Etan Thomas discusses with TSF his book Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge

 Purchase Fatherhood here

TSF spoke with Etan Thomas on the old site extensively. I also mentioned Etan in The Nation piece regarding the Black athlete today. He’s one of the very few athletes unafraid to speak his mind with the admirable intention of simply providing a helping hand through celebrity. Educating people in a society searching for a logical sense of reality. The NBA forward gets all he can out of what is now his moment in the professional sports arena. He is one whom inspires and should be spoken of in every realm of what a soul model truly is and can potentially be. I can’t wait to read his book on being a father and his getting so many pops across our culture (and others) to speak of their experiences with their fathers and also as fathers that should make us all want to spiritually and unconditionally forever love our sons.

Michael Tillery: OK. Let’s talk about Fatherhood. In the book you talk with 50 celebrities…I’ll let you talk about it. Do your thing….

Etan Thomas: Yes. I got 50 different men from all walks of life and we’re all talking about their different perspectives of fatherhood. I wanted to get all different men…different backgrounds, religions, cultures, nationalities…the whole nine…so it would appeal to everybody. It’s something that’s a universal issue. It’s not just a black or white issue. The same thing that Yao Ming is going through is the same as Tito Puente is going through…what Tony Hawk is going through…Ice Cube…so it’s a fraternity of brotherhood. I want to learn from their experiences. It’s not like I’m an expert. I have three kids. My son Malcolm is 6, Imani 4 and Sierra…she’s 2. It’s definitely an important topic personally. I’m not trying to lecture anybody by any stretch of the imagination because I’m not qualified to do that. This is the book I wish I would have had growing up in a single parent household. Going through different things and not really knowing how to talk about it and deal with it. Young men…we don’t talk about stuff like this but hearing other men talk about it, you recognize on the court in the local arena or in music and it resonates.

MT: Since you are a young father with young children, what are some of the things you learned while constructing the book and talking to people and getting those opinions you’ve mentioned?

ET: Oh, I learned a bunch of things. Why I really wanted to do with the book in the beginning was to really show a different side to all the negative stuff you’ve heard…”you’re not gonna make it”…”you’re from a broken home”…”you’re more likely to end up in jail”…and I always hated that. Wait a minute…no one has authored the script of my life. Talking to young people at schools and correctional facilities, I’ve found they hear it too, and if you keep drilling stuff in people’s minds, eventually they are gonna start believing it. I think that’s what adults do with all these negative statistics…showering young people with all this negativity and then in turn the kids’ expectations become limited. I wanted to show them people that had it worse than them still made the right choices and decisions and became successful in life. So I said just don’t take my word for it. Listen to Michael Moore talk about how the system is set up for you to fail and wants you to fail and you’re basically doing their work for them when you make that choice. I wanted to show them Kevin Durant and how he grew up in a single parent household…how his mom was there at all the games and how she was able to make the right decisions and right choices.

Baron Davis. Baron Davis’ story is tough. I didn’t have it that bad. Makes me think I had nothing to complain about. That’s why I did this because I wanted it to be inspirational to a whole generation of young people. The divorce rate is what? 55%? My son just told me a little while ago he knew what divorce meant. I didn’t know he knew that. Then he started breaking it down. He said it’s when two parents don’t love each other anymore and they don’t deal with each other. I asked him how did he know all this? He said it’s because most of the kids in my class parents are divorced. So it’s the norm. I want to talk to these young kids. What about them? What do they do? All they hear is negativity. I just told them you can beat this.

MT: When people open up your book, what is its personality?

ET: Each chapter takes on a totally different form. While what we just spoke about is the main chapter, another chapter will be showing dad’s joy with their kids. That’s something you don’t see a lot. So I wanted to showcase Derek Fisher. I wanted to showcase Grant Hill talking positively. The way Grant Hill talks about his father is beautiful! I don’t even know people who talk about their father like that. We always see the negative story, so I wanted to show the positive story.

Another aspect is single mothers. Unfortunately some have to do the job of mommy and daddy. It’s not that they can’t be successful in it. Don’t take my word. Let the Reverend Al Sharpton talk about it. Listen to Al Horford talk about it and Joe Johnson talk about it. They talked about how great their mother was in their upbringing. What they learned from that experience. Of course I’m not saying it’s the ideal way because it’s more ideal to have two parents in the home, but with a strong mother, you can make it. I want it to be inspirational to whomever is reading it.

