Drexler soared to his greatest heights as a member of 
    the 1995 Houston Rockets championship team.
Drexler soared to his greatest heights as a member of the 1995 Houston Rockets championship team.
Courtesy of the Houston Rockets/NBA

Inside the Glide

They may be ballers or even shot callers, but truthfully, some professional athletes are just plain dumb, lazy or both. Local hoops Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler has no problem dogging such cats -- like Ron Artest, the NBA player who recently made headlines when he requested a month off the current season to work on his rap album and was later suspended for the entire season for pummeling a fan at the end of a game.

"It's like, 'I'm kinda tired,' " says Drexler, mocking Artest. " 'Coach, you gonna have to give me half the game off. I stayed up all night workin' on my rap album. You know I can't do nuthin' when I'm tired, coach.' "

Drexler -- easily one of pro sports' most diplomatic figures during his 15-year career -- is equally blunt in his new autobiography, Clyde Drexler: Clyde the Glide. The book follows his days growing up in Houston in the early '60s with an inattentive, often drunk stepfather. Interspersed are thoughts from his mother, wife, fellow athletes and friends, creating a story that reads like a diary with guest entries. It follows Drexler from his childhood, spent hanging out at his family's now-famous Drexler's Barbecue restaurant, to his blossoming basketball career at Sterling High School (where he earned the nickname "Glide" for his airborne acrobatics) and later at the University of Houston.

Sports fans know the rest: In the early '80s, Drexler (one of basketball's most devastating dunkers) and teammate Hakeem Olajuwon created a UH basketball powerhouse that quickly became known as Phi Slamma Jamma. Led by coach Guy Lewis, the tandem took the team to a heart-wrenching loss in the 1983 NCAA finals. The Houston Rockets, inexplicably, passed on Drexler when he entered the draft that year. He was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers, where he spent 12 seasons as one of the league's most dominant players. Twice he led the Trail Blazers to the NBA Finals, but his ultimate dream was out of reach. The man famous for his moves says the best one he ever made was being traded to Houston in 1995, when he helped then-champs Houston Rockets and teammate Olajuwon win their second NBA championship.

Five days after his retirement in 1998, Drexler became the head coach of UH's men's basketball team. But he lasted only two years. "I would've loved to have stayed, but I just needed time off," he says of his tenure.

Drexler is one of only three players to top 20,000 points, 6,000 rebounds and 3,000 assists during his NBA career. At 42, he has been an NBA champion, a ten-time All-Star, a member of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team and, as of a few months ago, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Aside from occasional ESPN and goodwill appearances, the Glide is now a full-time family man, devoted to his wife, Gaynell, and his four children, ages 11 to 18. His life, which has played out like a warm, gushy sports movie, is a Houston success story. "I've been blessed," he says. "I grew up in Houston, went to college in Houston and came back and won a championship in Houston, so I have no regrets."

Really, Glide? Not one?

"Well," he says with a chuckle, "I do wish I could've taken a month off to promote my rap album."

The Glide signs his memoirs at 1 p.m. Saturday, November 27, Borders Bookstore, 570 Meyerland Plaza, 713-661-2888; and at 6 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 5303 FM 1960 West, 281-631-0792. Free.


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