Basketball

Magic’s Nick Anderson advises Jr. NBA players: ‘Sometimes the outcome is not always what you want it to be’

During a career in which he scored more than 11,500 points in 13 NBA seasons, Nick Anderson delivered in many big moments.

Just not the biggest.

Only Dwight Howard has scored more points for the Orlando Magic than Anderson, 51, but his four missed free throws in the final seconds of regulation in Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals against the Houston Rockets left a bigger stain than spilling red wine on carpet.

This one is ingrained in Anderson's fabric.

"It's part of who I am," he said after speaking to youth athletes competing at the Jr. NBA Global Championship. "I was there at that moment. No one knows how I felt. I really go back and think about it. You know you're doing your best, and sometimes the outcome is not always what you want it to be."

The second Jr. NBA Global Championship continues this weekend at Disney World. Along with Anderson, former NBA guard Greivis Vasquez and WNBA player Breanna Stewart also spoke to the 13- and 14-year-old ballers at a Gaylord Palms conference room in Kissimmee.

Their message about resiliency and developing the proper mindset was timeless and fittingly universal, considering the tournament has attracted players from 40 countries.

"We all have good games and bad games, but if you're always strong, confident in yourself, then you're going to be your best," Stewart said.

Mental preparedness will provide a player with his or her best plan of attack when adversity strikes or pressure situations arise, the pros said.

Every athlete experiences those uncomfortable moments.

Those dang free throws follow Anderson like a stray dog. Stewart is not playing this season for the Seattle Storm after rupturing her right Achilles' tendon in April. Vssquez faced long odds just to make it to this country.

While growing up in Venezuela, Vssquez told his friends of his NBA aspirations. Their response was a few degrees shy of lukewarm.

"Heck no. You don't even have a passport. You don't even have a visa. You don't even have the money to buy a ticket to go to the United States," they said.

Vssquez didn't speak English at the time.

Said Vssquez, 32: "Guess what? I didn't give up. I knew I was going to pursue my dream."

He was the ACC Player of the Year as a senior at Maryland, then played seven seasons in the NBA. Vssquez coached with the New Orleans Pelicans during the 2019 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

Stewart spoke about how being in the right frame of mind can benefit a player in big moments. She recalled the decisive game in the best-of-five WNBA semifinal series between the Storm and Phoenix Mercury.

Seattle trailed by four points entering the fourth quarter before Stewart's teammate, Sue Bird, scored 14 points to lift her team into the WNBA Finals, which it won. The performance came one game after Bird broke her nose in Game 4.

"Mentally stay ready," Stewart said.

Said Anderson: "Could you imagine if I knew then what I know now, knew how to relax your body, relax your mind and get into that. Maybe it would have been a world of difference."

Those wayward free throws helped doom the Magic in their first NBA Finals game in franchise history. The Rockets went on to sweep the series in four games and repeat as champions.

Anderson's inability to convert at the most crucial time is central to his basketball story.

"That was a great experience," Anderson said now, 24 years after the fact. "I learned a lot from that.

"I learned to have a lot of balance in your life. I was telling the young kids this morning, 'Don't always talk about the 20 (points) and seven rebounds or eight assists that you got. Talk about the 0 for 10 or 1 for 11.' You're letting people know that you're taking the good with the not so good. I'll take that."

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