Kam and I met with Elie Seckbach last week and conducted an exclusive interview for TLN. Members submitted their questions, and we asked him. It was a very candid interview, and the stories he has for our blog are definitely worth reading.
We spoke about his career, NBA Players, Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, the TLN Bumper Stickers, and a whole lot more.
We will be posting the interview in 3 parts.
Elie Seckbach, The Embedded NBA Correspondent has been covering the NBA for 11 years. He now reports for the popular www.fanhousetv.com and says he is really excited about it:
“I have always gone to FanHouse to read their NBA blogs, they have some of the greatest NBA minds online, who are original and edgy, it’s a real honor to be on their team. if you guys are not familiar with fanhouse – just go to aol and click FanHouse – I promise you, you’ll get hooked! if you don’t let me know why!”
The entire TLN Staff wants to thank Elie for his time.
TLN: How did you first get involved in sports journalism?
Elie: I came out here to play college basketball for Valley College. A lot of my teammates were trying out for the NBA and used to be in the Summer Pro League, this was around ’97. Fisher was a rookie, Kobe was a rookie and I went down with them to the Summer Pro League in Long Beach, they were just trying out and I was on the sideline just talking smack, yelling stuff out to the players like “Yo mamma’s so old, she used to hang out with Burger King when he was a Prince.” NBA players were wondering, who’s this guy in the stands, so they introduced me. I wrote a little article, sent it out and some newspapers would run with it, other newspapers wrote me back “please don’t send us anything again, that was terrible.” And thats how I started, 1997 in the Summer Pro League, from there I just expanded and expanded.
TLN: Tell us about your first NBA players interview.
Elie: Oh man – the first player I interviewed might have been Lamont Murray, he was a nice guy but if you caught him on the wrong day he was full of anger. On the same day I interviewed Fisher and he said how he’s going to take Van Exel’s spot, everybody said that was a great scoop, this was when he just came in his rookie year. That was a good interview, Fisher was really cool and he hasn’t changed through all the years because I’ve seen a lot of NBA players start one way, but either when they make money or have more experience they’re too good to talk to people. But Fishers stayed level headed, it hasn’t gone to his head no matter how much success he’s had.
TLN: What’s your funniest non-Kobe moment?
Elie: Oh I have a bunch. Like Shaq for example, either Shaq with the “yo mamma” jokes or Shaq just hanging around Shaq all the time there’s always something funny with him. There was a guy named Jabari Smith
that played for Sacramento, funniest guy you’ll ever meet, he was a riot. He would say “everybody loves me!”, I’m like “Jabari how can you say that?”, Jabari goes “do you hate me?”, I go “no”, then he says “if Saddam was here he would love me!”, it was just a riot.
But with Shaq for example, when they were hanging out of a Jay-Z concert. After the game Shaq would yell out stuff like “Hey, who wants to go to the Jay-Z convert?”, so I show up. The gates were locked out in front, so I go out in the back and see Shaq hanging out; I go “Hey Shaq!”, he says “Hey, you’re there, come in.” So I come in and the security guard who is bigger than Shaq lets me in and Shaq goes “Tell him thank you.” so I apologize and thank him for letting me in. Then a homeless guy comes up and starts shaking the gate, he starts yelling “Shaq! Shaq! I need money for food, I need money for food!”, so Shaq looks at me and goes “Hey Elie, you got $5?”, I’m thinking… you’re asking me for $5? He makes like $300,000 a game. I look at my wallet and go, okay 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. He goes over, gives it to the homeless guy, the homeguy asks Shaq to sign his cardboard, so Shaq signs it. Shaq comes back, takes his hand out of his pocket, takes out a roll of 20’s, 50’s, and 100, tells me to take a 100. I say no, he says “If you don’t take the money I’ll beat you up.” So I took it, but the next day I regretted it, so I brought it back to him and he yelled at me “If you don’t take that money, I’ll beat you up.”
TLN: Do you still talk to Shaq when he comes back to town?
