There's a certain smoothness and dignity to former Portland Trail Blazer and Houston Rocket Clyde Drexler. You only had to see him play for a few seconds to see that this is the kind of cat who always lands on his feet.
A 6-7 shooting guard, Drexler was an undeniably incredible player. An All-Star in 10 out of his 15 seasons, he played in three NBA Finals, won one championship, played on the 1992 Dream Team, was named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players, elected into the Basketball Hall Of Fame and set a bevy of Trail Blazer records for scoring, rebounding and steals. Drexler was just the third player in NBA history to notch 20,000 points, 6,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists.
His post-playing days have been just as versatile as his game—a stint as coach of his alma mater, the University of Houston, and time as an assistant for the Denver Nuggets, for instance. Now he works on the broadcast team for some Houston Rockets games. He also manages his downtown Houston restaurant, Drexler's World Famous Barbeque & Grill, does occasional work promoting the NBA, and spends as much time as possible with his children. It's an arrangement he's very happy with, which is no surprise; he's the kind of cat who lands on his feet.
What are you up to these days?
-I have four children so I spend a lot of time with them. Drexler's Barbeque takes some of my time, that's in downtown Houston. I call some games for the Rockets. Other than that, I'm hitting the links.
Sounds like life is pretty good. Is it better to be an ex-player than to be a player?
-Life is good. It was good in the NBA, and it's great now. I started planning for life after the NBA before I even played my first game—just like I planned for life in the NBA from when I was very young. Life is what you make it. I really believe that.
Are you one of those guys who's nursing a lot of long-term injuries from your playing days?
-I've been fairly healthy. I still work out four or five days a week. I run, I cycle, I swim.
Do you play basketball at all?
Drexler celebrates the '95 title with Hakeem.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
-I don't really play basketball, nothing more than a game of HORSE every now and again.
You were born in New Orleans, and have family there. Was everyone OK after Hurricane Katrina?
-A lot of my relatives moved to Houston before the hurricane hit, but I have a lot of family there. On my mother's side of the family, there were some people who were there throughout. Some relatives relocated permanently to Houston. It has been a tremendous hassle for everyone. We're working hard to get everyone furnishings and all the things they need.
Getting back to basketball, neither of the two teams you played for are having great years.
-These things are cyclical. Houston has been slowed by injuries. They're a better team than their record indicates. I really believe that. In Portland, they're just going through a total rebuild.
When you see these teams struggling, do you ever have ideas about things they could do to make themselves better?
-You always have ideas. Maybe in a few years I'll think about pursuing that kind of job.
You're talking about a front office job?
-Yes. Right now, I'm spending time with my kids, and I always say that I want to spend as much time with them as possible while they're still at home. But in four or five years, they'll all be in college. I might just go straight into retirement. I don't know. But if I do anything in the NBA, it will be that general manager job.
Before Joe Dumars took over as president of the Pistons, he took a year off to study the salary cap and all the minutiae of running a team. Do you study those aspects of the NBA?
-I've been studying those things for years. In 2001, I interned with Kiki Vandeweghe in his office at the Denver Nuggets. I've been studying for a long time about the salary cap, facilitating trades, and all that.
Do you watch a lot of basketball?
I watch. I keep up with it. I do watch a fair amount. I love the game.
Who do you root for?
-I root for the Rockets, and I do root for the Blazers. Some teams you just have to admire for the way they play the game, like Detroit.
We all remember you winning a title in Houston, or making it to the Finals twice in Portland. But is there some other, less obvious memory of your career that you're especially fond of?
-Oh, not really. Every day in the game is a great day for me. I am just thankful that I had the opportunity. If it had worked out any better, I'd think it was a set up.