Jason Kidd: How Warriors, A’s and Raiders helped Hall of Fame path
The point guard talks about the sports mentors who helped pave his way
BERKELEY, California — Jason Kidd is enjoying breakfast and the picturesque view of San Francisco from the Claremont Hotel. This is the city where the newest member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was born. But it was down the street in Oakland where Kidd was raised.
“We moved to Oakland when I was 3,” Kidd, who is wearing an Oakland Athletics cap, told The Undefeated. “What happens if we never moved from San Francisco?”
It’s possible Kidd might not have become the basketball superstar known worldwide as “J-Kidd.”
The former NBA point guard and head coach believes the move was instrumental in his career because it led to him being blessed with professional sports mentors who ultimately helped him reach his potential.
“Oh, it’s a special place,” Kidd said of Oakland. “It’s just a place that helped me become the player that I ended up being. The one thing people can’t take away is I found a way to win. And that was the one thing that I was taught early in life that I enjoy, was winning. …
“I was very fortunate to be around professional athletes and to follow my dream.”
During his 19-year NBA career, Kidd won co-Rookie of the Year (with fellow Class of 2018 Hall of Famer Grant Hill), was a 10-time All-Star, won a championship with the Dallas Mavericks and played in three NBA Finals. He was also a four-time All-Defensive first-team selection and named All-NBA first team five times.
Kidd, who will be escorted into the Hall of Fame on Friday by one of his mentors, Gary Payton, talked to The Undefeated about the unique relationships that paved the 3,015 miles from Oakland, California, to Springfield, Massachusetts.
MEETING BILL RUSSELL, BASKETBALL ROYALTY
When Kidd was in elementary school, he was introduced to the basketball legend in Oakland by his godfather, former NBA player Jim Hadnot.
“I didn’t know who he was, but he was tall and had a scary voice,” Kidd recalled. “Seeing him when I was 8, 9, 10 years old, maybe 11 years old, seeing him and Mr. Hadnot, you had two 7-footers sitting in that living room. I would go through the dining room so I didn’t have to go see those two, because they scared me. I was around a legendary person not knowing who he really was at the time. Now I understand who he is.”
Russell is arguably the greatest champion in American sports history, with 11 titles as a player with the Boston Celtics. The five-time NBA MVP starred at McClymonds High and at the University of San Francisco. Through the years, he had a profound impact on Kidd’s winning mentality.
“You have one of the greatest players of all time who played in the era when racial tension was very high,” said Kidd. “He’s a great man. Basketball royalty. Russell stands for what we all wish we can be: a winner.”
Hangin’ with the Raiders
Kidd was childhood friends with Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Shell’s sons, Arthur and Christopher, and attended Raiders home games with them. Kidd said he learned a lot about professionalism from his time hanging with the Raiders in the locker room.
“My best friend growing up in elementary school was Chris Shell,” said Kidd. “[Art Shell] was a man of few words. Intimidation was what he used the most.
“So I got to be around big owners. I used to be in the locker room at the regular games, to hang with them. I learned work ethic and respecting your craft.”
Playing pickup with Run TMC
When Kidd attended Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda, an island town neighboring Oakland, he was named the nation’s top boys’ high school basketball player by Naismith, USA Today and Parade magazine in 1992.
At the time, the Warriors coincidentally practiced near Kidd’s high school at the College of Alameda, and Kidd said the Warriors regularly invited him to play in pickup games in the offseason.
“It was just a perfect storm because the Warriors lived in Alameda,” said Kidd. “[Hall of Famer and ex-Warriors guard Sarunas] Marciulionis would come to the high school. We would play. Jim Peterson, Mully [Chris Mullin], Mitch, we would play. Donnie [Nelson] Jr. invited me to the College of Alameda to play against Rod Higgins and the rest of those guys. I am just a high school junior playing with the pros, which is crazy in itself.
“They had their first two teams, Mully, Tim [Hardaway] and those guys. And I was on the third team. Tim was a monster back then. They had Keith Jennings. Through all that, I picked up a lot from Mully that you did not have to be extremely fast. You just had to be smart. Defensively, he was the best that when you shot the ball, just swiping from behind. That was something that I picked up for me. It was cool.”
BRING ON the Bash Brothers
Kidd said he first met Oakland A’s manager Tony La Russa at an Oakland Tribune sports awards banquet in the Bay Area. Afterward, La Russa invited Kidd to play pickup basketball with several of the A’s, who had won the World Series in 1989 and three straight American League titles in 1988, 1989 and 1990.
“I got to know and play basketball with Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire in high school,” said Kidd. “Tony La Russa would invite me because he knew that I loved baseball, so I got to know them. They all lived in Alameda, and so we would play. La Russa would be like, ‘Hey, Jason, come over.’ You’d meet them and they would say, ‘Come out, throw out the first pitch.’ So we’d get to do all that.”
What did Kidd learn from McGwire and Canseco?
“Foul them ’cause they’re strong,” Kidd said. “But they really gave you more to dream about. If you work hard, you could become a star.”
THE MAIN GUYS: GP AND B-Shaw
Kidd gives a lot of credit to two Oakland natives for mentoring him: former NBA guards Payton and Brian Shaw.
Payton, who won an NBA title and was known for his defense as “The Glove,” and Shaw, who won three NBA championships and is currently an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers, took Kidd under their wing before he made it to the NBA. They also teamed up together on one of the greatest teams in San Francisco Pro-Am history in the early 1990s.
“They would kick my ass,” said Kidd. “It took a village, the Gary Payton village. It was a combination of all of it. They prepared me for whatever. And so, all those ass kickings … they’re like the big brothers. They let the little brother achieve the highest honor on the court, and so I always remember people. I remember them as the main guys who helped me do this.
“I was in the right place with the right talent. GP, B-Shaw, Greg Foster. I played for GP’s dad in AAU. I went from there to playing with his son. He kicked my ass. Oh, my God.”
Kidd is proud to be a part of the fabric of Oakland’s rich basketball history and will never forget the influence it had on him.
“It’s rich, it’s deep,” Kidd said. “It needs to probably be talked about more. It needs to be elevated because it’s not easy, and there is more to come.”
Oakland’s basketball roots include Hall of Famers Kidd, Russell, Payton and Jim Pollard, Shaw, three-time NBA All-Star Damian Lillard, two-time NBA All-Star Paul Silas, one-time NBA All-Star Antonio Davis, dunk champion J.R. Rider, Drew Gooden, Eddie House, Leon Powe, Greg Foster, Lester Connor, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Brown, Phil Chenier, Jabari Bird and Jared Cunningham.
Kidd has been keeping in touch with Lillard and is also interested in being more involved with community and business endeavors off the court in Oakland and the Bay Area.
“It was a combination of all those villages,” Kidd said. “They prepared me. I had all those ass kickings. It’s my job as a veteran to do the same thing for the young kids, so that when they have young kids to mentor, they understand what to do.”