Rony Seikaly: There were nights when I couldn’t even go to the bathroom

rony-seikaly-vs-david-robinsonBorn in Lebanon, Rony Seikaly was the Miami Heat’s first original center, who was selected in the 1988 NBA draft, from Syracuse.

Seikaly’s hard work paid off, as the 6’11 center from the Middle East led the Miami Heat into their first playoff appearance in 1992.

He played his first six seasons with the Heat, averaging 15.4 ppg, 10.4 rpg and 1.4 bpg in 32.4 mpg. In 1993, Seikaly set a record, pulling down 34 rebounds against the Washington Bullets.

In total, Seikaly appeared in 678 NBA games (starting in 607), averaging 14.7 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.3 bpg in 31.6 mpg. He played for Miami Heat, Golden State Warriors, Orlando Magic and New Jersey Nets.

Today, Seikaly is an international house music DJ, who focuses on electronic dance music (EDM), taking center stage in the world’s most popular nightclubs.

Seikaly is in Europe for the summer, and Bleacher Report recently spoke to former NBA center about his career.

Being that you’re originally an international player, from your birthplace in Beirut to growing up in Greece, now that you’re overseas currently, does it feel like the NBA has a bigger presence there than you ever imagined?

Of course. It’s become a global game, there’s no doubt. I think back in the day, if a tall person would walk around the streets of Turkey or wherever it is, they’d think you’re an alien. But in today’s world, they know that you’re probably in the NBA or playing basketball professionally. They’ve got an educated fact that basketball exists and it’s not only soccer.

When you were drafted by the Heat in 1988, it was actually the year before Vlade Divac, Drazen Petrovic and Sarunas Marciulionis, three of the league’s best international players ever, came into the league. That must have been an exciting time with the foreign floodgates opening.

That’s when it started. It started with European players when I got [to the NBA]. There were maybe two or three European players in the league, but nobody ever from the Middle East, nobody ever from Asia, nobody ever from South America, nobody ever from all the other areas that the NBA boasts now. I was probably the first one from Greece to make it in the NBA, but I wasn’t really Greek; I represented the Middle East. I was the only Middle Eastern to play in the NBA at the time.

seikaly-vs-jordanWhat were your thoughts when LeBron James left for Cleveland, and how do you think that affected the NBA landscape?

I wasn’t surprised. I just think sometimes you need a change. He made a change, came to Miami and did what he had to do. And he missed home. There’s nothing like being home. So he gets to go back home and be the hero that he is regardless. There’s no better story than coming back to Cleveland and winning a couple of championships for the city of Cleveland.

I also think it’s better for the league. Here’s my take on LeBron and teams trying to stack three proven superstars to win a championship: As hard as it (is) for Heat fans to see LeBron going back to Cleveland, I feel it’s better and healthier for the league and teams in general. The league will have more parity across the board and feature two stars on each team, which will force other players, young or old, to step up and elevate their games to be stars in their own right. It will stress more teamwork as we witnessed with the Spurs.

Having three established stars is a shortcut to get wins, but not every team has the money or the pull of glamorous metropolitan cities to draw three superstars. It’s healthier for the league and more fun to watch. The pressure is back on the marquee players to build a team game.

Without LeBron, how do you envision the Heat orchestrating things different offensively?

Listen, we’re back to being an NBA basketball team. I think that [Chris] Bosh is the X-factor, if he picks his game back up. Will he become a leading force instead of a third option, and go back to where he was the first option [like in Toronto]? It’s tough being a third option. I think he’ll be hard to guard, and with all the other guys stepping up their game, I think they can be a very good team. If [Dwyane] Wade comes back stronger, great, and the Heat will make some noise.

You don’t know who’s going to come through the East. This is more organic, it’s even, it becomes more of a college game. The favorite is going to be probably Cleveland because of LeBron, but every team has good players. It’s going to be college basketball, and it’s going to be a fun game where there’s going to be a lot of ups and downs. Anybody can win this year.

With your speed, quick and crafty footwork, and activeness around the basket—key qualities of today’s big men who need to be more mobile in the NBA’s faster style of play—your game would translate well today.

I would have excelled in today’s game, but you were battling against lumbering big guys, like the 7’4″, 290-pound Mark Eaton. It was just a heavyweight contest of getting your ass in that block, and I had to use my athletic abilities to overcome the size difference and the weight difference to get my rebounds and to get my points. In today’s game, if I played with my back to the basket, I think that I would have excelled big time because it’s just a lost art. I would have had a field day.

seikaly-reboundWhen you played, there was no restricted area, and increased physical contact and hand-checking was allowed. Also, there was much less protective gear. Big difference, right?

There’s no doubt. You go against Detroit, you’re going against Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, John Salley, Dennis Rodman, and you can believe that if you’re anywhere near the basket, you better anticipate somebody coming in and taking your neck off. If you think you have an open layup or an open jump hook or whatever it is, somebody is going to come and smack the hell out of you and make you think twice the next time you want to go to the basket.

It’s the same thing when you look at the Chicago era. It was all about Michael Jordan, but they had three lumbering big guys—Luc Longley, Bill Cartwright and Bill Wennington—all 7-footers who would just beat the s–t out of you if you went inside.

You must have gone to sleep after games in pain.

There were so many nights that I would wake up in the middle of the night and I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom. I had bad feet as it was, but just to get to the bathroom was a struggle because of the pounding. I gave away 40, 50 pounds every game. I was 253 pounds and Shaq [O’Neal] was 320, so that’s about a 70-pound difference.

Was Shaq your toughest matchup?

No, I think basketball-wise, I think it was [Hakeem] Olajuwon. He was just so quick. He was my biggest challenge because pretty much as savvy as we are, as much as we know about our opponents and what they want to do and their go-to moves and how they counter off that, Olajuwon was a guy that you just did not know what he was going to do. I don’t think he knew what he was going to do. He would shake you around and you were all shook up.


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