Anthony Randolph talks racist taunts after Porzingis incident and winning a championship with Slovenia
‘I think it helped me focus to play in the next game and want to win the gold even more.’
@doga___: And we don’t want you in turkey go f— your country. Spain will f— you.you will see.dirty negro.
@knicksnews_rumors: TRASH A– MOTHER——
@knicks.central: Pull up the f— Bronx b—- n—– we gon KILL YOUR A–
That’s just a sampling of the numerous taunts former NBA player Anthony Randolph received on Twitter after tangling with Latvian and New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis during a game in the 2017 EuroBasket on Sept. 13 in Istanbul.
Randolph was ejected late in Slovenia’s 103-97 quarterfinal win that eliminated Latvia. He soon noticed that his “phone was lit up” with degrading Twitter messages that continued for the next two days. The African-American, who was added to the Slovenian team, declined to answer when asked what he thought those racist and angry messages say about the world we live in today, but he talked about the incident with Porzingis.
“The nights and days following that incident I had Latvian fans, Turkish fans and people from all over, people in New York, leaving comments on my page calling me the ‘N-word,’ ” the 28-year-old Randolph said. “They were saying I was trash and that if I come to New York they would kill me. It was pretty interesting. I didn’t respond to anybody or waste my energy on stuff like that.
“It was confusing to think that people would feel that strongly about a grown man that they probably have never met. I understand the fans feel a certain type of way about their favorite players. I just took it as motivation. I think it helped me focus to play in the next game and want to win the gold even more.”
Porzingis said after the game that Randolph “was playing dirty from the beginning. He was trash-talking. What happened in the end was natural.” There were other reports that Randolph challenged Porzingis to meet him outside the arena.
“We got tangled up and I tried to get untangled from him,” Randolph said. “I turned around and he was coming at my face. The first thing I could think of is, ‘What is going on?’ It was an intense game. I just told him, ‘You got a problem.’ There is no point in talking here. It’s a basketball game at the end of the day.
“It’s not like we are going to fight on the court. How many fights have you seen happen on the court, the way they control it? It’s a waste of time. At the end of the day, he’s a great player and great talent. Things that he has done in the league have been pretty special.”
Despite the Twitter taunts, Randolph said, he did his best to move on and focus on the rest of the EuroBasket tournament with the support of his wife, Marisela, and 3-year-old daughter, Kayla. Slovenia went on to defeat a Spain team that included NBA players Marc and Pau Gasol and Ricky Rubio in the semifinals. Slovenia beat Serbia for the championship, 93-85, as Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic scored 35 points.
“I was fine after I got to the hotel room,” Randolph said. “I was able to see my wife and daughter, eat dinner and relax. The way the tournament is set up, you can’t focus on things too long. You have to get prepared for the next game and start studying the next team we were going to play.”
After playing one season at Louisiana State University, Randolph was drafted with the 14th overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors. The 6-foot-10, 205-pounder played for the Warriors, Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets from 2008-14. He averaged 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds during his NBA career and didn’t live up to his draft expectations.
With no great NBA offer after being waived by the Orlando Magic, Randolph departed to Russia to play for Lokomotiv Kuban during the 2015-16 season and Spain’s Real Madrid last season. He is back in Barcelona, Spain, and plans to honor the second year of a two-year contract with Real Madrid this upcoming season. He has an NBA out clause in his contract, but there is no serious offer right now. Despite having played for USA Basketball’s Pan American team in 2016, he was given clearance to play with Dragic and NBA prospect Luka Doncic on the Slovenian team earlier this year. Each country is allowed to add one noncitizen to its national team, and Randolph accepted Slovenia’s invite.
Randolph talked to The Undefeated about what it was like to be an African-American playing for Slovenia, life on and off the court in Europe, benefits of having a European Union passport, a possible NBA return and more.
How can you play for USA and then play for Slovenia? (Randolph was a member of USA Basketball’s bronze medal-winning 2015 Pan American Games team and participated in the 2009 USA Basketball Showcase.)
