Business is my heart. Basketball is definitely great for me, but I have companies I started when I was playing basketball, and now I actually have the time to see projects through, so I'm just happy to be immersed in my business [ventures] and stuff.
BDL: Do you ever think about getting back into the game as a coach, GM or owner?
Webber: Well, definitely as a GM, and hopefully as an owner ... there were several GMs I talked to [around the league] that were actually kind of upset that I took the job [with NBA TV], [hoping] that I would kind be apprenticed under them. I'm kind of young, so I have some time, but I would definitely love to be a GM and an owner in this league.
BDL: Switching gears a little bit, do you still find yourself following the college game at all?
Webber: No, I don't. The college game, to me, isn't as good [as it used to be], because everybody is younger. So, you can't be as good as you are you're freshman year, as you are you're senior year. I played against Christian Laettener's, Larry Johnson's, great guys that were juniors and seniors in college, and I don't see the same [in the college game these days]. Greg Oden is an awesome player, but he would have been one of many in my day. So, no, I'm really not excited about the college game. I don't know if coaches in high school are doing their jobs, because they are getting to the college level very unskilled. I've seen the most athletic guys in the world, so that doesn't impress me. So, hopefully the [college] game comes up, because, no, I'm not excited about college basketball right now.
BDL: I asked Gary the same question, but what do you think is the biggest difference from when you came into the league to now?
Webber: Probably [that] you can't be as physical. When I played in the NBA, guys like [Robert] Parrish were holding and pushing. It was a much more physical game, and now it's less physical because we want to show how great these athletes are. [The NBA] wants to make the guys can showcase their skills. I think now [the league] is just a little more offensive minded.
BDL: We'll wrap it up on this one, when you look back on it, can you believe that you were actually traded for Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe?
Webber: Ha! No, I can't. [The Bullets] were trying to send somebody away. (Laughs)
BDL: Do you still laugh about the trade now?
Webber: At the time, I was just hurt about being traded away. After that, I was really happy about being in Sacramento. So, it's funny you say that, because I guess I've never really looked at it that way, because at one time I was just mad about being traded, and then after I was like, "Hey, that was a pretty good trade." (Pauses) Hey, that was what (the Bullets) wanted to do. (Smiles) I asked them not to do that trade, so they really wanted me gone to get those two guys.
BDL: So, when you're a GM, you're hoping you can pull off a trade like the Kings did.
Webber: (Laughs) I pray I can [get a trade like that]. Definitely. I hope so.