The latest installment of the Emmy-nominated series BEYOND THE GLORY (Sunday, April 27 at 6:00 PM) takes a look at the life of Dallas Mavericks standout Nick Van Exel and his struggles both on and off the basketball court.
With a hot hand and an even hotter temper, Nick Van Exel's road to success in the NBA hasn't been an easy one. While he's gained respect as a player, he's never been able to shake the bad-boy reputation that has followed him throughout his career.
Van Exel grew up in a single-parent home in Kenosha, Wis. Nick Sr. abandoned his family for a life of crime, but passed on his skill and love for basketball to his son. A shy and lonely Van Exel channeled his emotions on the court and developed a fierce determination to succeed. He landed a scholarship to the University of Cincinnati and put the Bearcats and himself on the college basketball map.
After being drafted by the Lakers in 1993, he helped lead a struggling Los Angeles team back to the verge of NBA dominance. However, a shoving incident with a referee and mounting tensions with Coach Del Harris sent Van Exel packing to the league's cellar-dwelling Denver Nuggets in 1998. Van Exel suffered through four seasons in Denver while watching his former team march to NBA Championships.
On a surprising recommendation from now assistant Mavericks' coach Del Harris, Van Exel was traded to a surging Dallas team in the hunt for a NBA championship in 2001. Van Exel continues to succeed on the court, but only time will tell if his game can outlast the reputation that has plagued him throughout his career.
BEYOND THE GLORY chronicles his career and his personal struggles, including his fatherless upbringing, the shooting of his mother and his infamous run-ins on the court. Those interviewed in addition to Van Exel include: former Lakers GM Jerry West, Cincinnati assistant coach Steve Moeller, Mavericks and former Lakers coach Del Harris, broadcaster Bob Costas, mother Joyce, friend Tony Dutt, Dallas teammate Avery Johnson and NBA standout and friend Sam Cassell. Here are some quotes from the one-hour show:
Nick Van Exel
"I have to be angry. I can't be out on the court smiling all the time and being happy-go-lucky, because that's not how I am. I wish I was like that, but that's not how I am."
"The Del Harris incident and the Ron Garretson (NBA referee) incident, those are going to be what people remember. But the people that are close to me, the people that know me, I just want them to remember me as a person that worked hard to get where he was at; a person that never gave up."
On attending college at Cincinnati: "I think that was the biggest thing that probably will happen to me as far as I'm concerned."
On being traded to Denver: "He (Jerry West) was definitely going to send me away to a team where I wasn't going to be a threat to the Lakers. Denver was definitely that team."
On the Lakers: "I knew every year that they were going to the playoffs, every year they'd have a shot at winning the championship and I was going to be sitting at home watching it, wondering what could have been."
On his mother being shot: "Once I got on that plane and got in those clouds, that's when it really sunk in that my mom could be up here, before I got there. I may never see my mom alive again."
"He is really one of the great competitors I've ever been around."
"He's my favorite Laker by far, by far, because I can sort of identify with some of the things that had gone on in his life and his desire to excel."
"I thought we had found a player who would be there for 10 or 15 years. I rooted for him so much because I saw the rough edges going away."
On Van Exel pushing a referee: "I'm sure it's something that he wished that would have never happened because referees have memories and they don't want anyone to show them up. That's for sure. And I looked at Nick and to me that was sort of the start of things that went wrong in Los Angeles."
"He went from a youngster at Trinity Valley that wouldn't say two words, to a kid that would stand up in front of his teammates and tell them the way it was because he wanted to win."
"Nick had been very comfortable and secure in the University of Cincinnati because we took care of him, he took care of us and it was a symbiotic relationship. And now he's out and he's got nobody that he could depend on or ask questions to or rely on and it disintegrated on him."
On his tumultuous relationship with Van Exel: "The irony of the whole thing is I always wanted Nick to like me. I just never figured out how to get it done."
On Van Exel's trade to the Mavericks: "I was willing to block out the 20 or 30 bad days we might've had in four years and think about the 1,000 good days that we had. All things considered it was worth the risk."
"It seemed like there was always some problem, something that was under his skin, something that he was upset about. When that's the case, you can't just be good. You gotta be great. Or people eventually say, 'You know what, it isn't worth the trouble.'"
"He'll shoot you in or he'll shoot you out, but he's not going to be a wallflower."
Joyce Van Exel
On Nick wanting to leave community college: "I talked to him and let him know, this doesn't happen to everybody, this is your chance. I guess at the last minute he woke up, because he didn't come home."
"If he doesn't know you, he won't speak a word to you. But if he knows you, he'll give you the shirt off his back."
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