It wasn’t a major tournament with USA, it was just the Pan Am Games, so USA Basketball gave me permission to play for Slovenia. It was pretty easy. I sent a [release] letter to USA [Basketball]. They signed it, and I sent it back to FIBA. It was pretty much done.
Why did you want to play for Slovenia?
Luka Doncic is Slovenian. So is Goran. My agent, Rade [Filipovich], he represents all three of us. I did it to help get more exposure by playing alongside Luca and Goran in a major tournament against the best players in Europe and some of the best stars in the NBA.
What were your first thoughts when the Slovenia offer was given to you?
My initial thought was no. When you think about playing for a country, you want to play for the country you’re from. It’s a country that you have a stake in. You want it to be something special. I met with [Slovenia Basketball Association secretary general and former NBA player] Rasho Nesterovic, Goran Dragic, Rade, [my Spanish agent Enrique Villalobos] here in Madrid in May. They told me their plan of being the missing gap to their team and if I came we would have a chance to win the medal. I talked it over with my team, and we decided it was the best thing to do in order to get exposure and develop as a basketball player.
What did your wife, family and friends back home think about you playing for Slovenia?
They thought it was a great idea to be able to play on a big stage with a team that hasn’t really accomplished much in the tournament and be able to play against big names Porzingis, the Gasol brothers and [Juan and Willy] Hernangomez and all those great players.
There is an assumption you got paid to play for Slovenia. True?
No, I wasn’t.
So why did you do it?
For the exposure and the benefits of having an EU [Europe Union] passport.
What benefits come with having an EU passport?
It gives Real Madrid the option of bringing on another American player, which can be the difference in winning championships. It also makes it a lot easier for me to get a job overseas as I get older. I can play as long as I possibly can on high-level teams.
How much time have you spent in Slovenia?
I was there back and forth pretty much all summer. About a month and a half. It’s a beautiful country. Not too big. The whole country looks like a postcard, with the trees and the mountains. The people are really nice.
How many black people did you see in Slovenia? (According to WorldPopulationReview.com, Slovenia’s demographics include Slovenes as 83 percent of the population, Serbs (2 percent), Croats (2 percents) and Bosnians (1 percent). Other groups are rare.)
I saw a few, surprisingly. They told me recently there are a lot more black people in the country. I was a little surprised when I saw the first couple of them. I didn’t have a chance to talk to any. I just saw them in passing in a car or on the other side of the street. I didn’t really get to do all that. It was crazy. I was staring at them. They were probably like, ‘What is he doing there?’
How was the whole experience wearing that Slovenia uniform?
It was great. Everyone welcomed me on the team. There was no problem at all. Everyone pretty much spoke English. There was no language barrier. [Slovenia coach and Utah Jazz assistant coach] Igor [Kokoskov] was amazing. He was one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. I learned a lot playing for him that I will be able to take the rest of my career. The team chemistry was amazing, and just the way we went through the whole tournament beating teams. The way we won the gold is amazing. It was one of the high points of my career.
What was the celebration like after you won the EuroBasket title and on Monday in Slovenia?
It was crazy. The whole country came out [to Turkey] and shut down the airports. They were taking flights from Ljubljana, the major airport there, and Serbia to get to Istanbul. All the flights were sold out when they found out we were going to the final. The championship game was sold out, and it was like a home game for Slovenia. It was packed with Slovenian fans. When we got back to Slovenia, thousands of people had been waiting in the rain since 10 a.m. to celebrate with us. It was amazing. There were 30,000 standing in the rain, loud with drums, screaming. It was extremely loud and one of the craziest things I’ve seen.
Anything of note that a Slovenian fan said to you that made you glad you did it?
One fan was so appreciative to me. He kept saying, ‘Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate you doing this. We couldn’t have won this without you. The country appreciates you. You’re a legend here. We will never forget you.’ It was pretty amazing to feel the love of an entire country. From playing basketball, that was pretty crazy.
