The free agency signing period in the NBA is over for 2016, and one of the biggest contracts was awarded to Memphis Grizzly Mike Conley, who attributes some of his success to former Arizona Wildcat Damon Stoudamire.
Mike Conley was picked No. 4 in the 2007 NBA Draft. This year he earned the Joe Dumars Sportsmanship Trophy and landed the most lucrative NBA contract in history. The former Ohio State Buckeye, is now 28 years old and has played in the NBA for nine years.
During the recent NBA Playoffs, he fractured numerous bones near his eye, following an errant elbow in Game 3 of the first round, and barely remembers the play. “I was driving to the basket on CJ McCollum,” he wrote in The Players Tribune article, “And the next thing I knew, I was grabbing my face — It was the lowest point in my basketball career.”
The injury was excruciating to live through and heal from and while recuperating he thought back to his rookie year when he first encountered former Arizona Wildcat, Damon Stoudamire. Conley wrote that Stoudamire was, “One of my all-time favorite guards to watch growing up.”
More from Zona Zealots
- Arizona Football begins Conference play against Stanford
- Arizona Football starts slow but runs away from UTEP
- How Wildcats Fans Can Claim $200 INSTANT Bonus at BetMGM Betting $10 Right Now
- Costly Mistakes doom Arizona Football in loss to Mississippi State
- Arizona Basketball likely to schedule Florida Atlantic for 2023
The two met in the locker room when Conley, 19 years old, was checking out his first NBA locker and Mighty Mouse was sorting through his locker. Damon started the conversation, “What’s up rook?”
The then 34-year-old Stoudamire, challenged the rookie Conley to a one-on-one and Conley didn’t know what he had coming to him, he thought he was going to kick this veterans derriere. Mike thought he had this in the bag, but here’s how it went down in Conley’s own words:
“Damon dominated me. The game was over in like 15 minutes. I may have been fast and I may have been in better shape — I was even a few inches taller than him — but he outmuscled me. He went right at me, posting me up and pushing me off my spots.”
According to Conley, that wasn’t the only time they played one-on-one basketball, these sessions turned into training sessions. Damon donated a lot of time to working with Conley, “I left with a bruised ego, but it was the beginning of a friendship — Damon had a lot to teach and was extremely generous with his time.”
I left with a bruised ego, but it was the beginning of a friendship – Mike Conley
Eventually, Conley started in Stoudamire’s place, and when Conley came off the court, Damon said, “You never even went into the lane.”
Fast forward to 2016, and Mike Conley has landed a huuugggeee contract in the free agency period. The contract made for a king, is even more impressive when you contemplate the details are as follows care of Spotrac.com:
- 5 year / $152,605,576 contract with the Memphis Grizzlies
- Includes $140,529,829 guaranteed
- An annual average salary of $30,521,11
- In 2016-17, Conley will earn a base salary of $26,540,100
- A cap hit of $26,540,100 while his dead money value is $140,529,829
Conley started his NBA journey with the Grizzlies and feels the team can beat Golden State, and could have if he and Marc Gasol didn’t get hurt.
In Retrospect, after he signed the contract, Conley paid homage to his veteran mentor, “I guess Damon Stoudamire had been right all along. Nothing is given to you in this league. You’re going to have to fight for it.
Way back as a rookie, when I was a back-up to Damon and Kyle Lowry, he was telling me about the bumps and bruises you’re going to take on your journey. I didn’t know what he meant at the time, but now I get it.”
Memphis paid tribute to the spirit and soul of their team, mentioning his grit while playing injured in the playoffs against Portland:
It’s heartwarming that Conley means so much to his team and their city.
Damon Stoudamire, now 43, mentored the NBA player who landed THE MOST LUCRATIVE NBA contract in the league ever! Of course, a Wildcat had something to do with it. Damon is getting ready for his first season as head coach at The University of the Pacific in Northern California. Beardown Mighty Mouse!