Where Are They Now?: God Shammgod Discusses Art of Dribbling, Training Kobe Bryant & His Favorite Ball Handlers
Today, Hoopist brings you the first installment of our new Where Are They Now column. This series will feature discussions with former, well-known NBA players about their current happenings, future endeavors and their thoughts on today’s game. God Shammgod, former Washington Wizard and current trainer, updates us on his life and what the future holds for him in today’s Where Are They Now feature. He also shares with us his favorite ball handlers in the game today and who inspired him as a kid.
Hoopist: So, you’re the first installment of our new Where Are They Now column, which showcases a discussion with a former NBA player that many still remember. What are you doing with your life right now?
God Shammgod: Well, I’m an assistant coach at Providence right now, and I’m finishing up my degree in Leadership and Education. I’m also training players here and there.
Hoopist: Who exactly are you training right now?
God Shammgod: I recently trained Ben Gordon this past offseason. I gave him a lot of drills. I also trained Isaiah Thomas of the Sacramento Kings for like two weeks. It’s usually just different people here and there. It’s mostly point guards. Before this season, I was supposed to train AJ Price, but for some reason, that didn’t happen. But, the most high profile player that I have ever trained in life would have to be Kobe Bryant. I haven’t spoken to him in years, but when I do see him, it’s always love. He always shows love and talks very good about me training him.
Hoopist: How did training Kobe Bryant come about?
God Shammgod: It was during the ABCD Camp when we were in high school. He really liked the way I dribbled and handled the ball, so he just came up to me and asked me if I would help him with his handle. We played on the same team during the ABCD camp, and during that time, I showed him a couple of things that helped him. And to this day, he talks about how the things I showed him helped him.
Hoopist: Who are your favorite ball handlers in the game today?
God Shammgod: I’d say Chris Paul, Kryrie Irving and Deron Williams. I’ve met Chris Paul before and he told me that I was an innovator of the game in regards to handles; that meant a lot to me. Chris is really nice. I like when I see players out there using my move. Every move is supposed to get better with the next generation, so I’m just happy that I have an impact on great players like Chris Paul. I like the way Stephen Curry plays. He’s having a really good year. Oh, and Jamal Crawford, of course.
Hoopist: Yeah, Jamal is having a great year. Ball handlers aren’t always the best point guards per se, so who are your top 5 point guards in the game today?
God Shammgod: My favorite point guards list starts off with Chris Paul first and foremost. Deron Williams is good. I like Kyrie and Stephen Curry too. My last would be Raymond Felton. He’s playing great this year. Ray is nice. Better yet, I love Rondo as a point guard. I would take Stephen Curry out and put Rondo in that slot. Rondo can get everything out of the talent around him, and that’s hard for a point guard to do.
Hoopist: As a young kid, who inspired you to become great at ball handling?
God Shammgod: Ed “Booger” Smith has the craziest handle I’ve ever experienced. He made me want to dribble. You know, they made the movie about him called Soul in the Hole. People just don’t understand. Ed “Booger” Smith has a crazy handle. Also, there’s a guy named Sherwin Anderson that went to Xavier two years before I went to Providence. His handle is incredible, but he got injured. He probably has the best handle I’ve ever seen in my life. He, too, made me want to dribble.
Hoopist: Besides studying their dribbling techniques, what else did you do to sharpen your dribbling skills?
God Shammgod: I had this tape called Below the Rim that featured guys like Kevin Johnson and Isaiah Thomas on it. I used to check out everybody’s moves on that tape and go practice them every single day. But I practiced every move with an 2-pound ankle weight on both of my wrists. It’s just like boxing – if you throw jabs with a wrist weight on, of course when you take it off, you’re jabs are going to be flying all over the place. Everything else is just creativity. The person who taught me that is Tiny Archibald when I met him in the 8th grade. He was my coach in elementary. He told me if I had a handle, I would always be valuable to somebody. That stuck in my head. I used to do crazy stuff like dribble at night so I could see my shadow. When I was young, I used to really think I could shake my shadow. It made me obsessive because of course you can’t shake your shadow. I thought that if I could just shake my shadow then there’s no one who could stay in front of me. I was crazy. It made me sharper. That was one of my slogans in a Converse ad. It said, “Hi, my name is God Shammgod, and I can shake my shadow. What can you do?” I have that patented.
Hoopist: Speaking of Converse, you’ve made a few cameos in their promotional ads with guys like Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Jim Jones? What do you have planned with Converse in the future?
God Shammgod: I’ll be doing a Converse point guards camp that teaches ball handling in the very near future. Most people teach players how to dribble the wrong way. I’ve never done some of the things I see coaches teaching players these days. It’s just weird to me. Like, how can you teach somebody to dribble and you can’t dribble? There’s a difference between dribbling and dribbling in games ; there’s a difference between dribbling at the 2-guard spot and dribbling at the point guard position. A lot of people don’t understand that.
Hoopist: In regards to dribbling, there is an extremely big difference from handling the rock on streets of New York and playing point guard duties in the NBA. Rafer Alston comes to mind. Was that transition hard for you? Do you see it as a challenge to others that came up in streetball?
God Shammgod: It’s not difficult. What people don’t understand is, a player like Rafer Alston has been carrying all his life. It’s not like he got to the NBA and started carrying. He’s been carrying all along. I never had a problem with making that transition because I knew how to dribble. There’s three different dribbles: one is a streetballer who knows all the tricks. You see them and you’re like, ‘Man, I didn’t know anybody could dribble like that.’ People say I have the best handle ever, but I’ve seen players with a crazier handle than me. But if you put them in a game, they can’t even get over half court. Secondly, there’s a handler like Jamal Crawford. He has a crazy handle, but his handle is just for him. His handle is for him to get his shot off; whereas, Chris Paul’s handle is for him to get his shot off and get people open. There’s a big difference between the two. Thirdly, you have a person that has a basic handle like Jason Kidd, Rajon Rondo or Andre Miller. It’s basic, but you never see them getting ripped. It’s a controlled handle.
Hoopist: You grew up in NY, but played the bulk of your NBA career in Washington, another hotspot for basketball talent. Did you ever play with some of the streetball legends in D.C?
God Shammgod: Man, I love D.C. When I was out there, I used to go to Barry Farms and play with those guys. Curt Smith is like a D.C. legend. I used to also play with Frank McQueen. Those are my boys out there. Man, D.C. has always been tough, but I mean New York is New York. You know, it’s a different New York now though.
Hoopist: What’s different about New York now?
God Shammgod: I’m talking about the talent level. New York is still the mecca of basketball, but the high school scene is totally different now. When I was coming out of high school, we always had a Top 3 basketball player in the country. I don’t know the last time New York had somebody in the Top 25. It’s like New York is doing what other people do now. When I was coming up, New York was the trendsetter of everything – fashion, ball and everything in between. Now, we’re following other people in music, basketball and everything else. A lot of our hip-hop stuff sounds southern these days.
Hoopist: I hear you. Well, what else do you have coming up besides the Converse point guards camp?
God Shammgod: Well, right now I’m just finishing school and putting myself in place to one day, hopefully, becoming a head coach. If not, I would like to be a great ball handling trainer. I just want to provide for my family. I have four boys and hopefully they’ll be in the NBA one day. I have a couple that’s nice in ball right now, so, you know, we’re working.
Hoopist: Nice. Is there anything you want to leave us with?
God Shammgod: I’ve been blessed. I’m not even supposed to be where I’m at right now, and I’m just trying to keep the blessings coming. I love the respect people give me for all the hard work and dedication I put in, and I’m glad that I can help people reach their destination.