Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bleachers' Brew #309 A chat with former Chicago Bull Luc Longley

This appears in the May 7, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.

A chat with former Chicago Bull Luc Longley
by rick olivares

Luc Longley played 11 seasons in the NBA where he averaged 7.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game. He was the starting center for the Chicago Bulls in their three-peat teams from 96-98.

The first time I got to meet Luc Longley in person was a long time ago in Chicago where I was able to get his autograph along with the rest of the Bulls. Due to the large number of people asking for autographs that day, he only had time to sign before moving on to the next person.

In this Manila visit of his, I got to finally chat with him during the launch of Philippines and during a one-on-one session with the Man in the Middle who played arguably for the best basketball team of all time.

He remains as affable, as quotable, and friendly as ever.

Rick: Luc, you played for four NBA teams – Minnesota, Chicago, Phoenix, and New York. What team do you identify yourself with the most and do you regularly follow that team?
Luc: Oh, I consider myself a Chicago Bull. Apart from contributing to the success of the team, I spent the longest time in my NBA career in Chicago. Those five years were very memorable not just for me but for all involved. We experienced quite some hurdles in before we got around to winning a championship. And I’d have to say that winning not one but three NBA championships is a blessing. To win one is hard enough but three? So this means, I have an affinity for the Bulls and I follow them as much as I can.

While many of my other teammates or coaches went to other teams like for example when Phil (Jackson) was head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, I also followed them. Toni (Kukoc) was with Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The three-peat or the journey as Phil calls it, bonded us together. The Bulls… Chicago is where my heart is. They sure got lucky when they were able to get Derrick Rose. He is special. It is just a tough situation they find themselves in right now with his injury.

Rick: Are you in touch with any of your former Bulls teammates? If so, who and how often?
Luc: Last January, I went to the States and I got to catch up with my old teammates. There’s Steve, Jud (Buechler), Scottie (Pippen), and Randy (Brown). I haven’t spoken to Dennis (Rodman) in a while but I did get to catch up with Phil who I try to keep in touch with certainly every so often.

When I am back home in Australia, I do tend to a lot of the emails and that is usually how I keep in touch with the others. During the All-Star break, I had a meal with Steve Kerr and we had a lot of catching up to do. Steve’s got an incredible memory of a lot of things and it really made for a great meeting. We all try to keep in touch and the experience of playing together has bonded us like brothers.

Rick: Do you ever experience moments when out of the blue you recall your time in the NBA or with the three-peat team of the Chicago Bulls and you go, ‘Whoa! That was incredible. I can’t believe we accomplished that.’
Luc: Oh, definitely a lot of the time. But I have to say that in Australia every day rolls by and I fairly live a normal life. Many people do not remember the time. When they see me walking by they say, “There’s a tall fellow…” It happens when I’m not really doing much and I have time to think. It happens when I watch a basketball game. Maybe when I get older I’ll think more about it more. I am proud to have played with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman and the rest of the team. And we won championships together. I have to say that was a special ride for me and for all who were with the team and the organization.

Rick: What keeps you busy nowadays?
Luc: I call myself a head juggle because among many things, I have four  teenagers who keep me busy. I have several small businesses that also take some of my time. I also try to help out a little the Australian national team with the big guys. Because of this, I can go on back to being around basketball. Not to play but help around – I’ve got bad knees.

Being here in the Philippines reminds me of why I fell in love with the sport. It makes me glad that I have done something good for the sport.

Rick: How is your CD collection (Luc, an avid music fan, lost his massive collection when a fire gutted his home)? What do you listen to nowadays?
Luc: Oh you do know of my passion for music!

Rick: I am a huge music fan as well. And I try to know what I can about the Bulls and yourself.
Luc: Put it there, mate. (shakes hands). My CD collection is not so bad. I’ve had to start again after the fire but a lot of the music I have now is digital. I still buy CDs and listen a lot to the blues, rock, and independent stuff. What I am listening to now are the Black Keys, a little bit of jazz, old stuff like Motown. In the NBA, you always lot of time for yourself as you’re always sitting in buses, in airplanes, or in the locker room. I think they show that also on NBA TV. Guys listen to music to relax or to get focused. I do the same but I am a big music fan.

Rick: Let’s talk about your marine conservation efforts. Why is this your advocacy?
Luc: Even before basketball, I loved the ocean. I loved fishing, diving, and surfing. One reason why I live in Perth (Australia) is I wake up and I am near the ocean. It’s a soothing and relaxing thing for me. And I do hope that my kids get to experience the joy and love for the ocean just as I had when I was younger. So it is only natural that I am an advocate of taking care of the ocean and all the living creatures who make it their home. It is something I am passionate about.

Rick: Does having a celebrity cook (Anna Gare) for a wife influence your culinary tastes and interest in the kitchen?
Luc: Anna has changed my tastes massively. I used to be such a naughty eater. That means eating all the wrong foods. Anna helped me clean up my eating habits. We’ve known each other when we were a lot younger and food is just one of the things that has gotten us together.

Rick: Does she ever leave you to your own devices in the kitchen?
Luc: Anna travels a lot of the time because of her work so I get to spend some time cooking. I like taking in the season’s produce and treating them with a light touch.

Rick: No junk food?
Luc: No junk food. Those days are done (laughs).

Rick: What do you think of the Philippines so far?
Luc: I love it so much that I hope to bring Anna here for a look. Everybody seems welcoming and happy. I’ve seen kids on street who are a bit unlucky but they’ve got smiles on their faces. People here smile a lot and that makes you fell good. Filipinos have this love of basketball and NBA in particular. It is not necessarily the same in Australia so being here makes it even more fun. When I arrived, one of those guys, I am not sure if he is a security guard but he is one of those guys driving those carts that carry things around. He said, ‘Hello, Luc.” Not, “Hello, Mr. Longley” but “Hello, Luc.” That put a huge smile on my face and I thought to myself, “I could get to like this place.”

Whether because of what I was able to accomplish with the Chicago Bulls or for myself, people know me. Even 10-year old kids who were not even born at the time when I was playing for the Chicago Bulls know that we went 72-10 and we won a three-peat. They know all my teammates and they can tell me things that people would not casually know about the Chicago Bulls. And that is amazing.

I showed Luc several cards of his Chicago Bulls cards in my collection. Said the Big Fella: "It really amazes me when I see people with these memorabilia. It's nice to know that I have done something to make people feel good and to be a fan of the Bulls and basketball."

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