Elie: Of course. He’s a legend. There’s never been anyone like Shaq, there will never be anyone like Shaq. The last time I saw him, his first question to me was “How’s Kobe treating you?”, I said Kobe’s treating me great, he’s awesome. I actually came up to Shaq with some new yo mamma jokes that I made up, and the PR Director in Miami asked what’s going on. Shaq told him thats my style and told him to back off. Shaq’s just in another level. People would come up to me with stories about Shaq that nobody knows, I would ask him about it and he would say it really happened. There was a kid, 10-years-old, regular kid went out to play basketball, came home the same night and got a rare form of meningitis, had to amputate both arms and legs. Shaq heard about it, bought the family a brand new Van with a lift which cost him $130,000. Then went to the hospitol and visted the kid. I did the story, interviewed the kid; Shaq goes “why do you tell people?” He was happy that people knew, but at the same time he wanted to keep it under the radar. People don’t know what a heart he has.
TLN: Would you say Shaq’s your favorite NBA player to interview?
Elie: There are a lot; like every team has one or two guys that will give you an interview and you don’t know what to expect. For example, on the Warriors you have Stephen Jackson, you have no idea what he’ll say. Same with Matt Barns – he told me I took like a leprechaun; so I told him he looks like Steve-O.
Its tough to say who’s your favorite, because every time you walk into a locker room you don’t know what to expect. Its like a Seinfeld episode – you don’t know where you’re starting and you don’t know where you’re going to end. I can tell you most of the guy on the Clippers are real cool, obviously most of the guys on the Lakers. Each team has its own characters – someone that stands out, someone that can have his own reality show. I can tell you Mike James is hilarious. He’s way out there, really funny. I usually e-mail these guys during the season back and forth. Like Jason Kaponno – hilarious. People just don’t know how funny he is. He does imitations, voices, he’s a good guy. He does Borat by heart. I talked to Anothony Parker and asked if his sister (Candice Parker) can dunk on anyone; Jason jumps up and says “Yeah, she dunks on me all the time!”
TLN: What’s your favorite NBA team?
Elie: I grew up liking the Lakers, even though I grew up living in Israel. The Lakers were the team. When I came here I got into the Clippers – if you guys have been to Clipper games, you know the atmosphere, very family friendly. Right now being a reporter, I would say all the teams are my favorites. Its more the players that I like to interview; its the style of my features, I don’t do teams so much, I do individuals. I don’t want to offend people that ask why I like the Lakers if I cover their team; because I obviously like Phoenix, I like the Lakers, Toronto – very fun to interview, Detroit – they’re a bunch of characters. I was trying to get Rasheed to run for President like your stickers, but his teammates said I’m nuts for even offering it. Rasheed said he’ll do an even worse job than George Bush.
TLN: At what point of your life did you choose this as your career?
Elie: Well I just started college, I didn’t have a major. I started working and I got picked up by CBS – so I was working then I chose my major. But this industry as a whole is a roller coaster. One day you’re at the bottom, next day you’re the hottest thing, third day you’re back. Its very tough to keep longevity. But if you do good work and you’re persistent, there is longevity. Every year its a brand new set of reports to cover the teams, two years later another set, third year its the set that came to cover two tears ago. The whole industry is changing because of the Internet. It used to be TV – all the TV stations are going online. Newspapers are really taking a hit – they’re going online. Radio stations are thinking of how to transform. Websites like yours are changing everything; everyone is going online to find their niche.
TLN: What’s your favorite journalism moment ever?
Elie: Away from Basketball – it was traveling with CBS to Israel and interviewing terror victims. We went into areas that were just bombed, with smoke coming out of the buildings and bullets flying. That has to be my best moment. We came back and won a Golden Mike for that. It was called Into The Heart Of Israel; I went with Drew Griffin, whose the main investigative reporter for CNN. That was an experience. My name Elie is a typical Jewish/Israeli name, and so I told the camera lady to call me Michael when we go into the dangerous areas. First thing she does when we get there – she yells “Elie, where’s the camera?!”, I just kept walking.
NBA – covering the Finals with the Lakers, covering the All-Star game, just every game is great. There are 82 games a year – do Lakers, Clippers; sometimes I do Sacramento, Pheonix – and there’s so much out there, thats why everytime I come out I think “Wow, I have some good stuff.”; but sometimes its like hey, you know what you’re not going to hit a home run so you’re gonna bunt. I guess a lot of stuff with Kobe would be great if I can look back at it. He’s the biggest athlete; and you would be shocked, everything with his name goes through the roof. If you just mention Kobe’s name in an article, everyone’s going to look at it. And sometimes its just funny how people respond, like you do a video and the last line of it would be “The Denver Nuggets will be struggling against the Lakers”, every blogger will jump on that last line and just start arguing amongst themselves, and start personal attacks – which is really funny to me.