Many Knicks fans were left bitter and frustrated when LeBron James seemingly spurned the team for the Miami Heat last summer. Joining forces with multiple stars, rather than starting something special on his own, didn't sit well with Knicks fans craving success.
That list of frustrated fans doesn't include comedian and actor Charlie Murphy. Having worked with the likes of Dave Chappelle, Ben Stiller and Chris Rock, Murphy understands the appeal of teaming up with a field's biggest stars to create something special.
Over the years, Murphy has not only been seen in movies like "Harlem Nights" to the more recent hit "Our Family Wedding," but also on the small screen, starring on "Chappelle's Show." Despite losing to Prince in a little game of one-on-one (on TV only, of course), he is an avid NBA fan, and fans will also recognize him from his various roles in NBA commercials.
New Jersey's hometown kid took time to chat with me about growing up a Knicks fan, what the team needs now, the NBA Finals, and more. Read on to see what the funny man had to say.
Q: So, I know you've been on the road a lot with your live comedy tour, but have you been able to catch any of the NBA Finals, Charlie?
A: Absolutely, man. I've been following the whole thing! I'm a Celtics fan, and since the Miami Heat took them out, I'm actually rooting for them because I know they have the talent to win the whole thing. If they're good enough to beat my team, hopefully they can win a championship.
Q: You know, I had heard that you were a Celtics fan, now that you mention it. After growing up in Jersey, don't you have any loyalty to a more local team like the Knicks?
A: Sure I do. But see the thing about the Knicks is that they've had such a hard time for an even longer period of time. It's difficult. I've become a Celtics fan because I liked Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen individually before they were all on the same team. Once they came together, it made it easy for me to root for the Celtics. I'm more of a fan of individual players than I am of teams.
I've been a Shaquille O'Neal fan for such a long time. I liked the Magic, but then he went to the Lakers. I had to root for L.A., which was cool because they won championships! When he went to the Miami Heat, though, I had to root for them too. Having Shaq on the Celtics this year too was real cool, because being able to watch all those guys on one team is how I become a fan.
Q: As a Shaq fan, do you have thoughts on his retirement last week?
A: He deserves all the recognition he gets. It's sad, because you can't be "the man" forever. He wasn't just "the man"--he was the original Superman on the court. It's definitely sad to see him go, but Shaq provided everyone with a lot of memories.
Q: I know you're friendly with him, too. Having been around him a bit, do you think Shaq has the chops to go into comedy after making so many people laugh during his playing days?
A: Shaq as a comedian? Hmm...the thing is his size would be a problem. How many big comedians can you name? Can't name one! You don't see many comedians that look like they used to be a bodybuilder, because no one wants to laugh at someone who looks straight up intimidating to them. I just can't see it happening.
Q: Aside from being a fan of Shaq and the Celtics in more recent years, which teams or individual players did you follow growing up?
A: Same as everybody else. I actually did root for the entire Knicks franchise growing up. I enjoyed watching their group of guys as I was growing up. Once Shaq came into the league though, it changed everything for me. I've been a Magic, Lakers, Heat, Suns fan too all because of him. I mean, who wouldn't like a guy who can dunk the ball and tear the whole backboard apart, you know? Watching Kobe and Shaq together on the Lakers and then seeing Shaq team up with Dwayne Wade on the Heat was special.
Q: You're definitely bringing up some Hall of Fame caliber duos there. The Knicks are certainly building something special of their own with two guys in Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. What else do you think they need to be able to compete at a higher level?
A: The Knicks need a "Big Three" of their own. They just need one more piece, man. They've got to look at what the Heat did--they brought together LeBron, Wade and Bosh, and look at them now--they're about to win a championship! Now, if Dwight Howard was to come to the Knicks--wow! That's who they need.
Q: Let's talk about your contributions to the game of basketball for a minute. You provide the voice for the Spalding basketball during that commercial which highlights Derek Fisher's last second shot in the 2004 Western Conference semi-finals. The commercial's so popular and it airs constantly. Did you have any idea it was going to be that big when you made it?
A: You know, I had no idea it would turn out like that. But I'm so glad the commercial has been so well received. That gig honestly just came out of nowhere! To be involved with the NBA Playoffs was great to begin with, and then the next thing I knew, I was seeing the commercial all over ESPN/Sports Center and ABC!
Q: You actually had a more extensive string of basketball commercials as Leroy Smith, a somewhat fictional character based on one of MJ's real boyhood rivals. Those skits were very funny as well, so I have to ask, has the NBA seen the last of Leroy Smith., or can we can expect to see more of him at some point?
A: I don't know. All I know is we did a really good job with it. The commercials were a lot of fun to do. I actually got to meet Michael Jordan. It was his 25th anniversary with Nike, so that's where the motivation came from. I have to say that a lot of great experiences came from Leroy Smith. If they were to decide to do more with it, I aint going nowhere.
Q: Tell me what else you've got going on with your career and what's next for you in the meantime.
A: I'm definitely keeping busy, because I'm getting tied up in other things. There are a lot of things going on in Charlie Murphy's world. Like you said, I'm on the road with my live comedy tour. I've also got my second stand-up DVD coming out soon. I'm still doing my thing with writing and acting too. I'm going to be writing and starring in my own television show for the Colours network, and I just finished filming a movie with Will Sasso called "The Guys Who Move Furniture." That'll be out next year.
For more info on Charlie and his live comedy show, click here.