This is a good read. Sorry to cut/paste such a long article, but it's from Maxim, and requires a subscriptuon to the magazine to access the website.



Round Two

Most guys leave the NBA in search of a quiet golf course. Kendall Gill went looking for a punch in the mouth.

Maxim, 3/1/2006
Diane Hill

As 37-year-old Kendall Gill steps into the bright lights of Cricket Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, he’s faced with something he never experienced in his 15-year pro basketball career: a crowd of less than 2,000 people, most of whom aren’t here to see him perform. That’s because he isn’t in Charlotte to play shooting guard against the Bobcats. As a small-time fighter in the first fight of a six-bout card, the 6'5", 198-pound Gill is here for the third professional boxing match of his new career. It’s a long way from the glitz, glamour, and groupies of the NBA life the former star left behind after being waived by the Milwaukee Bucks last season after just 14 games.

But it could be worse. He could be the guy on the other side of the ring, an unknown 24-year-old cruiserweight from Wilson, North Carolina named Quincy Mitchell. Like Gill, Mitchell got a late start in boxing. A fighter of “limited amateur experience,” according to the fight’s matchmaker, Mitchell is about to make his pro debut against a very hungry man. And it ain’t gonna be pretty.


Milwaukee Never Looked So Good
It’s the Thursday night before Gill’s fight, and I’m hanging out in the lobby of the Comfort Inn in Matthews, another North Carolina town I’d never heard of till this week. This is the “official” hotel of Saturday’s IBA Continental Americas Heavyweight Championship, featuring 2000 U.S. Olympian and hometown hero Calvin Brock battling David Bostice in Brock’s first pro title fight. Gill is on the undercard.

He’s supposed to meet me at the hotel, but he’s late enough to give me a chance to soak in all the luxury and media perks surrounding a big-time sporting event. The lobby consists of two small sofas, a big-screen TV, and the front desk, where the receptionist is doubling as a bartender for the two-hour “open bar”—cans of Bud Light and cheap wine in cheaper glasses. The only thing more depressing than the lobby is my dingy room—cookie-cutter furniture, a microwave, and a bedspread that makes me wish I’d brought a black light. I’ve stayed in nicer youth hostels.

When Gill and his trainer, Luis Matteo, finally show, they look as though they’ve been traveling for days. Gill apologizes with the kind of airline horror story familiar to coach-class cattle the world over. The distance from his former life has already been brought into focus.

“In the NBA we’re on chartered jets; we don’t have to fly coach,” he laughs. “You show up, the plane’s right there, they take your car, and you just get right on the plane. You don’t have to go through terminals. [When I got to Charlotte] the cab driver took me to the wrong hotel. Instead of the Comfort Inn, he took me to the Quality Inn. He almost left us!”

Travel drama overcome, Gill invites me to watch him go through a “shake-out” at a local gym called Peak. After getting a complicated set of instructions from the hotel receptionist, Matteo suggests we jog to the gym. I run alongside the guys, but after trudging down a dark highway against an unending stream of oncoming traffic, I ask where exactly Peak is located. “About another mile,” says Gill, looking lost.

“Why don’t we just take my car?” I suggest.

Both men stop cold and turn to me with surprise. “You have a car?” they ask. “Why the hell did you make us walk?” Why the hell didn’t you tell me an NBA star comes to Charlotte and doesn’t even rent a car? I think as we turn around and head back to the hotel for my ride. For sheer authenticity, no one can deny Gill has immersed himself in the deprived and difficult world of the club fighter.

If this is part of the training, I can see why fighters are so tough. Or angry, anyway.


National Ball-Busting Association
After his final workout before Saturday’s fight—an hour of shadowboxing, jumping rope, and monster sets of ab crunches—Gill tells me how much happier he is boxing than he was playing basketball.

“Boxing is just me,” he says. “I don’t depend on no lazy-ass teammates. I don’t have to depend on a coach who has an agenda. You don’t play boxing; you play basketball. Boxing requires a lot more discipline, endurance, mental toughness, and all-around human toughness.”

To hear him tell it, Gill was never completely happy on the court. As an eight-year-old on Chicago’s South Side, he was introduced to boxing at a day camp. But after a move to the suburbs prevented his access to a ring, he picked up hoops. “I hated basketball at that point ’cause the Bulls sucked,” he recalls. “But I was [a fan] up until I played for them, and then after that I wasn’t a Bulls fan anymore.”

