To say that Lance Allred has had an interesting life is a massive understatement. A descendant of a fundamentalist polygamous Mormon prophet, Allred spent his early years on an isolated compound in Montana. He's also the first legally deaf person to play in the NBA, and the author of two books, Longshot: The Adventures of a Deaf Fundamentalist Mormon Kid and His Journey to the NBA and Basketball Gods (which he's selling for a dollar). We got with Lance to talk about his journey, his books, and his thoughts on the lockout and LeBron James.
You were in NBA camp this summer. Is is safe to say you're still chasing that NBA dream?
Lance Allred: I don’t think chasing applies to me. [Laughs.] I was with the Bobcats in June and it went really well but then the lockout came. That kind of cut off all communication. [I had to decide whether to] wait around for it to be over or go elsewhere. I got the call from this Japanese team. I’ll be surprised if there’s a NBA season this year. I really don’t think there’ll be one.
What do we have to look forward to with this lockout situation?
Lance Allred: I’m hearing a lot of guys that are completely out of touch. With the economy the way it is people don’t really want to hear about all this money and players arguing over it, especially with everyone struggling to hold down jobs. The owners say they’re losing money, so if that’s the case the players are going to have to concede some. It’s cheaper for the owners to lock the players out instead of losing money every game because the players are getting paid too much. If the owners do get their way, hopefully they realize that the consumer now has options and NBA fans don’t have to spend money on expensive seats with bad views, getting in the car, burning gas, paying for parking when they can sit at home and watch the game on a flat screen TV. Hopefully the owners will realize this and lower ticket prices, but that’s not my call to make. I talked to several agents, several teammates and I mean, it’s going to be ugly.
But doesn’t it seem like the owners are their own worst enemy?
Lance Allred: Definitely, but I would say, as far as parity goes, the reason why the NFL is so successful is that the fans can really rout for their teams, because in any given year any team can win it. The reason why a small market team like the Green Bay Packers can win championships is because there’s a hard salary cap. Whereas in the NBA and MLB people know who the main contenders are going to be every year and it’s the big market teams. So a lot of owners are definitely looking out for themselves and sure, there are owners that are making ridiculous money but then there are owners like the Indiana Pacers and other small market clubs that are really losing money. If those teams have to go bankrupt, the less likely there can be a league. I would say the truth lies somewhere in between, there’s no black or white. The owners are saying they're losing this much money and the players are saying we need this much, but you have to realize, as players, we have a short earning period before we have to retire; so, we’re not looking out for the purity of the game either. I mean, why worry about the future and making sure these younger kids have jobs when those same kids are your competition trying to take your job? It’s hard to feel compassion for either side with the economy the way it is.
Are star players going overseas a real threat?
Lance Allred: It's kind of funny because they’re so used to the posh NBA lifestyle with 5-star hotels and all the perks that come with it, while in Europe it’s completely different. It's so far below what NBA standards are. The Europeans practice five days a week, twice a day while only playing once a week. Whereas, in the NBA, you practice a couple days a week and play three to four games. People tend to say the games put wear and tear on your body, that’s not the case; it’s the all the practicing. They think they’re going to have a good time out there, but instead they’re going to be killing themselves in practice and not getting paid on time. The team in Turkey that signed Deron Williams is notorious for not paying their players. And with a high-profile signing like that he’ll likely get paid, but that may also mean a couple of his teammates won’t.
Should people just shut up about LeBron James?
Lance Allred: I enjoyed him as a teammate we had a great time. I don’t think he deserves all the grief he’s been getting. I wouldn’t had made some of the choices he’s made, but he went out of his way to accommodate me and welcome me to the team. I don’t have anything negative to say about him and I feel the PR machine around him hasn’t done a good job. I guess with the economy being in disarray people need to vent their frustrations on someone and LeBron happens to be that guy right now. I always tell people he was the hardest to guard. I mean, he would do these things on the court and all you can say is, “God bless you." [Laughs.] Coming out of high school with all the hype and him living up to those expectations is pretty amazing.
