Thoughts from 7-foot backup center Aaron Gray as he enters his first full season as a member of the New Orleans Hornets:
Biggest influence on my NBA career: "Probably Lindsey Hunter, a former teammate with the Chicago Bulls. Even though he’s a guard, he kind of took me under his wing. He’s a very knowledgeable basketball player. He has 17 years of experience. There is not a situation you could show him that he hasn’t already been in himself. He’s going to tell you the truth, not what you want to hear. He acted more like a coach than a player."
One hidden talent people might not know about me: "I’ve got so many hobbies. I like to bowl and golf. I’m also a pretty good juggler."
First job: "I detailed cars in high school for a dealership. It was me and about seven of my buddies working in a garage. When cars would get sold off the used lot, we’d wash them. It was a great experience."
Job if he weren’t an NBA player: "Probably teaching or doing something with kids, maybe a high school coach. I really like kids and I feel like I have knowledge of the game. It would be great to be able to expand that to younger people."
How he chose uniform number 34: "I wore 33 in college, but when I was drafted by the Bulls, that number is already retired for Scottie Pippen. I just decided to bump it up to 34."
Best moment in NBA: "Probably getting drafted and seeing my name called. Having the opportunity to play in this league definitely was an amazing experience and something each player works their whole life for."
Favorite books: "I like to read autobiographies, stories about people’s lives. Especially sports figures and political figures. It’s always interesting to read about their struggles or some of the things they went through that people don’t necessarily know about. I just finished Lance Armstrong’s book. It was a great experience to read what he went through. He’s still alive and doing well after it. I think sometimes it puts things in perspective when I’m struggling or hurt."
Favorite website: "I didn’t even bring my computer here to New Orleans, if that tells you anything. [laughs] I’m not online much at all."
Favorite athlete as a kid: "I grew up watching Tim Duncan. He was the guy I enjoyed watching. He was not the most exciting player, but he was so effective. Everything he does has a purpose. And he’s still doing it now, at 33, 34 or 35."
Favorite sports team as a kid: "I was born near L.A. and grew up a big-time Raiders fan. I’m still a big fan. You know I have to be a fan to claim them now." [laughs]