Gill was a high school honor student, starred at the University of Illinois—along with Nick Anderson and Marcus Liberty, he led the Fighting Illini to the Final Four in 1989—and was drafted fifth overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1990 NBA draft. Over the course of an up-and-down pro career, Gill suited up for seven NBA teams, but an intense frustration with the grind set in during the 1994–95 season. While playing for Seattle, he famously missed five games due to clinical depression. Today, he’s quick to explain the cause: the oppressive, agenda-driven regime of notoriously demanding coach George Karl (now with the Denver Nuggets).

“George Karl, who was an absolute fucking jerk, did some things he just shouldn’t have done,” Gill tells me. “Like spreading rumors about me to the press saying I wanted guaranteed playing time and then saying he didn’t say it. Taking me out of the game in the first half and then not playing me for the rest of the second half until there’s, like, 15 seconds left…But [Karl] had problems with players all over, even Ray Allen. When you say I was depressed, I suffered from symptoms of depression, I want to get that straight with everybody. I wasn’t this person who was crying.

I just couldn’t go to sleep for five days because of the situation I was in.”

Observing the league from the perspective of an undercard fighter has only reinforced Gill’s opinions about the old world. “All this has taught me that I was living in a fairy-tale life. Professional athletes get so deluded by the big contracts, the NBA life, they become like children. They think that this is reality. This is not reality. They don’t understand how fortunate they are to be in this world.”

Gill now knows that firsthand. For his third pro fight, he’ll earn approximately $1,000. Out of that he’ll have to pay his trainer, licensing fees, and state and federal taxes. If he’s lucky he’ll take home $100 to $200—about as much as a single day of NBA per diem.

“It’s not really worth it unless you’re going for a championship or you want to fulfill your passion or dream,” he says. Gill understands that at this point a championship belt is further away than the NBA—remember, it was only in 2002–03 that he played in all 82 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The point is driven home after his workout, when he walks onto the gym’s basketball court and asks the star-struck players if he can borrow their ball. After dribbling around for a few seconds, Gill darts toward the basket and throws down a thundering jam, then casually sinks a few jump shots. “I still got it,” he laughs while signing some autographs.

It’s not the NBA. It’s just basketball. But he looks content.

“I’ve done something nobody in the league has ever done and will never dare to do,” he says. “I am tougher than anyone in the league, physically I am far superior to anybody. I’ve turned back the clock, physically. I am where I was at about 22 or 23.”


Crushing Blows
Gill isn’t kidding about his conditioning, as anyone at Cricket Arena on Saturday night can see when he enters the ring and whips off his white, silk hooded robe, revealing the sculpted torso of an NBA stud. A shade lighter at 197 pounds, challenger Quincy Mitchell across the ring is shorter and beefier, but it’s Gill—in baggy white shorts with orange trim—who clearly exudes the confidence and appearance of an elite athlete.

When the bell rings he answers it like an animal, attacking his less-experienced opponent with a fury Ron Artest could learn a few things from. Mitchell makes a game effort for a few seconds, raising a big right hand like a club and waving it at his opponent. But almost as soon as Gill starts flinging leather, Mitchell turns his back on the torrid assault. Gill wallops the back of Mitchell’s head. The referee stops the fight at 2:13 of the first round in favor of Gill.

The win by TKO makes him 3-0, but the lousy fight is an anticlimax. In such a short time, against such an obvious tomato can, it’s tough to assess Gill’s abilities. “The jury is still out on whether Gill can become a contender versus limited competition,” BoxingScene.com will later report, “but he appears to have some skill, displaying a good jab and footwork.” Gill is quick to admit he’s not in there duking it out with Rocky.

“I’m fighting guys at the same experience level as me. So what do you want me to do?” he says. “They didn’t take Secretariat to the Kentucky Derby on the first race. Unless you want to look like a fucking jerk or something. If they would’ve taken Secretariat to the Kentucky Derby for his first race, would he have been the best thoroughbred ever?”

So is that Gill’s goal? The long road to a championship? Trainer Matteo says he wants to make Gill the cruiserweight champion of the world, and Gill’s promoter, Dominic Pesoli, wants to line up 10 more fights. The man at the center of this storm, however, seems oddly indifferent to his future in the ring. If tonight turns out to be his last fight, he insists it wouldn’t matter.

The fact is, Gill hasn’t completely abandoned his hopes of returning to the NBA. He feels he’s in better shape than plenty of guys in the league. And not just physically.

“I’ve already accomplished what I want to accomplish—I’ve become a professional boxer,” he tells me. “My dream isn’t to win a title; it’s just to do it, to experience what it’s like being a professional boxer. The rigorous training, the discipline. It’s about the mentality that you have to have, like, ‘I’m not letting this motherfucker beat me.’” For tonight, there’s no denying that Kendall Gill has at least that much figured out.