NBA / Dec 8, 2010 / 12:00 pm

Dime Q&A: Brad Daugherty on LeBron, Cleveland, Jordan, UNC and being a NASCAR shot-caller

(photo. UNC Athletic Communications)

Before LeBron lived up to the hype, Brad Daugherty was arguably the greatest player in Cleveland Cavaliers history. After the events of last summer, Daugherty at least reclaimed his spot as the best player whom Cavs fans actually like, as LeBron has become as welcome in Cleveland as Bill was welcome at Beatrix Kiddo’s wedding.

The No. 1 pick of the 1986 NBA Draft, Daugherty played eight seasons with the Cavs before back injuries forced him into retirement at 28 years old. In that time he averaged 19.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, making five All-Star Games and finishing his career as the franchise’s all-time leader in total points and rebounds.

Since then, Daugherty has thrived in his second career in auto racing. He has been an owner of NASCAR truck and Sprint Cup racing teams since 1997, currently serving as part-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing, where his #47 Little Debbie/Clorox-sponsored car was driven by Marcos Ambrose this season and will put veteran Bobby Labonte behind the wheel in 2011. Daugherty is also a NASCAR analyst for ESPN and Showtime, and races himself a few times each summer.

Yesterday I got up with the 43-year-old Daugherty to talk about his experiences on the court and the track, his thoughts on LeBron leaving Cleveland, his days at North Carolina, and how his Cavs could have beaten Jordan‘s Bulls.

*** *** ***

Dime: What’s your history with racing? What drew you to the sport?
Brad Daugherty: Growing up in Black Mountain, North Carolina, I was right in the heart of it. My dad was a big race fan, my uncle was a huge race fan, so as a little kid I was always enamored with cars and drag racing and going to the track. The kids I grew up around had similar interests. We were always tinkering with cars, building hot rods and those type of things. Being from North Carolina, I was able to experience the best of both worlds. The two biggest sports are college basketball and racing, and I got to do both. As much as I love basketball, though, racing is my first passion.

I know it’s odd, a 7-foot African-American man who played in the NBA loving a sport where I’m a huge minority, but I never let that deter me. I’m always going to be part of racing in some way, shape or form. My dad told me, treat yourself as an equal and don’t let anything be an obstacle. Don’t let other people shape your ideas and thoughts, and do what you think is right.

Dime: Do you feel you have to be a symbol, like you almost have to represent all Black people as our face in racing?
BD: I do, no doubt about it. I’m in a sport where I’m a minority, and there are always gonna be people that just don’t like me being there. That’s just the way it is. For those that do like me there, I’m going to represent myself very well and represent people of color very well. I do the best job I can do, and I take it very seriously. I realize some people don’t like what I do because of the color of my skin, but whatever. I don’t care, I’m gonna keep doing it.

Dime: Do you ever get behind the wheel yourself?
BD: Oh yeah, I’ve been racing for several years. I ran in about eight races this summer. It’s probably a sight seeing me get in and out of the car at 7-feet tall, but I love racing. Sometimes I wish I would’ve been 5-9 and been able to run with the big boys, but everything worked out for me. I run two different cars: A late-model stock car and a little open-wheel car called a Thunder Roadster. The last race I had, I qualified 7th out of 46 cars. I was running real well; with three laps to go I was fifth before my motor blew. But I’d say six to eight times during the summer I’ll get out there. I’d love to do it more but I have so much going on.

Dime: You first started broadcasting basketball, which is what people would expect. When you got the idea to go to NASCAR, what was the response?
BD: Some people still can’t get it in their wheelhouse that I’m talking about racing. But it comes naturally. I know the spot, I love talking about the sport, and that’s how I spend a majority of my time anyway. When I was doing college basketball and Dr. Jerry Punch and I worked together, we would be doing a basketball game, and during the timeouts we’d spend the whole time talking about racing. When ESPN got the (NASCAR) package back, they called Doc up, then they called me and asked if I wanted to give this a shot. Five years later, I’m still going strong.

