Sam Perkins was the No. 4 overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. He spent 18 years in the NBA, played for the Mavericks, Lakers, SuperSonics and Pacers, and won Olympic gold at the 1984 games in Los Angeles.
And yet, for all he accomplished professionally, Perkins is one of the proudest alums you’ll ever encounter. A former teammate of Michael Jordan, Perkins helped the North Carolina Tar Heels to a national title in 1982 – the first of two for legendary head coach Dean Smith, who passed away in February.
Smith, as has been well-documented, arranged for $200 and a letter to be sent to each of his former players after his passing.
Perkins was no exception.
“I was on the road somewhere (when I heard about it), and then when I got back home, I checked the mail and the check and letter was there,” Perkins said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “It was kind of surreal because I cannot believe this man. I just paid respects to him (and) went to his funeral, and here he comes with a check and a note saying (get) dinner on me. So that’s the kind of man he was. I still can’t believe he’s gone, but to be thought of and be put in his will after the fact says a lot. I couldn’t be more appreciative (of) what he’s doing.”
Smith’s tutelage propelled Perkins to a stellar NBA career. Although he never won a championship, Perkins played in three NBA Finals with three franchises – the Lakers in 1991, the SuperSonics in 1996 and the Pacers in 2000 – and was responsible for one of the most iconic plays in league history. Remember Jordan’s soaring, right-hand-to-left-hand lay-up in the ’91 Finals? Yeah, that was because of Perkins. If not for his defense, Jordan probably would have had an uncontested dunk. Instead, we have one of the most-played highlights in all of sports.
Asked for his thoughts on this year’s playoffs, Perkins was surprised by how poorly the Spurs played against the Clippers in Game 1 of their first-round series Sunday. San Antonio shot just 36.6 percent from the floor and allowed Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to combine for 58 points, 19 rebounds, 12 assists, five steals and three blocks. The Clippers won, 107-92.
“I thought San Antonio would be looking better, but that’s how they come out,” Perkins said. “I still kind of want them to kind of repeat, but it would be nice to see Golden State – some new faces – get that championship.”
The Warriors are up 2-0 on the Pelicans, having survived two close games at Oracle Arena. Anthony Davis is still searching for his first playoff win, but the 22-year-old has been phenomenal thus far in the series, averaging 30.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks.
Needless to say, this isn’t your typical 8-versus-1 matchup.
“I’m telling you, (the playoffs are) going to be tight all the way,” Perkins said. “Chicago kind of looks halfway there. They’re not there yet. But these young teams like Milwaukee and Atlanta – they just seem to be on point right now and ready to give everybody a challenge.”