Black History Month is a time when people reflect on all the accomplishments of black Americans throughout history. Part of that story is recognizing the accomplishments of black athletes in sport. There are many names for great IUS athletes and a number of them are black.
Saluki hall of famer Chris Carr is one of many great black athletes to come out of southern Illinois and was talented enough to pursue his career in the NBA as well as Greece and Serbia in their basketball leagues.
Carr was drafted 56th overall in the second round of the 1995 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns and was able to play with five other NBA teams over the six seasons of his career. He even managed to earn a spot in the 1997 NBA Slam Dunk contest, where he lost to Kobe Bryant.
Currently, Carr is an assistant coach for Drury University Division II, passing on his knowledge of the game.
The Daily Egyptian was able to chat with Chris Carr about Black History Month and what it means to him as one of the most recognized black athletes to come out of the South. He shared his experience being able to pass on what he learned to the next generation of players.
Q: What does being not only one of the greatest black athletes to come out of the SIU, but one of the greatest athletes, in general, to come out of the SIU mean to you?
Carr: “It’s humiliating that people recognize me like that, but I like the fact that people recognize me more for my character and the way I treated people. It means as much if not more than being a great athlete. I take great pride in treating people the right way.
Q: When you were a player here at the time, was there any recognition of Black History Month in the locker room when you were here?
Carr: “You’re always aware of that as an athlete and with that, you’re always aware of being respectful of all of that. It was really cool as athletes to be able to have something to unify us as a culture but also unite us as athletes. It was something that was talked about, but more importantly, it was more about getting to know the people who paved the way for you to be where you are. It was something more important.
Q: What does it mean to you to bring your perspective as a black man to Drury’s locker room?
Carr: “It’s amazing because we have a very diverse dressing room. I’m able to identify with players of color and give them a different perspective, but also the perspective that comes from the players to the coaching staff. Being able to have the ability to communicate the other way as well. It’s important that men and women of color in athletics not only have a voice, but also have a presence that they can connect with someone.
Q: Are we talking about Black History Month with you guys over there in Drury?
Carr: “We really talk about it here. We have two young men of Nigerian descent who have a slightly broader perspective on Black History Month due to their African heritage. We have what we know in America, but they have what they know as native Africans. It’s not only something we care about, but they do it as well as they do in Africa.
Q: What improvements would you like to see in your life to advance black equality in America?
Carr: “I just think the most important thing is to keep fighting for respect for human life. It’s the bigger picture. We are aware of the problems that have arisen in recent years in terms of race relations, but I think the big picture is to respect people as human beings. We are all of the same race. We are all part of something bigger in the human race and we just have to keep that in mind and be respectful of that.
Q: What improvements have you seen in your lifetime in terms of respect for your race?
Carr: “Coming from where I grew up, we were the only family of color. Obviously there will be challenges. I was lucky to have a mother who raised me to be respectful of people. people who respect you and stay away from those who don’t. It’s given me a different perspective on community life. I also have an athlete’s perspective. I’ve had so much more good days than me [had] tough days and I hope we can continue to strive as a nation to treat every human being with respect.
Q: Was there a specific black mentor you had growing up or even in your NBA career that really stuck with you?
Carr: “I’ve had a ton throughout my life. My mom was probably the one I looked up to and guided me through all facets of life and made me the man I wanted to be. am today. I also look to my brothers. They had all walked a path that I was going to walk as a young man of color in the United States. Many people looked up to athletes and other people of that nature, but I had the best people to be the person I am today in front of me Coach Herrin continued that when I got to college and was amazing in making me a great young man. said people will remember me as the person way more than they remember how many points you score. I’m so thankful to everyone who has had an impact on my life.
Q: How did some of the previous generations of black athletes help pave the way for you and your other black teammates in your time?
Carr: “I don’t know if I would have the opportunity to be in the NBA if it wasn’t for guys like Bill Russell who paved the way for all minorities to have an opportunity. Likewise, I I don’t know if I would be at the SIU without Walt Frazier. There are so many who came before me who made it possible for guys like me to be what we have become. You can’t take these things for granted and you have to take that into account. They have allowed us to have the life that we have and the brand that we are.
Q: How has your basketball career shaped your understanding of the world and how it works in terms of equality and inclusion?
Carr: “Man, being in college basketball is such an accomplishment in itself and being able to progress to play professionally in the NBA and Europe, those experiences are hard to put into words. I know that part of the reason I was able to be successful at all levels was as much the person I was as the player I was. These are things that have opened doors for me to become a coach and give back to the game and to the young people of the game. In my heart, it was about being the person I am and the character I carried myself with on a daily basis. »
Q: How important is it for black kids today to be able to look up to someone in athletics who looks like them?
Carr: “It was good to be teammates with people like Charles Barkley and Kevin Garnett who didn’t really feel like role models, even though they were very influential. They have an impact either way, but people can tell the real man you are by the way you carry yourself every day. It shows the true measure of the person you are far beyond just being a great basketball player.
Q: How can we continue Dr. King’s message of inclusion and equality today?
Carr: “Keep repeating it all the time. Have a voice for reason and understanding, respect and character. All of this laid the foundation for the United States to be the land of the free that it is today. All of this is extremely important and we must not lose sight of the ultimate goal of living a good life without fear of another human being to the detriment of skin color, the way you speak, dress out of fear or lack of understanding. It is important to address these issues to continue Dr. King and all of these legacies that have gone before us.
Sports journalist Joseph Bernard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Jojobernard2001. To stay up to date on all your Southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.