What is next for you? It looks like you will be playing for Real Madrid next season instead of returning to the NBA.
I signed a three-year deal [last year] with [NBA] outs each summer. But what is next is a major tournament coming this weekend, the SuperCup, trying to win these [European] championships this season and hopefully next summer see what happens, whether it’s us staying in Madrid or going into the NBA. I don’t see me returning to the NBA this season unless something crazy happens, which I don’t see happening. It would have to be at least a multiyear contract offer. I’m very happy where I am at in Real Madrid. They have welcomed me and made me a part of their family with the things that we’ve accomplished here and will continue to accomplish here. If the NBA is interested, it would have to be something where I had a role. I don’t want to sit on the bench. I don’t know how much time left I have on my career, and I want to play as much basketball as I can before I retire.
How do you look back on your NBA career?
Maybe I was a little too young. Maybe I should’ve stayed in school a little longer and allowed myself to mature a little bit more and prepare for the NBA lifestyle and the things that were thrown at me. But I have no regrets. It was what it was, and it was something that needed to happen for me to grow up.
Do you still think about playing in the NBA again?
I love playing against the best players in the world. I loved competing against the Gasol brothers and Porzingis this past week. That’s the reason I play basketball, to be tested against high-level talent. That is not to say there is not high-level talent over here, because there is. That is one of the main goals I have, but I’m not going to do it just to say I’m back in the NBA.
How close did you get to signing with the Dallas Mavericks last offseason?
It was pretty close. I had talks with Dallas the last couple summers. Things just never worked out. I feel like everything has to be right. I just need to know I have a role. I’m not saying I have to be the star player or the third or fourth guy. I just want to have an impact on a team and help a team win, be the veteran guy and bring to team the things that I’ve learned here. A winning mentality.
If you never played another second in the NBA, are you at peace with it?
Of course I am at peace. You can’t live in the past. The things that I have done 10, five or six years ago are in the past. There is nothing I can do to change it. I’m very happy with the place where I am. I feel I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the mistakes that I had in my past that allowed me to grow up and go through the hard times.
What has it been like traveling the world playing professionally overseas?
I’ve been able to travel the world, go to countries I’ve never thought I would go to. I’ve made a lot of good friends. Not just teammates, but coaches outside the court. The family atmosphere that European teams have has helped me with my home life. I’m a lot calmer than I was back in the day. A lot less running around. I’m just happy. I’m grown now. I’m married. I have a kid. Things I have done when I was younger is in the past.
How is your Spanish, and what is living in Madrid like?
I can understand some of it. Madrid is amazing. The people are friendly. Good food and wine. And it has just about everything that the U.S. has.
What is Real Madrid soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo like?
We have only met in passing and have had very small conversations. But he seems like a good dude. I know from watching him practice and watching him work that he is an incredibly hard worker. You can see why he is perhaps the greatest soccer player in the world or one to ever do it.
Americans are often so naïve about how mammoth soccer is in the rest of the world. Do you agree with that?
No disrespect to the NFL, NBA. I thought they had the best fans in the world. But soccer is on a whole different level. They have cliques. They live and die with their team. Literally, the whole city of Madrid shuts down when there is a soccer game. There is a sea of people downtown. You can’t move. Soccer games are ridiculous. It’s by far one of the top sports. The way they cover them is ridiculous. They videotape them going to eat. They have [television] shows where they commentate about what they think they are saying. We go to the games pretty regularly. It is one of my favorite things to do out here.
What benefits does your daughter have being in Madrid?
She speaks a little bit of three languages. She speaks a little bit of Russian and Spanish. Her being able to experience different cultures is amazing. To have that at 3 years old, to live in these different countries, is amazing. Most people don’t do that their whole lives.
How much longer do you want to play?
I am going to go until I can’t go no more. I love the game. Winning this championship this past week has made me fall more in love with it and the feeling I have when I’m on the court.