Yet for every superstar there are many pro athletes like Minnesota Timberwolves forward Mark Madsen, who are able to use their celebrity status to make a difference on more than just the basketball court. Madsen, a role player for much of his six-year NBA career, is active in his community and embraces his good fortune.
On a night in the middle of February, Madsen quickly dresses following a 109-107 win over the Boston Celtics to chat with a group of Boy Scouts (since he is, after all, an Eagle Scout himself). After answering dozens of pressing queries (How big are your shoes? asks one genuinely curious seven-year old), Madsen sticks around to fulfill every single autograph request, to the delight of his young fans. He then graciously took a few minutes to tackle an assortment of topics for the Messenger.
Manitou Messenger: As a former four-year college basketball player, what is your opinion about the NBA's new 19-year old minimum age rule? Is this good for the NBA and college basketball?
Mark Madsen: I think it's definitely good for college [basketball] and heres why: It brings some great players to the college game. Before, all the great players and some good players were going straight to the NBA, and thats not a positive thing because it diluted the college game. [The new rule] helps the college game and the pro game. Colleges get these great players for at least one year, allowing them to sell tickets and generate a lot of hype. Right now, for example, with [Ohio States] Greg Oden and [Texass] Kevin Durant, the NBA is getting free marketing because everyone knows them. Next year, everyone is going to be saying Oh, where did Greg Oden get drafted? If he was coming straight out of high school, there would be no hype surrounding Greg Oden.
It also helps NBA teams make fewer mistakes, because they can now see how a guy performs at the college level if a guy is going to be able to hold his own in the NBA, he sure as heck better be a star in college.
Mess: Shifting to the current state of your team, the Timberwolves: In the midst of a rough stretch of games like you guys have been experiencing, how do you stay positive and upbeat?
Madsen: First of all, you've got to remember that nothing is perfect. No team is perfect, no relationship is perfect and no locker room environment is perfect but I think we have a darn good one. There are going to be some rough patches, but there are going to be some beautiful patches too. You just have to enjoy the beautiful ones and work though the rough spots when you have to.
Mess: Are you reserved or pretty open and friendly when it comes to dealing with the media? What is your general approach?
Madsen: I'm going to tell you something I don't usually talk about publicly. You can either make friends or enemies in the media.
Players in the NBA need to realize that the media is their friend! Yeah, the media is objective, but I know you guy if I disrespect you, you're going to go at me! And you're going to get the last laugh. [chuckles] That's the way it works, man!
Sometimes you're tired and don't want to talk to the media, but if you're having a tough day, you've just got to say that you cant or dont want to talk. But don't diss anyone you're trying to do your job and I'm trying to do my job. I shouldn't disrespect [the media] and they shouldn't disrespect me.
Most media guys do a great job of being fair, and one of them is [Star Tribune Timberwolves beat writer] Steve Ashburner. I've been ripped by Ash before but he also prints plenty of good stuff about me too. He's pretty objective.
Objectivity is the key. I can handle if Steve rips me, because I know that if I do something good, hes going to print that too.
Mess: You're definitely keen to the whole new media movement you've got your own blog at www.markmadsen.com and youve collaborated with Mike Trudell and Timberwolves.com on a number of different projects. What about this medium appeals to you?
Madsen: Do you guys ever check out my blog? Come on! You've got to leave me a comment sometime! [laughs]
I grew up listening to the [Golden State] Warriors basketball network on a radio in my bedroom, and I loved it. If there had been blogs back then, I would have been all over that stuff. It's a ton of fun, man I want to show people what really happens in the locker room. I want to share it and talk about it with the fans.
Mess: Kevin Garnett he led your team tonight [the Wolves beat the Celtics 109-107 behind a triple-double from KG], is a great player and future Hall-of-Famer. How does he rank amongst some of the other great players you've played with throughout your career?
Madsen: Every great player is different Kobe has his style, Shaq has his way of doing things but Kevin is totally unique. It's impossible to compare. The one thing about Kevin you can't quantify is his heart. On the court, the guy has just a huge heart.
Mess: You're obviously a student of the game and very knowledgeable about the inner workings of the NBA. Have you thought about staying involved with the league after you retire as a player? Maybe as a coach or a broadcaster or in the front office someplace?
Madsen: I would not want to be a broadcaster. I can't think of things that fast to say! And half the time the broadcasters are wrong anyway not the Timberwolves guys, but the TNT guys like Charles [Barkley] and all them.
Coaching at the NBA level would be a challenge. The thought of trying to coach an NBA team is a daunting thought. I don't want to deal with 12 people like me! I don't want to deal with 12 great guys who can be very opinionated and very tough to deal with! Think about it: When you're winning, everybody is happy: The players are happy, the coaches are happy and the fans are happy. When you're losing, it can be tough. I saw that even in Los Angeles with Phil Jackson it was tough. When you coach in college, theres a little more harmony. But the NBA would still be great.
Mess: Thanks Mark! We really appreciate your time.
Madsen: You bet guys nice to meet you.