You’ve done some amazing things yourself; you’re the first legally deaf NBA player. Tell us about your growing experiences.
Lance Allred: With a hearing impairment you learn how to be more visual and observant. I’ve learned to read body language, but also with the background in religion and the dogmatic tendencies that it tends to oppress us with; you know, we’re raised on guilt and shame. All that stuff was a challenge and a foundation that I had to overcome on developing better thought patterns and more positive thinking. The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was my own thought patterns. I had to detach from the doctrine I was raised under or with what people told me when I as a kid in that environment, plus with my hearing impairment. All that stuff taught me how to overcome adversity.
How does the D-League differ from any other level?
Lance Allred: The D-League was hard, man. The NBA has a lot to do with luck and timing. It’s about who has the most hype and momentum. Sometimes the guys that get drafted aren’t the best players, they have hype around them and they know the right people, but it doesn’t always pan out. You can go to a good college, but if you don’t know anybody it’s going to be pretty hard to find a job. The same thing applies to the NBA. So, you can’t pout about the road you have to take, you just have to put your head down and do the work necessary to get to the next level. Getting to the league in this manner was very fulfilling for me, especially because of my impairment and introverted personality.
You signed a one-year contract with a team in Japan, right?
Lance Allred: Yeah, it’s a one-year deal through May and I’m really looking forward to it. I have former teammates that have been playing there for a couple years now and they get paid on time. Whereas in Europe, they're so shady and unstable at the moment. On average, friends I keep in touch with, they only get paid half of what they’re owed. I was in Greece for a little bit and didn’t get paid. I was in Ukraine and got paid very little money. It’s a crap shoot and it gets tiring out there in Europe, so that’s why I’m excited about this opportunity in Japan. When the Japanese sign something they live up to it. I’m looking forward to be being a part of that.
What was your first book, Longshot, about?
Lance Allred: Longshot is a memoir about me growing up as a kid in polygamy until the NBA call-up. Basketball Gods picks up from the call-up to present day. Longshot covers the first 27 years of my life while Basketball Gods is the last three years.
What should we expect from Basketball Gods?
Lance Allred: It’s about my experiences in the NBA and trying to give people a perspective on it. Because if you watch ESPN, it's all a wonderful and glamorous lifestyle. For the most part it is; I’m not complaining about it, but there’s a lot of other political things that’s beyond your control. It’s a book about life and accepting what life throws at you. We all have these grand fantasies about what we want life to be when it's really about accepting what comes and picking yourself up as you go through the setbacks during the journey. It’s for anybody who’s had a dream, not just for ball players and sports fans.
Why sell the book for .99 cents?
Lance Allred: With the economy the way it is now, book sales are down across the board. So, publishers aren’t really trying to take chances right now. I just have taken the initiative myself after the experience I had with the first book.
What do your former teammates think of the books?
Lance Allred: I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from people e-mailing me or former teammates contacting me and really appreciating what I wrote. The book really explains the day-to-day stuff NBA players go through. The top players make a ridiculous amount of money and people think it’s relative to us all. For the rest of us, it’s a grind. We’re always on the run, living out of a suitcase going from job to job. It’s a tough lifestyle, but a rewarding one because you have a lot of downtime and you're able to do things that you want to do. It’s not a stable lifestyle, though; one bad game and your job is on the line. A stable lifestyle it's not, but it’s the one I chose and I’m able to articulate that well in the book.
Do you have another book planned?
Lance Allred: I don’t know, man. No one likes a plan better than me, but you got to go where life takes you. Obviously in a perfect world the lockout would end and I would be able to continue discussions with Charlotte, but right now we don’t. So, I can be angry about or I could take advantage of this opportunity in Japan.
Lance Allred: Longshot was actually a couple signatures away from becoming a movie, but it fell through about 2 years ago. Maybe in the future when the economy picks up and there’s more funding going around. Life will be what it needs to be, we’ll see.
Learn more about Lance at Lanceallred41.com.