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Gorgeous Gheorghe

Interview

My childhood in Romania was a long time ago. I’m not that old, but it’s pretty far back. Oh man, it was a different generation, I don’t even know how to approach talking about this. The system was so different. It was hard. I don’t know if I could live in that type of system anymore, I would be depressed. I remember one time in the ‘80s, they made a law that you cannot sell more than, I don’t know, 500 grams of bread a day to each family. Milk would be only for families, if you do not have kids you cannot have milk. Even meat, when they would put meat in the store it would be a five-hour line to buy it, and half the people would stand in that line two days early.

 

But then you get to the middle of the line, and the meat is finished. So you go back home, and wait for the next day to go back for another chance. People had little chairs that they would bring and put down, and get in line for everything. Even for beer. I would go two times a day from practice to my apartment, and I passed by a grocery store. Every time there was a line. I had no idea what the heck the line was for, sometimes it was nothing but people would line up just waiting for something to come. Most of the people who were retired, they stood in the lines. That was their job, it was their job to take care of the grandkids, to watch them at the park, and to stay in the lines. It was a crazy system.

In ’86 I left my parents’ house, in the spring. I went to a boarding school to play basketball. I was crazy about basketball, whenever I had any free time at school I would take a ball and shoot around. One day the principal got upset with me and took the ball away, because I would just play all day long. I was very bad, and I tried to get better and better. I knew to play basketball I would have to be the best, I couldn’t be the last player on the bench. My team started to play good, and soon everybody knew me. In Romania in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s in my town I was like a superstar.

 

We had like 3,000 people coming to almost every game. When I was 17, I scored 30 points in my first game in the highest Romanian division. I started playing for the Romanian national team, so they kind of started to put us on TV in the early ’90s, and people started to get crazy about basketball. But I never even had it in my mind that I would play in the NBA. When I was in France we played Real Madrid in the European Champions League and [Arvydas] Sabonas was on the team. I had a great game against him, and after that people said “You can play in the NBA now, you’re there.” In ’93 I was in Hungary with the Romanian national team and my agent called me and said, “You should go to the draft.” I said “What draft?” and he said “The NBA draft.” I said “Come on, man.” He called me a week later. “Tomorrow at 4pm there will be an airplane waiting for you in Bucharest. We’re going to Poland. From Poland, we’re going to Detroit for the NBA draft.”. — END

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