NBA basketball coach Don Nelson is a huge shuffleboard fan – he’s a regular player and a multi-table owner. He’s also the winningest coach in NBA Basketball history, retiring on September 27 this year with 1,335 regular season game wins from a combined coaching career with the Milwaukee Bucks, the New York Knicks, the Dallas Mavericks and the Golden State Warriors.
Infamous for his love of bars and boozing (the NBA banned him from taking beer into press conferences in 1997), Nelson definitely knows his way around a shuffleboard table. A self-confessed hustler, he has tables in both his Californian and Maui (Hawaii) dwellings, as well as being a regular bar room player in whichever town he’s living (The King’s X Club in Dallas and Smitty’s Cocktail Bar in Oakland are two of his favourites).
Nelson’s shuffleboard addiction actually made headline news on NBC earlier this year, when he took some of his younger players on a bonding session to Smitty’s straight after a noon training session in February. Nellie took some of his assistant coaches and players Anthony Morrow, Anthony Tolliver and sharp shooter Stephen Curry to the bar for a few beers, some shuffleboard and a spot of cheeky gambling. None of these activities are illegal for NBA players, but the bar visit was deemed a little unconventional by some journalists around the country.
When asked about his bonding session the following day, Nelson seemed a little taken back: ”You’re not supposed to know about that,” he said.
When the journalist told his that both Morrow and Curry posted about the days activities on their Twitter accounts, he was a little more forthcoming.
“Actually, I was out of money and I needed some cash so I took the young guys out and shot a little shuffleboard with them in the afternoon,” Nelson said. “And took their money.”
Despite leaving the bar with a lighter wallet, we think the shuffleboard session did nothing but good for Curry, who went on to finish runner-up in the NBA’s 2009/10 Rookie of the Year voting. The guard is continuing to shine again this season (probably after an off-season of serious shuffle), currently averaging 20.1 points and 5.6 assists per game over 20 games in the early part of 2010/11.
The NBA posted this YouTube video (below) on December 17 and we were sure it was going to be a feature clip about his shuffleboard techniques. Although “Stephen Curry: Sharp Shooter” is actually a video highlighting the 22-year-old’s “quick release” jump shot on the bball court, some of his quotes and comments can definitely relate to shuffleboard…
That visit to Smitty’s wasn’t the first time Nelson had taken his players out to find a shuffleboard table – a couple of years ago he took All-Star Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson out for an afternoon session at the Grand Avenue drinking hole.