Dime: You’re as closely associated with the Cleveland Cavaliers as any player. What’s your view of the LeBron James situation?
BD: You know, you have to look at both sides of the alley. The only thing I had an issue with was “The Decision” show. I didn’t appreciate that, and I think as LeBron gets older he’ll look back and realize maybe he could have done that differently.

Other than that my view of the whole situation is, he worked hard, he became a free agent, he left: Get over it. Why does he owe Cleveland anything? That’s one thing about pro sports that pisses me off is this whole idea of loyalty, how a player is supposed to be loyal. But you take another guy on the team — say he’s from Cleveland but he’s the 12th guy on the team — is there a big uproar when they cut him? Where’s the loyalty there? If a guy is averaging one point a game, is there an uproar?

Listen, this is a business. LeBron James made a business decision. Everybody that’s mad about “No loyalty,” that’s bull. If Dan Gilbert had for whatever reason decided to trade him — which likely would have happened toward the end of his career — it would have been, “Well, I hate to lose him.”

You can’t have it both ways. What LeBron did was perfectly fine. If he’d broken his leg or messed up his knees … If he’d become a free agent with two blown-out ACL’s, do you think they would have offered him a contract just because he’s the hometown hero? Hell no!

I hate that LeBron left Cleveland because I think they were actually really close to winning a championship. I hate it for that. But sitting here saying he’s done anything wrong? He did everything by the rules, so he deserves his opportunity to play in Miami or wherever he chooses to play. Get over it.

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  • http://www.dimemag.com Aron Phillips

    Awesome interview!

  • SSS

    Nice, we go out and supported you, price, nance, ehlo and co. in the 80’s and 90’s, and you say this garbage?


    seriously brad, I used to be a big fan of you, but you can go to hell.

    go browns, go browns indeed.

  • kyballer

    Great interview! I love the honest answers by BD. None of that “canned-answer” crap they spit out now. I admit, I was watching ESPN and saw BD and thought it was a basketball show…FREAKIN’ NASCAR…LOL…but he does know his stuff. Again, Great Interview, keep more like this coming.


  • the_don_mega

    ” I don’t know if he has naked pictures of their wives, I don’t know, because it’s like, “What the hell is the deal?” They’ll take him out of the ballgame in a heartbeat.”


  • Quedas

    His insight on LeBron and how Jordan would murder people if he played with today’s rules was great. Also, the whole diatribe about guarding Sam Perkins was pretty damn funny :D

  • http://www.dimemag.com BarbosaSamosa

    Great feedback from Daugherty! Love his comparison between Jimmie Johnson, the Bulls and the Patriots.

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    Wow, you guys are really bringing it with the interviews recently!

    Never had any kind of insight on BD, but I can say I’m a fan now haha. Seems like a real chill dude.

    Not sure what to think of his LeBron comments, though. He’s right, but it doesn’t make me feel any better about the Decision.

  • steven

    Great job! Keep these interviews coming.

    @ SSS- You got one too many S’s but you sound like a Nazi anyway. “WITHOUT THEM YOU GUYS ARE NOTHING BUT BUSBOYS, AND CONVIENCE STORE WORKERS”

    Really? Why not accountants, or teachers, or policeman, or your boss?

  • WinDelRoj

    You know this answers a lot of questions. I dont think I disagreed with anything he said.

  • WinDelRoj

    and at 2.. The Cavs as an organization (mostly the front office) dont have a good history. Sometimes the players being the victims, always the fans. Dont tell me he doesnt have a point that if Lebrons elbow had been career threatening the Cavs wouldnt have traded him to the Bobcats (See the afore mentioned Mark Price.

  • http://www.roidrage.com Chicagorilla

    Great interview. What made you guys go after Brad anyway. For the youngins that dont know, Brad was Tim Duncan before Timmy. Great post game and soft touch around the basket. Tim was a little more athletic and could dribble better, but they are very similar. Loved his line about if the 12th man from Clevland would get just as much hate. ESPN should have interviewed him instead of us having to hear from Black face Charles Barkley.

