Interview conducted by Allie Schratz, Editor of Business Review Australia
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. How do you like the Bay Area?
It’s a beautiful place to live. I’m settling well [and] really enjoying it.
We hear the region is often compared to both Sydney and your home city, Melbourne.
[The weather] is very similar to what we get in Melbourne: the rain, the wind, and the four seasons in a day.
You were the first Australian player to be picked No. 1 overall in the 2005 NBA Draft when you were selected by the Milwaukee Bucks. What does that mean to you?
That was a big moment for me. I had a career that was really up and down. To even get drafted into the NBA was an accomplishment. [Being a] top five pick is great; first pick was even better. I can’t say it was a dream come true because I didn’t even think it was possible, but obviously it worked out well.
Indeed. So it wasn’t your goal to join the NBA?
No. The goal was to play professionally in Australia. I didn’t think the NBA was an achievable goal, so I lowered the bar a little. As I got better and better, it worked out.
Tell us about your innovative idea for Squad 6 in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee was a very small market and it was tough to draw a lot of fans, particularly on weeknights. A lot of times, the arena was pretty dead. I decided to hold auditions for the craziest fans. Before the 2009-2010 season started, I held auditions and people showed up to try and make the squad. If they came and created an atmosphere and cheered, they’d get free tickets to every game.
Will you initiate a similar concept with your new team, the Golden State Warriors, in Oakland?
There will probably be something similar. Obviously we don’t need loud fans; we already have them. The fans here are great. And I like to do a lot of fan engagement activities, even through Twitter and social media.
You maintain a pretty active presence on Twitter. Why do you think it’s important for athletes these days to connect with fans off the court?
It’s your own voice. A lot of people just see you as an athlete, and this allows you to establish yourself in a different way, away from sports. I think that’s very important. You can really learn a lot about other companies and other people [through Twitter], and they can do the same about you.
At the same time, you have to make sure you talk to your fans, keep in touch with them and give them some time as well because they’re supporting you.
Do you personally respond to fans’ tweets?
Yes. Fans can tell when it’s not the actual person. It’s better when it’s authentic.
You announced via Twitter that you won’t be playing in the London Olympics this summer due to injury rehabilitation. How will you support the Australian team off the court?
It’s going to be hard. First and foremost, I need to get healthy and rehab and do all the right things. When the games are on, I’ll watch as many as I can and keep in touch with the team.
Where do you see the Warriors heading next season when you and fellow starter Stephen Curry are healthy and ready to play?
We’ll start fresh. I think the organisation at the helm is doing all the right things to get [the Warriors’] prominence back in the Bay Area. Hopefully we have some good draft picks coming, and who knows what will happen trade-wise in the off season. It’s been a long time since there has been a consistent force in the Bay Area, so hopefully we can re-establish that.
Best of luck. What made you decide to get involved with One Management Group and Consulting, the Melbourne-based talent management and sport marketing strategy company founded by your agent, Bruce Kaider?
I hired Bruce about six years ago to handle my PR and media needs in Australia. We formed a partnership about a year ago and it’s gone really well. As an athlete, I have an advantage over other companies because I have free access to the media, to marketing strategies and other key businessmen, so that’s definitely helped the business. While I’m an athlete, I want to try and make the transition into [the management] field a little easier once I retire.
If you hadn’t pursued a career in professional basketball, what would you be doing?
I would have been involved in sport in some capacity, maybe coaching basketball.