There’s another chapter that talks about anger…which is a major, major point with young kids. I had it when I was younger. You have this anger inside of you and you don’t know what to do with it. You don’t know how to deal with it. What do you do with it? You don’t talk about it because men don’t talk about stuff like that but it’s affecting and I wanted to get people to talk about how they dealt with their anger. Kevin Powell talking about how he did therapy and it worked for him. Growing up, therapy didn’t work for me. I wasn’t about to go talk to a stranger I didn’t know about my problem with this issue and how I felt. What worked for me is writing. That’s how I got into writing. I wrote about my frustration. You have to find out what works for you. Lamman Rucker…from all the Tyler Perry movies? He talked about how revenge can take over your life and how you have to get past it. Those are hard difficult issues to deal with. T. D. Jakes just wrote a whole book on anger called Let it Go. I deal with kids in correctional facilities that have this anger inside of them and the reason I have this compassion for them is because I could have easily been them. It was just by the grace of God that it wasn’t me. I have so many different homeboys that ended up in those situations. I’m blessed to play 11 years in the NBA but I wasn’t the best player coming out of Tulsa. A whole lot of guys should have made it before me. When I grew up, gangs were real big in Tulsa. A lot of the gangs from LA would migrate down to little places like Tulsa and Arkansas and set up shop. They would recruit all the young kids. I don’t know if you remember Banging in Little Rock

MT: Of course.

ET: Well that’s like an hour away from where I grew up. There was a gang culture there. I had homeboys reppin’ all kinds of crips. On my AAU team, my other homeboy…his brother was like the biggest blood in Tulsa and these cats could hoop! These cats were good. Every time I go back to talk to people I ask what happened to this cat? They say “naw, he’s in jail” or what happened to him? “Naw he got shot”. These were all kids that could have made it. Things could have been completely different. So that’s why I have a passion for this because I hate seeing that. I still live in DC, but when I was with the Wizards, I really began to get in touch with the correctional facilities there. I would work with a group called Free Minds in DC prisons. What they did was try to help young people nurture their anger…nurture their frustrations when they get out and help them find jobs. Get back into school…stuff like that. So, I supported that. I would go talk to them once or twice a year and work with them to try to write their frustrations down. I got tired of seeing the pattern and tried to help them get to the root of their anger. I want you to listen to how Styles P tells how terrible prison is and how that is not a place you want to end up in. I wanted Ice Cube to paint that picture for you and say naw, you don’t have to be that way because whoever said that’s what you have to do. You have to want something more out of life.

My thing is young people. I’m not trying to talk to adults like that. Adults can get a lot from the book, but my passion is talking to young people. The younger generation gets older in a few years. We have to nurture them. We can’t be scared of them. I think adults right now are scared of young people. It was different when we were younger. We wore baggy clothes now it’s about skinny jeans which is ridiculous to me, but it’s all the same thing. You can’t run away from them. You just can’t or you’ll have to deal with them later on. A lot of times with young people is they’ll pull your coattail to talk to them and no body cares. Elijah Cummings talks about it a lot in his chapter. He talks about mentors and different people around the community who talk to young people. I was blessed to have that when I was growing up. He talked about how important that is. They need to know somebody gives a damn. That’s what he said. That was his exact quote. It seems like nobody cares. They just want to punish them. Like in school, when something happens, they just want to suspend them. They don’t care what happens. There’s no why…they just suspend them. I just want to continue a discussion. The book is just the first part. I want to start doing panel discussions. I did one here in DC at Busboys and Poets. LaRon Profit, who played with the Wizards, sat on the panel. Ken Harvey the former member of the Washington Redskins. Roger Mason Jr. with the Wizards. Michael Walton who is a sprinter. We just all talked about fatherhood. Interesting to see how the young people reacted to us. Hearing us talk about things that they haven’t heard men talk about. Just being honest like yeah we relate to what you’re going through. You’re not the only person going through something like that. I’m going to do this all over the place. In New York (June 13th). I want to do one in Philly. All different places and get men from those areas and we just talk about fatherhood. Invite all the young people out. Society will chew you up, spit you out and not think twice. In athletics, you can be tricked into thinking people actually care. When you can’t hoop no more or you get hurt, you find out how quick they don’t care. You have to prepare. There’s so much. It’s a conversation starter (Fatherhood), so young people can relate to people talking about their situations and be inspired by them.

Etan and his son Malcolm reppin’ for Trayvon Martin…A dope piece Etan penned for the Huffington Post on Trayvon.

MT: Why do you think that generational gap exists where there is that lack of communication?