  • Fraz

    Great Interview! Always had a lot of respect for Daugherty as a player and even more with his Nascar interest. He’s breaking down barriers and showing class the whole way.

    Ahhh Sam Perkins hah, I love it.

  • TC

    Great interview. Always liked Big Brad. Everything he said was spot on, even the LeBron stuff. A little humility from LeBron would have gone a long way towards making his decision more palpable. Of course , the next time we see humility from LeBron will be the first time………

  • Sporty-j

    SSS has to be the leader of the KKK… Life must be really suck in Cleveland right now. The Indians suck, the Cavs suck, and the Browns suck. NEED A SNICKER???

  • Lee

    It’s a lie about Jordan scoring 100 a night and all the old guys claiming they’d get 50 in today’s game. The players are WAY better athletically and there’s more emphasis on team defence.

  • Lee

    @ Sporty-j

    With Cleveland teams sucking so much now, they need to change one of their teams to the Fluffers !!

  • Claw

    @ Sporty Spice and Lee – At least they have a fan base, what the hell is up with this Heat games on TV and that arena looking just over half full. What a joke.

    WAY better athletically than MJ or Dominique Wilkins? What are you 12 and never seen Jordan play?

  • http://www.roidrage.com Chicagorilla

    @Lee, seriously? Your debating that with a no touch rule MJ couldnt score 100? With your basis being that the guys are much more athletic and better team D? Hahahaha Jordan scored 63 in a playoff gamd AT Boston Garden with a hand check rule in place vs one of the great team defenses of that era. Id also like to point out that Kobe, P.Gasol, Pierce, Dirk, Manu, Nash and several other guys are not athletically superior to the NBA players guarding them and they seem to have no problem with the “team defense” that you are raving about. I watch Durant shoot 14 freethrows while basically being a jump shooter, if you think Wilkins or Bird cant do the same or better then you are sadly mistaken.

  • dlight

    I liked BD then and even wathch a pre-race show if he’s representing. I grew up around drag strip racing too. Great interview!!. DM should make a regular where are they now segment. What about it boys, I’m sure we can come up with a years worth of request list. Big East point guards to start??

  • Lee

    @ Chicagorilla

    There were 2OTs in that game so I’d say that record’s inflated a bit by the extra 10 mins of PT.

    All I’m saying is that if the defence is so much weaker in todays game, why dont more player average 30+ point a game ??? The reason is because the defence is differnet. How many chages would people take on Jordan as he tried to dunk on people ?? He could be sitting in foul trouble most of the night.

  • the truth

    SSS is an idiot

  • bola


  • http://www.roidrage.com Chicagorilla

    @Lee, the same amount of charges they take on Lebron and Wade. The players back in the 80s and 90s ALL went to college. Some were taught the game by all time great coaches like Jordan (Dean Smith) and Isiah (Bobby Knight). The L would be in serious trouble with those 80s players in the NBA today.

  • crossphaded

    Props on the interview. I was a big Cavs fan back in the mid-to-late 80s, when Harper was on the team. Daugherty was a pretty solid center who could put up 20-10 any given night, albeit he was a little slow.
    He is on-point with his remark about the Ron Harper trade. When they still had Ron, the Cavs were so much more competitive vs. the Bulls despite “the shot” and a few of MJ’s other memorable games vs Cleveland, but once Harper was out of the equation, the Bulls p0wned them. Ron was the only guy who could match up with MJ athletically and they had their own personal battles going back and forth– sometimes Ron would get the better of the matchup, but most of the time MJ would. It was a highlight reel watching both of them go at it.
    Would Wayne Embry trade Harp for Danny Ferry looking back at it now? Hells no. Obviously Craig Ehlo and Gerald Wilkins weren’t the answer.
    Lets get an interview with Ron Harper. I’d like to hear his take on the play of the 80s, his championship runs with the Bulls and Lakers, and playing alongside all those superstars.