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Collected wisdom: Grant Long, Thunder color analyst and former NBA player

Long played 15 seasons in the NBA with Miami, Atlanta (twice), Detroit, Vancouver/Memphis and Boston. He's in his fifth season as the Thunder's TV color analyst.
BY JOHN ROHDE Published: February 16, 2013

Grant Long is the second-greatest basketball player in Eastern Michigan history. Hall of Famer George “Iceman” Gervin and his 26,595 career points (17,077 more than Long) qualify him as the best in school history. Impressively, Long trailed Gervin by just 57 career games with 1,003.

Strong and physical, the 6-foot-8, 225-pound Long was known for his work ethic and defense. He played 15 seasons in the NBA with Miami, Atlanta (twice), Detroit, Vancouver/Memphis and Boston and ranks 102nd on the league's all-time list of games played. A second-round pick in the 1989 NBA Draft, Long was third overall selection of the expansion Miami Heat in its inaugural season.

Long is in his fifth season as the Thunder's television color analyst and previously served as a color analyst for the Atlanta Hawks, Turner Broadcasting and the Fox Sports Network.

Born in Wayne, Mich., Long was nationally recruited out of neighboring Romulus High School and was named 1988 Mid-American Conference Player of the Year his senior season at Eastern Michigan (23.0 ppg, 10.4 rpg).

Long's family genes created some great athletes. His uncle, John Long, played 14 NBA seasons and had a career scoring average of 19.3. His cousin and best friend, Terry Mills, played for 11 NBA seasons. His brother, Julius Long, is a 7-foot-1 professional boxer/kickboxer.

Wow, I don't know how many years I've been married. Honestly, I never count the years. I just know what date it was — Sept. 22, 1989. Is it really important to know how long you've been married? I know the date. It's not a race to the finish. You just go with it.

There were five us (in our family) growing up. It was great. We lived in a small neighborhood. My next-door neighbor was my cousin and best friend, Terry Mills. We collected bottle caps on the side of the road, took them to the store and got 10 cents off of them. That was our existence. He's two yours younger than me. Eastern Michigan and Michigan were 10 minutes apart. We would hang out on each other's campus daily.

T (Mills) was probably one of the best players I've ever come across. He was 6-(foot)-10 and could do anything he wanted to do. He was real wiry. He was like a Sam Bowie skinny. When he got to college, they wanted him to put on weight. All that weight took away the things that made him great. He could never lose the weight after that.

I like to stay in shape, if for no other reason than to challenge myself. I set targets. It might take me two months to get to it, but I see if I can get it done.

With the Thunder, it's almost like peer pressure to always be in great shape. But that's good. It's like, “I can't be the one slackin'.”

In my neighborhood, guys who went to school locally always seemed to come back to the neighborhood on the weekends. All the sudden, they'd stay till Monday, skip school, then Monday turned into Wednesday, then they'd just go to practice and come back home. All of a sudden they were kicked out of school and they'd just stay home.

Something was always pulling people back to their old neighborhood and they would just flunk out of school. I was trying to protect myself from that. I didn't want to be pulled back to the neighborhood and just flunk out, so I'm getting as far away as I can. I was making this decision by myself. No one else helped me.

You name a school, and I was recruited by it coming out of high school. UCLA, any school you could name, I was recruited by that school, plus all of the in-state schools. I told all the in-state schools to stop recruiting me, because I wasn't going.

I was ready to sign with Louisiana Tech — Karl Malone, everyone else was there. It was wonderful. My uncle, John Long, comes to me and says, “Why would you do that? Not a good move. Nobody knows you out of state. Everybody knows you here. If you're starting and they suddenly recruit Mr. Basketball from the state of Louisiana, who's going to sit, him or you?” That made a lot of sense to me.

During the process, one school continued to recruit me and that was Eastern. It was a slow progression in college. It was just a natural progression. I got better every season.

I was ecstatic to get drafted by Miami. The Lakers were my dream team, but I wasn't going to beat out anybody from the Lakers. Miami took some guys in the expansion draft, but those were guys nobody else wanted. I basically had 12 opportunities to make an NBA team. That's how I looked at it. It's wide-open. No guaranteed money. They didn't have any loyalty to the guys in the expansion draft.

Look who I was playing with — Glen Rice, Steve Smith, Rony Seikaly — and I was a contributor on a talent-laden team. All those guys were lottery picks and here I am a second-rounder who was starting. It was great.

The will to compete is the reason I lasted 15 seasons in the league, being passionate about the sport, playing all-out.

I kind of look at Nick Collison as being me. He's my guy. I live vicariously through Nick. My teams never had the success that the Thunder has had, but Nick is a guy who plays like me. You can play like that and still be on a successful team.

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