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The Hoop Doctors

The Hoop Doctors Interview Common

May 13, 2010 – Kevin Burke

There are few things in this world better than basketball and a good movie. The pot is sweetened even more if the two are combined. Well, we are in luck.  On May 14, Just Wright, a romantic sports comedy from Fox Searchlight, hits the big screen.

Just Wright stars Queen Latifah, as Leslie Wright, a straight-shooting physical therapist who gets the dream job of working with NBA All-Star Scott McKnight, played by hip hop legend Common.  All is going well until Leslie finds herself falling for Scott, forcing her to choose between the gig of a lifetime and the tug-of-war inside her heart.

Oblivious to her romantic overtures, McKnight is instead drawn to the affections of Leslie’s gorgeous childhood friend who has her sights set on being an NBA trophy wife.  The film also features cameos by NBA players and sports figures including Dwyane Wade, Rashard Lewis, Jalen Rose, Rajon Rondo, Marv Albert and many others.

Just a few days before the movie is set to debut, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a brief conference call, along with others, who had the opportunity to speak with leading man and Chicago native, Common, about his role playing an NBA star, basketball and life in general.

Other participant: Hey, Common. We know you’re from Chicago and were also a Bulls ballboy growing up. Can you talk about that experience?

Common: That was a great experience. Being able to see Michael Jordan so often was something I’ll never forget. I will always remember how hungry he was a a young player and that is why he ended up being the best ever. But, I also remember a funny story: as a young player, he used to walk around with a radio listening to his music. Rod Thorne asked him to turn it down. Well, about 3 preseason games later, they left him alone because they realized that they had greatness on their hands. It was fun being next to greatness.

Kevin: Hey, Common. Thanks for making yourself available for a few minutes.

Common: Absolutely. My pleasure

Kevin: In playing the role for the movie, do you think you got a true sense for what it may be like to be an actual NBA superstar?

Common: Definitely. I feel like I did everything they normally do except travel. The travel was the only part missing. But I talked with the players, played with them all the time as if it were a team practice. I actually had to train as if I was really in the NBA. I even went to a meeting with Rondo to go see his agent. For those two months while we were shooting the film, I really felt like I was in the league. I got that emotional charge while we were filming so it definitely felt very real. Acting is so much for to me.

Kevin : How would you compare the emotional charge of playing ball while shooting the movie to when you’re on stage performing?

Common: The emotion is the same but it’s a slightly different type of charge because you know you’re playing to different audiences. But like I said, the emotion is just the same for each.

Other participant: How did you go about training for the film? What was the regiment like?

Common: Aww man it was intense. I did alot of cardio and worked out with the Nets trainer constantly. It was like I was actually a part of a team. I was doing all kinds of drills. Defensive drills and everything. I even put up 300-500 shots a day. I truly felt like an athlete. Aside from that I went to play at a couple of parks out in LA with Baron Davis. I also went with him to UCLA to play too, but I had to take it easy at first because I had a bad back. And it’s funny because whenever somebody plays against somebody they recognize from TV, they try extra hard to show you up. That’s what I had to go through: guys trying extra hard against me to block my shot.

Other participant: Being a Chicago native and a long-time Bulls fan, what do you think of Derrick Rose and who should they add around him?

Common: I first saw Derrick as a sophomore in high school and couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and he’s only gotten better. I think he will go down as one of the best Point Guards of all time. As far as who they should bring, I’d like to see Dwayne Wade as a Bull alongside Rose. People say that there wouldn’t be enought basketballs on the court for these two guys to play together, but I think they’d do just fine. I knew Dwayne before this movie and have been telling him for a while that he needs to play for he Bulls, but he’ll ultimately do what’  for him. I also like Amare Stoudemire too. It will be interesting to see what happens though. That’s why I love basketball. Although I didn’t grown up with him, my father played in the ABA, so basketball is in my blood.

Other participant: Why is Just Wright more than just a basketball movie?

Common: Because it has a great plot. It’s a guy who is in love with the game of basketball who also manages to find love in the most unlikely place. I don’t wan to give away too much of the movie but it’s a an interesting love triangle and you’ll really walk away feeling inspired. And also, keep in mind that the basketball being played in the film is authentic which makes it even more believable. I do dunk in the movie, but I’ll be honest, they had to lower the rim 4 inches for me to pull that off (laughs) because I never really hops. My game was always about handle. But after shooting this film, I think I want a tryout for an NBA squad (laughs).

If you’re looking for your everyday, predictable basketball talk, then go somewhere else, because Kevin Burke of The Kevin Burke Project brings provocative, thought provoking content about basketball as only he can. Kevin also hosts The Hoop Doctors weekly podcast show, which you can subscribe too for free on iTunes.

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