THE KING’S SPEECH
He’s played for NBA powerhouses Atlanta Hawks, the Phoenix Suns, Brooklyn Nets and the New Orleans Pelicans and famously headed to Greece as one of the Euroleague’s drawcard signings. But few men have made a bigger immediate impression on Australia’s NBL as Josh Childress. There has been on-court brilliance, inspiring off-court generosity and a dose of controversy. Now he must decide if he wants to come back and finish the Championship chase he started with the Sydney Kings.
Josh, when you signed for Sydney there was a real buzz around your name coming to town. Why did you choose Sydney?
Well, I chose Sydney based on a few different reasons but I think that there was an opportunity for me to let me expand myself as an individual, live in a different country, and continue playing basketball.
So a season on, does the Sydney lifestyle agree with you?
The Sydney lifestyle has been great for me. I’m from California so it’s quite similar to Los Angeles, where I was born and raised, and yeah, I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed the people. I’ve enjoyed my time here and the weather has been good and it’s definitely a nice place.
You’ve played some really, really outstanding basketball and you’ve been a real crowd favourite. I know you’ve had your injury concerns along the way, but are you surprised at how well you’ve played here and how much the crowd has embraced you?
I mean, I never could’ve anticipated how the crowd would embrace me, but I’m happy with how I’ve played. To an extent I feel like I could’ve played better in a lot of areas. I think that just comes with training, you know, working on my body and I kind of started this season behind the ball a bit. I came in injured and I didn’t get a whole off-season’s worth of training in. I think that those types of things can be fixed and I look forward to what’s next.
You’re probably more of a role player in the NBA, but here so much of the Kings on-court presence revolved around you. Do you have a preference on what you do on the court, if you have to compare the two different styles?
It’s interesting because a large majority of the guys who are in the NBA are role players but they also come from being the star, being the main player. It’s just a matter of trying to figure out how to make yourself best utilized and giving the coach the opportunity to play you at a bunch of different positions. I think that for me, regardless if I’m a role player, if I’m a starter , if I’m a star of a team, or any of that stuff, I just want to feel good playing and enjoy playing basketball and enjoy my teammates and that’s what I did this year.
Your time in the NBL has certainly made people sit up and take notice. There has been drama though. The incident in Perth, early on, how do you look back on that now?
You know, honestly, I don’t even think about it anymore. That was in November, I think it was. It happened and I’ve moved on and I think that everybody involved has moved on, probably other than Perth fans. So, it is what it is.
Have you had a chance to have a conversation with Jesse Wagstaff about what happened?
No, I haven’t. We didn’t speak about it again. I’ve played him again and I greeted him just like I greeted every other player and he did the same and I went about my business. Those types of incidents happen while you’re on the floor. There are no hard feelings. I don’t know if he has hard feelings toward me, but it’s a part of the game, it’s a part of life. You have to learn to move on from your mistakes.
Would you like the opportunity to be able to have a chat to him about it or do you see it as not really anything you need to worry about?
I think that if that was necessary it would have happened by now and he didn’t feel the need to do so and neither did I. So, yeah, that’s that.
As a marquee player for your team and you were doing so well at the time, what was it like to have to sit on the sidelines after that incident through suspension?
I sat out for one game and it was tough. I felt like I could’ve helped my team win that game that I was out and its obviously something I wish that I could change, but the season is over now and I can’t sit and think back to what could’ve been and what I should’ve done. I just have to look forward to what I have in front of me.
The aftermath of that was horrible and you experienced some terrible racism and abuse on your social media. How do you look back on that now and have you been able reconcile in your own head that that’s not a true reflection of how people are in Australia?
To be honest, I haven’t thought about that this season. I feel like people reacted the way they did. I can’t control how people view me or how people speak to me, but it’s just a matter of me continuing to live and grow as a person. I’ve said many times, and I’ll continue to say, that overall my experience in Australia has been very positive and the people have been extremely nice. So, I’m not going to allow some people on social media to dissuade or change that view, my view of Australia.
Josh, you went to Greece in 2008 when you were doing really well in the NBA. Why did you make that move? Why did you go to Europe, which was a quite unusual move to go to Europe at the time?
I went for a few reasons. I think primarily it was just a chance for me to do something different. To be a part of a really good team and, quite frankly, I didn’t have a contract on the table otherwise. I made the best decision for myself and that was going to Athens.
By doing that you became a bit of trailblazer. More players started to do that and other NBA players followed suit. So, you became a bit of a pioneer in that respect.
I think that that’s the perception. The reality is guys have been going to Europe well before and are still going well after me. The type of contract that I received and the types of contracts that got offered may have increased during that time period, but Europe has always been a very viable option for many players and it was just a matter of me leaving at that time, but I don’t think that I did anything different than most guys. Most guys look at situations like that and see, weigh up their options, see what makes sense for them and I did the same thing.
Europe’s a pretty good place for a man with your style, my friend. You’re probably the most impeccably dressed basketballer on the circuit. We see you courtside in all your fancy threads. You like your style and your fashion?
Oh man, that’s probably the opposite of what I am. That’s how I dress. I don’t keep up with fashion. I don’t do any of that stuff. I know that a lot of NBA players that do and they’re really fashionable about that stuff, but I just try to wear what suits me. I would say that it’s pretty thrifty and that’s just my style. I wouldn’t say that I’m a style guy though. I’m not into fashion. Maybe sneakers but not fashion.