ET: I don’t know. I just know it’s there. I can’t tell you why it’s there. It’s just a lot of things men don’t talk about. I didn’t talk about it. This book was really therapeutic for me. I had to get past a lot of anger when I was younger. It’s like the old saying about the man with no shoes didn’t know how good he had it until he saw the man with no feet. I remember cats coming to me and saying you used to see your dad once or twice a month? That’s great. I haven’t seen my dad since Christmas. I was like wow, I’m sitting her mad that I can’t spend time with my dad and this cat ain’t even near his dad. Some cats have it a lot worse than you. I wanted to use different people as examples so more perspective is given. Of course, the ultimate example is President Barack Obama. He talks in his book that he didn’t know his father. He met his father like once or twice and he made it to become the President of the United States of America. If he can make it to that point, than you can make it too. That should be the ultimate example right there.

MT: That is perspective. No question about that. As you were writing this book, was everything kind of seamless because of everything you spoke of earlier or was it difficult to construct?

ET: It was difficult because it was difficult for men to open up. Some of the stuff I’m talking about I had to kind of take a pause sometimes because I didn’t mean to bring all that back up…like I just pushed all that to the side. Especially the chapter I had to go into my childhood and go into things that were trigger points. Like when Jalen Rose had the thing with Grant Hill last year (part 2 coming soon)? I felt Jalen Rose in that. I was that kid looking at cats with their fathers and being jealous. I see it with my son now. I’ll be somewhere with him…like we’ll be playing on the court and I’ll see other kids looking at us. Right? And I’ll recognize the look and know exactly what they are thinking. I was that kid playing with other people looking at them. I remember a father and son event going on in school and I wanted to somehow get in trouble so I didn’t have to go there and not be with my father. So I just did something deliberate, got in trouble and I couldn’t go there. My mom would ask why I did that because she got to the root of it. I would say it was a father and son thing. She understood what I was saying. She understood the anger but that stuff just gets worse and worse as you get older. That was me in the third grade doing that stuff and reacting like that. Kids are out there unaware of those who’ve gone through this stuff. That’s why again, I wanted to show them Kevin Durant’s story and Baron Davis’ story and Joe Johnson talking about it. These are people they recognize but just don’t know their stories.

MT: Can you somehow articulate the happiness that you felt in your heart when you finally became a father?

ET: Aw man…words can’t fit the description about the joy that you feel. Every time I deal with my son Malcolm or my daughter Imani or my little baby girl Sierra, there is this joy that overcomes you. Life changing because it’s not about you. It’s all about them. You see them growing. You want to nurture them and teach them everything. You can’t wait to experience everything they are gonna go through. It’s interesting when you see yourself in them. When they do something and you’re like wow…that’s me! It’s an amazing thing. I have so much fun with my kids. They are such a blessing. I really wanted to show men talking about their kids. You know us, we can’t talk about our kids without beaming with pride and joy without smiling and everything. You never run out of material. You can talk about your kids forever. They always do something.

I wanted to show people this is what you will miss out on if you aren’t involved in your son’s life. This is the joy that you are missing. Listen to Taye Diggs talk about the birth of his son. Listen to Chris Paul talk about the joy he gets from his son and playing with him. The stories of him talking about his daughter. You’re missing out if you’re not a part of this whole thing.

That’s what it is…

MT: Thank you brotha. Great stuff!

Vid courtesy of CNN.

6 Responses to “Etan Thomas discusses with TSF his book Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge”

  1. Ron Glover says:

    Can’t wait to grab the book. Beautiful conversation.

  2. CAvard says:

    Me too. Wonderful job. Who’s next, Mike?

  3. michelle says:

    Good man!!! We need more brothas like him in sports. Nice interview Miz.

  4. A monster interview with Negro League Museum Prez Bob Kendrick. Matt Whitner and I take Bob back to the days of Rube, Satchel, Josh and Oscar and also go into length about that one of a kind baseball Pop Pop Buck O’Neil…

    Pop Pop died
    America sighed
    The Negro League cried.

    Where have you gone Ole Man?
    Do come back and smile like only the little boy can.
    You were not a “boy” but a man.
    Over 36 players you MLB ushered in a seven year span.

    Jimmie Armsted, Oscar Charleston, Welday Walker, Jim Zapp to all of you Buck can highlight with a mere tip of his cap.

    Frank, Felipe and Dusty remember the pain it will keep you sane until Buck gets voted into the Hall of Fame.

    Gone are coaches three.
    Part of baseball’s soul is sure to flee.
    For the love of God! America don’t you see!

    Baseball’s tarnished history we must continue to attack.
    Have your children proudly wear the Kansas City Monarch hat as America should reminisce of the timeless echo that resounds with the historic crack of Buck O’Neil’s bat…

    Next Wednesday.

  5. mapoui says:

    good news. in this gloomy climate its very welcome!