Allan Houston speaks on his faith
New Man: Thanks for doing this interview. I’ve long been an admirer of your silky smooth shot and I miss it on the court.
Allan Houston: (Laughs) Yeah, me too!
New Man: Let’s start by talking about your basketball camp, Father Knows Best. What inspired you to start the camp?
Houston: It was really a vision I had about seven years ago. It took me a couple of years to follow through with it. I shared the vision with my dad. He’s a very dynamic man, a hero to me. He led by example as a dad and I still admire him on so many different levels. He coached me in college and he coached a lot of other guys who went on to play in the NBA. I started thinking that our experience had been unique. Then I started to understand from a spiritual level, that my connection with God as a spiritual Father made me appreciate my biological father’s example even more. He showed them to me. So I felt like we had to share this and encourage other fathers and sons—and give those kids who don’t have fathers, these skills. So we decided to bring it together through a basketball retreat. We didn’t want to call it a camp because it was hopefully more than just a camp. It’s an empowering and enriching weekend. You establish a deeper connection and sons are learning how to grow as young men, and fathers are growing as men who used to be in their sons position, and you’re doing it all through basketball. We do drills, shooting demonstrations, along with workshops on communication. We also deal with women and understanding a man’s role in that relationship. But we just make it really fun. The kids play against each other and have a lot of fun.
New Man: I just read that 50 percent of African-American boys live in households without fathers. Is masculinity and fatherhood in trouble in the culture?
Houston: No, I don’t think it’s in trouble. That’s what we’re trying to address with this retreat. It’s starting to be highlighted. We’re trying to keep it from being a hidden issue. I think people know about the issue, but they don’t know what to do. This is our way of addressing it. My experience with my father is kind of unique in the African American community. But there are other good examples out there. Honest, hardworking men who are humble, who keep their sons accountable. So we want people to know that’s not far from reality, to be able to do that. But you have to understand the impact that you have and the skill sets you need. You also have to understand there’s a spiritual component. If you don’t have a power outside yourself, you’re going to fail. Unless I have a good connection with my Father in heaven, I’m not going to know how to be a good father to my son.
New Man: You make your Christian faith a big part of the camp. Have you taken any heat for that?
Houston: Not at all. At the end of the day, we’re talking about principles. The Christian faith is built on sacrifice and love. So if someone wants to give me heat about creating a dynamic of sacrifice and love for my son, then I’ll take that heat.
New Man: Let’s talk about your NBA career. I can imagine that it would be pretty difficult being a Christian with all the temptation that comes with being an NBA star. Can you tell me what it was like being a Christian in the league?
Houston: That’s always part of it. I think that every man is going to be tempted because that’s just our nature. What’s important is how you deal with it. My Christian walk helped me see consequences and helped me make wise decisions and try to be around wise people. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to make mistakes and it doesn’t make you better than anyone else. It just makes the way you deal with situations a little different. It was a struggle. As an NBA player, life becomes all about you. People tell you what you want to hear and life just becomes all about you. You have to come back home and say, “OK, my job is telling me one thing, but that’s just what I do. It’s not who I am.” That’s something we talk about at our retreat. What you aspire to be, what you do is not who you are. Who you are lasts much longer than what you do. That’s eternal.
New Man: Who kept you grounded when everyone was just telling you that you were the best?
Houston: You have to have people around you to tell you the truth. It starts with your mom and dad. And that’s why a father has to be the rock of the family, the one who sets the tone. My kids are watching what I do. They’re watching what I say, not just my son, my daughter watches me and she’s going to gravitate to a man like her father when she chooses a boyfriend or a husband. So again, we’re not perfect, but we need to know that we have an impact. Of course your wife becomes the person that holds you accountable and tells you the truth. My wife was so valuable to me in that position. She was my rock.
New Man: What do you miss most about playing and when are you coming back?
Houston: The thing I miss the most is just sharing the gift that you’ve been given. It’s no different than a writer or a painter. People enjoy reading it and seeing it, and so people just enjoy the gift and the display of the gift. I think on a tangible level I miss the interaction of the crowd—the screaming and shouting when you make that shot and people go crazy. You just miss the competition and the intensity of it. Probably, I’m going to workout pretty hard this summer and I probably expect to … I did not want to play a full season outside of the New York area this year because I had a five-month-old daughter now and I just didn’t want to do that. But now things are a little different and my body feels even better. I’ll see what happens this summer and even next season.
New Man: So that’s a yes?
Houston: Yes, I’m definitely going to give it a shot.
New Man: Hey you’re still in your mid-30s. Go for it! You always seem so calm on the court. Was that for real? And how did you maintain that calm?
Houston: I think some of it’s my personality. Since I was young I’ve always had that demeanor. When I was younger I played a lot in pressured situations. It just helped me to not get too high or too low. In a game I don’t show a lot of emotions but I do have a lot of stuff going on in my mind and my heart.
New Man: Last question: You have one of the sweetest shots of all time. Do you have any shooting tips for all of us wannabes out there?
Houston: (Laughing) I do teach mechanics in shooting at the retreat. I go through it in detail but I would just say, balance is very important, obviously. Try to keep the ball on your fingertips because if you throw a baseball you don’t throw it from your palm. You want to get that relaxed feel and let the ball come off of your fingers. Keep your elbow kind of tucked into your ribs because that keeps the ball in line. Every time I do a clinic, I break down the mechanics of the shot. We actually go through a presentation where we teach the fathers how to make sure their sons’ shots are intact.