Photo courtesy of NJ Advance Media.
By David Cordova
The phrase, “Basketball is easy, life is hard,” is one that shows that playing a game that you love is less difficult than dealing with the harsh realities of life. What one goes through everyday can be taxing and troublesome, but it’s how you get through the hard times and struggles that means everything. For Kenny Anderson, a man that has been through hell and back, his story resembles something out of a Showtime documentary or a Lifetime TV movie.
The former NBA star, who played fourteen seasons with nine teams, has recently come out with a new documentary called Mr. Chibbs, which details the good, the bad and the ugly from his life.
Growing up in the LeFrak City section of Queens, Anderson started playing basketball at a young age and then morphed into one of the best basketball players in the country throughout his four years at Archbishop Molloy High School in the Briarwood section of Queens.
During his four years at Molloy, he won two Catholic city championships as a freshman and sophomore, was a four-time Parade Magazine All-American, was a member of the 1989 McDonald’s All-American team and won plenty of awards from publications such as Naismith, Parade Magazine, USA Today and Gatorade. Last but not least, he finished his high school career as New York State’s scoring leader with 2,621 points, a feat that would last for 15 years, until it was broken by future NBA player Sebastian Telfair in 2004.
From there, Anderson would go on to Georgia Tech University in Atlanta, Georgia, in which he would score 1,497 points in two seasons there and lead the Yellow Jackets to an NCAA Final Four appearance as a freshman in 1990, along with Dennis Scott and Brian Oliver, leading to the trio being known as “Lethal Weapon 3”, due to the guards’ ability to score plenty of points.
Anderson later left Georgia Tech after his sophomore year, and became the No. 2 pick in the 1991 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets. In 1993-94, his third season in the NBA, he became an All-Star and averaged 18.8 points and 9.6 assists per game. Throughout his NBA career, he would score 10,789 points and add 5,196 assists to go along with 1,258 steals.
Those were the good days. But all of the accolades only tell part of Anderson’s story. The other parts of his story can’t be measured in statistics or awards, but rather just a story. In the film, he talks about his bout with alcoholism, which cost him a job that he loved as the head coach of the boys basketball team at the David Posnack Jewish Day School in Davie, Florida following a DUI arrest in August 2011. There is also the story of him fathering eight children by multiple women, then there’s also the story of him being molested as a youth, something very traumatic that he still deals with to this day.
“A lot of people in New York, my hometown, know me as a basketball player, a gifted young man. I wanted to do something courageous, pay it forward, I wanted to do something to help someone. I was reading a lot of articles, news, TV reports about kids being abused, molested. I threw everything in the closet for thirty-something years, so I kept going back and forth, ‘should I do this?’ I wanted to sacrifice myself to help someone else.” says Anderson.
He spoke about the death of his late mother, Joan Anderson, who passed away in 2005, as a reason why he chose to speak out about being abused. “If my mother were still living, I don’t know if I would have done it and came out. I was living with too much hurt in me, I was finished playing basketball, and bottom line, I just wanted to help some of these kids that’s dealing with trauma, molestation and abuse.”
One message that Anderson wanted to make clear in the film is that that he wanted people to see the difference between Mr. Chibbs, which was a childhood nickname that he was given by his mother as an infant, and the real Kenny Anderson. Two different people in the same body.
When asked about the two, Anderson said, “Chibbs is an innocent kid, having fun, played in LeFrak City. That name was special to my mom, she gave me that name. Mr. Chibbs is the real person, this is who I am. Kenny Anderson is a basketball player that made money, that became a celebrity, that became an All-Star and had to fake a lot of things because I made it.”
One thing is certain, if you didn’t grow up with him, you can’t call him Chibbs. “I love my fans and my supporters. Everybody can’t call me Chibbs, it don’t feel right. It don’t feel right coming from certain people. It gotta come from somebody that really understands Chibbs. And that’s LeFrak City.”
Something major that Anderson is trying to accomplish is being a better father to his kids. “I got eight kids, I’m just trying to live proper for them. I’m 46. I’m trying to connect. If I can just try to teach them the right way and not be a jerk,” says Anderson.
Another mission that he also wants to do is work with kids. “I know I want to work with kids and help kids. I coach my travel team, I have my own gym in Tampa. I want to be a life coach and be able to do those type of things,” says Anderson.
Something that was shown in the movie was when he did the famous crossover move in a game between Georgia Tech and Duke on January 11th, 1990, against Bobby Hurley, when both guards were freshmen. Hurley, now the head coach at Arizona State University, invited Anderson to come talk to the players and even showed the highlight to them.
When asked about playing against Hurley and, who was a rival of his on the court since high school, when the two were the top guards in the New York-New Jersey metro area and in the country, and the Blue Devils, Anderson said, “It wasn’t so much Bob Hurley, it was Duke. They were winning everything. So I used to mark the calendar every time we played them. I guess I was envious of them winning every year, ACC, going to the Final Four, winning championships. So that night, I just played off of instinct. I knew I had to play a big game, especially at home.”
In the film, Anderson spoke about his days at Georgia Tech, a place that he enjoyed during his time there. “Georgia Tech meant the world to me. My two years there was just beautiful. And I wanted just wanted to kill whoever we played.”
Although he had a solid career in the NBA, Anderson did have some things that he wished that he had done better in his fourteen-year career. “I wish I would’ve worked a little harder in the NBA. I would’ve squeezed another three, four years out. I would’ve played a lot better. But I lost some of the passion, because of the politics of it. It can be a gift & a curse. When you’re a child prodigy, and you’re living in New York City, it’s like I didn’t have to work as hard. I think my work ethic, I lost a little bit when I got to the League.”
When talking about his late mother, Anderson spoke of how close of a bond the two had, “I was a straight mama’s boy. Whatever she said, I did.” So much so, that when it came time for him to choose a college, his mother decided that he would go to Georgia Tech. due to the fact that she liked the route that then-head coach Bobby Cremins went in. Luckily, what Joan Anderson thought was best ended up coming true for her son.
The things that one can take away from the film is that this is a story of a man who isn’t defined by the game that he played, but by the struggles that he had gone to get to the place that he is now. Mr. Chibbs, the film, is the story of an athlete who has gone through highs and lows, but plans to make a difference in the lives of others in the present day and in the future. Life is hard and basketball is easy. That is the message that is learned from the man that LeFrak City calls simply calls, “Chibbs,” and that everyone else knows as Kenny Anderson.
Highlights of Kenny Anderson: