The Burn with Ben Newman: Episode 9 with Larry Hughes

The burn with Ben Newman and Larry Hughes

Larry Hughes played 14 years in the NBA with both Jordan and Lebron.

I grew up playing basketball against Larry in high school. I remember seeing how much his family meant to him and how hard he worked to make them proud.

He has lived a very special life and continues to give back to the community that raised him.

This episode is a roller coaster of fun, joy, and deep purpose.

Full Interview with Larry Hughes and Ben Newman

Intro-Larry:     So we realized that and that was the struggle.  That was gonna be something that God put on us to fight through.  You know, stick together, fight together and figure out how to make it through.  So what that did was I wanted to always give my brother some joy, some peace, give my mother something to clap for, someone to be proud of.  (Opening music)

Ben:                Welcome back to another episode of The Burn.  Now this one is really fun for me because we’re gonna go way, way back and this is one of those things, like, man, I can’t believe how fast time flies. So, I could talk so much about Larry Hughes.  Fourteen years in the NBA, 8th over-all pick, pride of St. Louis and all of the things that you on the court…

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                …but I’m actually gonna go back to high school.  And then I want to hear about your burn…

Larry:              Mm-hm.

Ben:                …and then, really, what I want to dive into is what I’m so impressed with now that we’re these old men…

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                …is where we’re sittin’ right now?  What makes that burn go now as a father, really, a continued leader in the community, what you’ve done with your foundation, but before we get there just a quick couple things that I remember.

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                So, number one, from our sophomore years in high school, we played each other seven times.

Larry:              Mm-hm.

Ben:                We were 0-7 against you guys and I don’t think you ever broke a sweat.  I think you dunked about 40 times in those seven games.

Larry:              Yeah.

Ben:                And the closest we ever came was 13 points, distract finals at LaDue…

Larry:              Distract finals.

Ben:                …our senior year and what I remember is there was one point in the game where I had to pick you up at half-court and I never called switch faster in my entire life. Switch!  Like, I wanted no part of that in that.

Larry:              That’s what’s up.  That’s what’s up.

Ben:                So I knew, we all knew back then, like, man, we’re witnessing something…

Larry:              Yeah.

Ben:                …special.  And aside from what we saw on the court and I mentioned this to you and I will never forget it.  And, man, I remember seeing this when we were freshman/sophomores was the unity and how close you were with your mother…

Larry:              Mm-hm.

Ben:                …and how close you were with your brother, Justin.

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                And I know Justin was born with some heart difficulties.

Larry:              Mm-hm.

Ben:                And, man, I remember all of it like it was yesterday.

Larry:              Yeah.

Ben:                That’s, like, over 20 years ago.

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                And I remember watching you with him after games.  I remember watching his eyes watchin’, I mean, he was a little boy.

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                Watchin’ him watch you play and just the tightness of your parents.  Man, for this show and the burn, and what we’re talkin’ about, if you’re cool with it, I’d love to start there.

Larry:              Oh, yeah.

Ben:                And talk about what’s in your heart, what that burn is and how it’s enabled you to do the things you’ve done in your life.

Larry:              Oh, no question, no problem.  No problem.

Ben:                So tell us a little bit about that burn.  So when you think back to that’s my memory, right?

Larry:              Mm-hm.

Ben:                And we just played against each other.

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                But when you think of your brother, you think of your mom, you think of what made you push to do all the things that you did, tell us about that and where it came from.

Larry:              It was really the motivation to give my family some joy.  I played basketball because I just so happened to be good at it.  I played schoolyard basket ball before I played organized basketball at 12.  So starting there, I just wanted to make my family proud.  I wanted to, you know, we were going through a tough time.  Like you said, my brother was born with transposition of the great vessels which is a heart defect, all right, which is something that you have no control over.  So we realized that and that was a struggle.  That was something that was gonna be something that God put on us to fight through.  You know, stick together, fight together and figure out how to make it through.  So what that did, I always wanted to give my brother some joy, some peace.  Give my mother something to clap for, someone to be proud of and I felt that that would ease, you know, the struggles and things and things that we were going through.  By using that sport, you know, I was able to, you know, I feel like, you know, keep his life going.  You know?  The longer I played, the more joy he had, the happier he was, the healthier he was.  So, I used basket ball as way to say, hey, I’m gonna do this for my family and for my brother because I know it makes them happy.  Yeah, it made me happy.  I definitely had joy from playing, but my ultimate motivation was to make my brother, you know, feel a little bit of peace while I played basketball.

Ben:                So, this is pretty amazing for me ‘cause here we are.  That’s kind of what I saw with my eyes, but now, to hear you articulate that…

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                …it’s pretty amazing.

Larry:              Yeah.

Ben:                So, for you to do what you did at the level that you did it at, I’m gonna ask you a completely different question than I was thinking about.  How often did you see guys that just never understood that peace, that never understood that, man, like, your heart is where you gotta start?

Larry:              It’s big.  It’s big.  I think it’s the ultimate separator.  Everyone has a story, you know?  Whether it be a single parent, whether it be an impoverished situation, whether it be a broken household, everyone has a story.  Right?  It’s what you attach yourself to that motivates you for a greater good.  Like, I didn’t just want to make it so I could make a bunch of money.  That’s was never my deal.  I wanted to make it so I could help other people.  I wanted to give back.  I wanted to be someone that people looked at as a light, you know, of inspiration.  You know that’s why I play basketball.  So like you said, like, a lot of people don’t accept that everyone has a story.  Like, your story’s – my story’s no greater than your story, but it’s what I put into what my story is that makes it what it is.  So, you know, just standing next to that guy knowing that he has a story and how you’re able to capitalize on that story.

Ben:                Yeah.  And, see, we never knew that we had a connection of stories, right? And my mom passed away 11 days before my 8th birthday.

Larry:              Mm-hm.

Ben:                Divorced parents.  Never knew my parents together, divorced when they were six months old.

Larry:              Mm-hm.

Ben:                My mom had a rare muscle disease.  Came to the dinner table with an IV stand, 24 hour nursing care in the house…

Larry:              Mm-hm.

Ben:                …and there’s so many times in  my life where the mentors and the coaches had to pick me up off that mat of life, and fueled by mom from above and all those things, but there’s so many times I reflect back to.  I’m going through a tough period of time and I’m, like, man…

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                …like, this isn’t tougher than seeing your mom ask you how your day was at school with an IV stand attached to her…

Larry:              Yeah.

Ben:                …at the dinner table. So, when you were breaking down game film, I like to talk about the unrequired, right…

Larry:              Mm-hm.

Ben:                …the stuff that people don’t see, they can’t even think about, that you’re willing…

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                …to do to get to your level.  So, how often did you think back to Justin, your mom, when you’re going through that, man, it’s time to breakdown game film, I want to go to sleep.  I gotta get these extra shots up; I want to go to sleep?

Larry:              Oh, yeah.

Ben:                Like, how did you did you shift perspective?

Larry:              It’s ultimate motivation and I think it was just ingrained in me.  You know?  Just my up-bringing, my mom and what she stood for and how she carried herself.  I know that she’s never gonna have, necessarily, a bad day because she has us.

Ben:                Mm-mm.

Larry:              So, that’s kind of how I looked at it.  Like, I’m not gonna have a bad day because I have them.  So any time I got into any sort of, you know, complicated situation or a struggle, or, you know, the last of those ten in ones you got to make, like, it doesn’t get any tougher than that.  Like, you can put – I can do a minute.  Like, I can do a minute easy, right?  So that’s how I look at it is, like, this is only a minute and we’re talking about things that effect you for an entire lifetime.  So, I use that as, like, I mean, it’s nothing and that’s how I look at it.

Ben:                So now, bring us forward to where we’re sittin’.  Right?  There’s plenty of stories of athletes who make their money…

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                …and it’s not even guys who make poor financial decisions, but they make their money and they really don’t go on to do anything.

Larry:              Mm-hm.

Ben:                And foundation work given, but you don’t have to do any of this.

Larry:              Right.

Ben:                We all know that.

Larry:              Right.

Ben:                So, how is that burn just continued today?  Being a father…

Larry:              Mm-hm.

Ben:                …right, four children, children playing college basketball.

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                Children excelling in their lives and then here.

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                Like, how does that burn continue to impact you today and the decisions you make?

Larry:              Well, I know that everyone has a story.  I know that, you know, just that little bit of a connection can take kids, adults a long way.  So I want to be that light.  I want to be inspiration.  I want to have kids and have parents understand that I’m here for them.  Right?  We built out a facility, you know?  My name’s on it.  My face is everywhere, but it’s for them.  And you too can have this opportunity if you use what’s available to you.  So, it’s never been about me.  I’ve always repped St. Louis as where I’m from.  The different cities that I played in, it was all about shining the light on St. Louis.

Ben:                Mm-mm.

Larry:              Like, I wanted to go out, be the best that I can be and then they, like, okay, that kid’s from St. Louis.  So let’s go back to St. Louis, see if there’s other kids there that can do what this kid is doing, and then, hey, I did my part.  I was able to go out, grab the attention and bring it back.  So what I’m doing with the academy is I’m talking about skill development and character development.  For those players that can make high level basketball, can play at the NBA, professional level, be paid to play basketball; this is a venue for you.  Right?  We lay out our skills.  We do a great job of organizing, you know, how we teach the game and the process of the game, but for those that are not going off to be paid to play basketball; we talk about life skills…

Ben:                Mm-mm

Larry:              …and the character development that it’s gonna take for these young people to be successful.  Whether they’re general managers, whether they’re scouts, whether they’re coaches, whether they’re trainers, you know, there’s a gamut of things that they could do involving, you know, sports and the game of basketball that they’re not necessarily athletically inclined to be professionals and paid to play.  So with that, I want to cover all those bases for these kids and allow them a chance to grow.  You know, that’s why I’m here is to make sure that the community has something that they can use.  It’s something that’s very meaningful and this new term that I’m using now is efficient.  Like, there’s only 24 hours in the day, right?  I don’t want to spend 24 hours of my day working.  So, I want to be efficient with my time.  Right?  So, I look at how I can be efficient, you know, with the academy?  How can I be efficient with the kids?  And that’s something that’s burning in me today, is to be more efficient with everything I do.  Whether it’s family life, whether it’s business life, whether it’s basketball, just be more efficient and have the opportunity to impact more lives.  I love it.

Ben:                Seeing how you’ve taken your story and just made a conscious decision to not let it end, right?

Larry:              Right.

Ben:                Like, the best is comin’.

Larry:              Right.

Ben:                Right?  ‘Cause the impact you’ll have with the trajectory that’s set with all this that you’re doin’…

Larry:              For sure.

Ben:                …is just incredible.  Now,  we have to go one place before we wrap up.

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                We got to these parents.

Larry:              Yeah.  Yeah.

Ben:                We gotta talk to these parents.

Larry:              Yeah.

Ben:                So we’re gonna ruffle some feathers here, but I think…

Larry:              Yeah.

Ben:                …this is important.

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                ‘Cause you and I were joking and I’ll go and even though I work with professional athletes, collegiate athletes, I go to a game and watch my kids.  I sit in the stands and I let the coaches do their work.

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                And I know that’s important to you too, so I’d love for you to just share with the parents how important it is.  Because I know so many people watching right now, you’ve got kids that are playing new sports…

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                …how important for the, actually, just…

Larry:              Well, I think there’s…

Ben:                …let them know.

Larry:              …there’s no right or wrong…

Ben:                Yeah.

Larry:              …way to motivate your child or to, you know, to have them or to allow them to have success within a sport.  There’s no right or wrong way.  Because sports have been around for years and years, especially, I’ll just talk specific; basketball’s been around for years and years.  So, there’s a lot of ways that kids have gotten better, a lot of ways that these kids have trained, a lot of ways that these kids have been coached, and a lot of ways that these kids have been parented, right?  But, for the most part, I feel like parents, as parents, we must allow our kids to grow and understand what they’re doing, and be themselves.  And I don’t think a lot of parents do that because what they do is they transplant this adult brain into this little child.  You know?  Say a 10 year old child, they put this adult brain into this 10 year old child and wonder why they’re not making this move or they’re not making this play or they’re not making that play.  Well, you have to keep in perspective of what that kid is going through.  What is your child going through if they’re playin’ basketball?  It’s him and then there’s nine other people on the court.  There’s one basketball.  There’s two coaches.  Maybe sometimes four, if they have an assistant.  So, God knows how many people yelling at this kid, you know, during that environment.

Ben:                Right.

Larry:              So, for you, you’re their safe haven.  They look to you for confidence, that you’re doing things right, even when if they maybe doing things a little bit wrong.  And I think parents, we jump into that boat of the other nine kids that are on the court, the other coaching, you know, staff that’s there helping the kids out, we jump into that mode of now we’re coaching.  Now we’re instructing.  Now we’re yelling shoot the ball, pass the ball and it’s a lot.  So, I’d take, I want parents to take a step back and allow those kids to grow and have more conversation before and after those events take place.

Ben:                Mm-hm.

Larry:              Because if give them something to think about before that happens, before that event take place, you can see if they are or trying to execute what you had conversation about.  And then if you talk to them afterwards, you’re able to assess what happened during that game, if they listened to you before that event took place.  And then you can have a meaningful conversation about how to get better the next time because it’s a process.  But the biggest thing, I think, and my message to parents is don’t put your brain and your years and year, and years of now understanding the basketball game into your child and think that they’re supposed to react as an adult who’s seen different experiences and been in different situations. We must take a step back and allow our kids to be kids and to grow in, you know, at the proper speed.

Ben:                I love hearing you say the meaningful conversations.

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                It’s a conversation.

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                Right?

Larry:              Sure.

Ben:                It’s a constructive conversation with your child to kind of breakdown their game film…

Larry:              Mm-hm.

Ben:                …and then to empower them and inspire them.

Larry:              Yeah.

Ben:                And that, to me, those are the conversations that make – you teach that…

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                …here?

Larry:              Yep.

Ben:                Think of all the lives that you impacted, has nothing to do with the game.

Larry:              Exactly.

Ben:                It’s actually teaching those children, one day, to be that’s how I’m gonna work with my kids.

Larry:              Exactly.

Ben:                And that, to me, is the beautiful…

Larry:              Exactly.

Ben:                …of legacy and the impact that you’re havin’.  So, one final question, if you were to speak to everybody watching…

Larry:              Mm-hm.

Ben:                …and they’re in that moment where they don’t want to make that sales call…

Larry:              Mm-hm.

Ben:                …whether that athlete that doesn’t want to run that next run, they don’t want to do that final set of reps…

Larry:              Mm-hm.

Ben:                …what would you share with them?  How would you encourage them to do that that extra, that un-required?

Larry:              Well, I would encourage them to stand out from the person that’s next to them.  There can be a multitude of ways and if you’re talking about running that line, if you see that person that’s struggling running that line, put everything inside of you to not struggle running that particular line.  So always be different if you’re shooting five spots and that guy makes four shots, be motivated, be driven enough to make five shots.  And if you don’t make five shots, be motivated to move to the next spot and make five shots.  So, I think it’s never ending.  So, never stop with your motivation.  You’re never gonna win every battle.  You’re always gonna have some failures, but that’s an opportunity to be successful.  And in this process, especially talking about basketball, you know, there will be many opportunities to be successful.  It’s about how many times you actually grab those opportunities about how, you know, successful you’ll be.

Ben:                Well, man, I can’t tell you.  It’s always great to see you.

Larry:              Thank you.  You too.

Ben:                And thank you for this opportunity.  I got to tell you it’s a hell of a lot more fun cutting up with you during an interview than having to call switch at the top of the keys, so, always great seein’ you.

Larry:              That’s what’s up, man.

Ben:                Thank you, man.

Larry:              Appreciate you.

Ben:                All right, appreciate you.

 

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