Sam Bowie reflects on SEC: Storied doc; his star-crossed career; favorite 30 for 30; and Magic Johnson

Going Big, the next installment of ESPN Films’ SEC Storied series, will premiere tonight at 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

The film chronicles former basketball star Sam Bowie’s career — one labeled a “bust” by some because he never fulfilled his enormous potential due to injuries.

The Portland Trail Blazers made the former University of Kentucky standout the second-overall pick in the 1984 draft, selecting him just ahead of Michael Jordan.

Front Row caught up with Bowie in advance of the premiere.

Sam Bowie (C) had an injury-plagued career. (Getty Images)

What ultimately led you to participate in this documentary?
Honestly, [film director] Tom Friend constantly and continuously asked me to contact him and gave me an impression that he was good people. And then the fact that I have watched previous documentaries. I’ve always felt like they’ve tried to project positive story-telling. When they are over, you catch yourself staring into space just thinking about what just occurred.

What do you hope viewers take away from the film?
I would hope that they would take away that this Sam Bowie kid was relentless and he had no quit in him. Never give up. And I don’t think that’s a characteristic that can be taught. I think when they talk about God-given talent, that’s one quality that’s never really brought up. They talk about speed and how high one can jump and he’s a freak of nature in regards to being an athlete. But you either have the “never give up” gene or you don’t.

Which ESPN Films documentaries have stood out for you?
I’ve watched nearly all of them. They are can’t-miss. I really enjoyed Lolo Jones [SEC Storied: Lolo] because I like underdog stories. And I was moved by the Marcus Dupree [30 for 30 film], The Best There Never Was.

But probably my No. 1 was the Vlade Divac-Drazen Petrovic [30 for 30 film] Once Brothers because they were both teammates of mine. And at the time I was with the Nets and we got him from Portland, Drazen and I were probably the best of teammates, because there were a lot of guys on that team that didn’t accept him when he first got there. Drazen and I always had a great relationship. And then obviously when he was killed in the car accident, I remember the Nets calling me to say he had died.

And then I get traded to the [Los Angeles] Lakers, and the guy I play next to is Vlade Divac. So that documentary would probably be my No. 1.

Who is your favorite NBA on ESPN analyst?
I’m going to be biased and say Magic Johnson. Because he coached me my last year with the Lakers (1994-95), and I got to know him personally. After he had the career that he had, it’s a thrill for me to say that he’s a friend of mine and I was on the same team, same organization as Magic Johnson — so I’m going to be biased toward Magic.

SHARE THIS
  • Betsy R. Conner

    As a longtime member of the BBN I would like to say how proud I am of Sam Bowie and the wonderful ESPN production on his career. We knew little or nothing of Sam’s personal struggles. We did share w/ him his struggles to heal and play again. A personal message to Sam: You did what any dutiful son & brother would have, though putting your own health in great peril, to see that your family for provided for well. You have always been a hero and example to Kentucky fans who supported you through all the treatments, trials, etc. We respect you even more after seeing the ESPN Documentary. ESPN, this was a fine presentation.