NYC Hoops Star Kenny Anderson Looking to Pay It Forward

On his left wrist, Kenny Anderson wears a Lokai bracelet.

The bracelet, made of a stretchy rubber, has several connected beads with two featured: one black, one white. The black bead contains sand from the Dead Sea — the lowest point on earth. The white bead contains water from Mount Everest — the highest point on earth.

The idea of the bracelet is that the white bead represents the highs in life. “Sometimes, you’ve hit a high in life, stay humble.” The black bead represents the opposite. “Sometimes you’ve hit a low in life, stay hopeful.”

No better description could be made for Kenny Anderson.

A new documentary on Anderson’s life, “Mr. Chibbs – Kenny Anderson: Basketball Is Easy, Life Is Hard” hit theaters Wednesday, May 3. Directed, written and produced by Jill Campbell, this documentary pulls no punches about Anderson’s enviable highs and lows.

From being one of the top prospects in basketball growing up in New York, college success, drafted 2nd overall by the New Jersey Nets, NBA All-Star, and all the spoils that come with fame and success as an athlete … to Anderson’s unimaginable lows of financial troubles, a DUI that cost him his job, infidelities, going through abuse and depression.

Indeed, Anderson has endured the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in life.

The plastic bracelet comes in an assortment of colors, based on charity affiliation. Anderson’s was orange. All proceeds of that bracelet go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness to stop the stigma often associated with mental illness.

Kenny spoke with us at a hotel in Manhattan while promoting the documentary:

You put everything into this documentary. What’s it like knowing that the public will see everything about you?

At first, it was nerve-wracking. I didn’t know what was going to come out of it. I think the main thing I was trying to get across to people is just pay it forward. A lot of people know me probably from being in the NBA, just my basketball career, but didn’t know I was a child prodigy growing up in New York, all the obstacles I had to overcome. Basically, I just wanted to put my life out there, just to tell people what I’ve been through.

NEW YORK - JUNE 26: Kenny Anderson shakes hands with NBA Commissioner David Stern after he was selected number two overall by the New Jersey Nets during the 1991 NBA Draft on June 26, 1991 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1996 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK – JUNE 26: Kenny Anderson shakes hands with NBA Commissioner David Stern after he was selected number two overall by the New Jersey Nets during the 1991 NBA Draft on June 26, 1991 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Was there any hesitation to put any part of your life into this movie?

Definitely. I don’t know if my mother was still living that I would have done a documentary, but I wanted to do it and I think she’s looking down on me saying ‘you’re doing a good thing.’ She would want me to pay it forward, to help somebody else that might be going through hard times, bad times, so they can get through it. I think adversity builds character, and I’ve been through a lot and was able to bounce back. Just try to better myself. My mother always used to say that life is not fair. Dust yourself off, get back up, figure it out. I’m a basketball player, but I’m not trying to make a movie highlight reel. I wanted a documentary that had some type of substance.

What was the filming process like?

You know, cameras in your face, all day. Getting raw footage. I had to go back to my high school, my old neighborhood, where things started. We have so much footage, but we couldn’t use all of it because of the storyline. Jill Campbell did a hell of a job. Some of the footage we got I didn’t even realize she had. Sometimes I had to say “Nah, not today, let’s do it another day. I’m not feelin’ it.”

What are you doing now?

I got a gym in Tampa. I work out of camps, clinics, trying to add a mentorship program onto it. I got a travel team, South Florida Elite, that I coach. I’m around the game. I’m just trying to figure out what’s the next move. I will hopefully do a book after this. I’m going to keep giving. Keep helping.

I feel like you’d excel at a speaking tour …

Thank you. I’ve done it sporadically, some motivational speaking. High schools, youth camps. I love that. I love expressing myself and letting people know what life is all about and what you need to survive.

SARASOTA, FL - APRIL 07: Former NBA Basketball player, Kenny Anderson, star of the film 'Mr. Chibbs' visits the IMG Academy during the 2017 Sarasota Film Festival on April 7, 2017 in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images for Sarasota Film Festival)
SARASOTA, FL – APRIL 07: Former NBA Basketball player, Kenny Anderson, star of the film ‘Mr. Chibbs’ visits the IMG Academy during the 2017 Sarasota Film Festival. (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images for Sarasota Film Festival)

One question about your career: In ’98 you got traded from Portland to Toronto, but you never played for the Raptors and got traded to Boston. Why didn’t you want to play in Toronto?

Oh, it’s out there, it was just tax purposes. Totally a business thing. I love Toronto. I love the city. I had like 20 games left. I would have been double taxed. It was a business decision. I said, “Nah, I’ll wait and see what my summer looks like and see if I get picked up, (maybe) some other team will come in.” Now they got a deal where if you’re their player, the taxes are different. I was coming into another country and they would have ripped that whole check up. I love Toronto. They are wonderful people. I said this years ago, but everyone takes what they want to take from stuff.

What do you hope this documentary accomplishes?

I want it to save somebody, even one person. “Wow, he did that, I’m not doing that. I saw Kenny’s documentary.” Just to help somebody and pay it forward. Not keeping my stuff to myself and being ashamed or being embarrassed. I’m giving myself to help somebody else. Basketball didn’t define me. I wanted everyone to know that I’m a human being, and I had problems. Just like the average American. Everybody needs help, no one is perfect. Everybody is a work in progress. If you need a push, somebody to say, “Go get help,” look at this guy: A child prodigy, two-time All-American at Georgia Tech, four-time all city player, played in the NBA. He can’t have no problems. Nah man, I’m human. Nobody is perfect. He’s a celebrity, made this much money, and he’s doing it. I know I can do it. Let me go get help. That’s what I hope.


Thanks to Kenny for taking the time to speak to me. “Mr. Chibbs – Kenny Anderson: Basketball is Easy, Life is Hard” opens Wednesday, May 3 in select theaters.

For more information: http://mrchibbs.com/

Follow Kenny Anderson on Twitter: @chibbs_1

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.