Yeah, well tell us about that sneaker collection. How many pairs are you up to now?
I don’t know. I haven’t been home in six, seven months, so I don’t know what’s there. I have a younger brother that wears the same size as me so he may have taken some, but other than that, I just get what I like. I’ve been able to find some nice stuff here in Sydney and all throughout Australia. Some of the stores have reached out and taken care of me. So, it’s been a good situation for that.
Josh, one of the really, really nice stories of your time here is how you’ve helped out a lot of children, in particular, under privileged children and children who are sick. Can you tell me about the day you took a group of kids out and bought them all shoes?
Yes, yes. I have an annual event in which I take about fifty to a hundred kids out for a day. At the end of the day I purchase some shoes for them and I did that for fifty kids here and for me it’s not about me going out and doing nice things for the kids and stuff. It’s just about enjoying getting to know them. Allowing them to have a fun day away from the troubles that they face on a day to day basis and I really enjoyed being able to do that and spend time with them.
You’ve had such high moments on the basketball court and you’ve done your philanthropy work with the kids as well and, as you said, it’s about giving them a great day. So if you could compare the two, what do you get most satisfaction out of?
I’d probably say the thing with the kids. In basketball you have your good days, your bad days, that’s just a part of sports, but if you have the ability to leave a long lasting impression on a group of kids, then that’s worth a lot to me. I really enjoy that.
Josh, when you were in the NBA you had one of the most impressive ‘fro hair styles in the League. I think it was rated the best ‘fro in the NBA at one point. Will we see it back? You’ve got sort of a dreadlock sort of a thing going on at the moment. Are we going to see the ‘fro back?
Probably not. It’s too much effort. I just like to hop out of the bed and go. So, it’s just much more convenient and easy for me to manage.
The question everyone wants to know though is, will you be back in Sydney at all? Will we see you back next season?
Yeah, I’m not sure. We’ve had some good discussions with the team, myself and my agent, but we’re still going through a process of figuring everything out. I think that it’ll happen over the course of the summer. If it could happen sooner, then great, but I see it as a process and I’ve gone through it enough times to know.
What will determine that Josh? Is it a financial thing or is it just a circumstantial thing in your life, in making sure that that’s what you want to do as your next stage? What will determine if you come back or not?
I think that it’s a package. Obviously, financial has something to do with it, but also things that can occur of the floor in the community, throughout the league, chances for the crew and living as an individual, lifestyle, it’s a package of things. So, I can’t nail down one specific thing because there isn’t one specific thing that’s the most important. It’s a mixture of a bunch of different things.
The Sydney Kings have certainly put the nucleus of a good team in the future together. It wasn’t quite there yet this season though. With that in mind and the fact that the team didn’t make the finals, which clearly would’ve been your objective when you came here, is that something that would inspire you to come back and be part of that ongoing rebuild of the club?
Well, that’s definitely attractive and definitely something that I would really enjoy. I also feel that I owe it to myself to make sure that I’m in a good position to succeed, both on and off the floor, and I have to have these conversations with the team just so that they’re in the process of wanting to do the same and wanting to get to the championship level. I think that they are and in my discussions they’ve said that they are, but I want to see how that goes over the course of the free agent period.
What’s your relationship with the NBL as an organisation like, with headquarters?
My relationship with the NBL is a player-league relationship. It’s not anything different than that. I don’t think that, there won’t be anything other than me doing things with the Kings. That’s what my focus is. It’s not so much on the NBL. I think that they want to see the league grow and I hope that it does, but my focus is on the Sydney Kings and Josh Childress.
Would you consider buying a team here in Australia?
No. No I would not.
Do you think that the league is in a good place or having played a year in it, do you think that it’s got a lot of work to do to be a viable league?
I don’t know. I don’t know the finances of the league and I think that, based on what I hear, there are some teams that are doing well and some teams that aren’t, but I think that what’s most important is that the league is getting a TV deal. I don’t know how that’s going. I don’t know any of those details. I think that part of the issue is that there needs to be more teams and you can’t have a league, a fully functioning viable league, that will be able to get a ton of TV rights with eight teams. You have to have, I think, a nation-wide league. It’s a matter of growing the league and I hope that they are able to do that for Australia and New Zealand. I’m not a business man in that regard and so I don’t know the logistics behind local teams and creating leagues and all of that. That’s why they are in the position that they’re in.
You’ve played in Europe and you’ve seen a lot of basketball around the world. The NBL considers itself among the top 10 leagues in the world. Do you agree with that? Do you think it is up there on the world stage as a league?
I’ve only played in three leagues, so I don’t know, but I think that it’s a solid league. The Europe league is obviously next under the NBA. I’ve only played in Greece, so I don’t know, as far as the domestic leagues, how this would stack up. In terms of the Greek league, this one stacked up pretty well. You have some talented players here, but again, I can’t really speak on that because I’ve only played in that and the NBA.
Josh, you’re about to head home to the States. What’s your lasting memory of this experience in Australia going to be?
The time spent with teammates. The time spent with them, the time spent out on the bridge, doing stuff like that and just enjoying life. That’s really what it’s about. That’s really what I’ve enjoyed the most and what I’ll always remember. I’ve met some good people. I’ve had some good fun here and hopefully that can continue another year or years.