People are talking about Malik Rose.
The Philadelphia native, Drexel grad and former NBA player is in his first season as a color commentator for the Sixers, but hes already made an impression on the viewers with frequent, hilarious and often random pop culture references that complement an overall in-game approach thats radically different from most basketball analysts youve probably heard.
Rose applied for the job last season, but when Eric Snow landed the gig, he retreated to San Antonio, where he appeared on-air for close to 20 Spurs games. When the lockout ended and the Sixers' job became open again this season, Rose got a call from Marc Zumoff; the two have been friends since Roses pro playing days. Rose said he sent in audition tapes on a Friday, got a call from Comcast the following Monday, and was on-air with Zumoff that Tuesday. Whats developed in the short time since then is one of the more unpredictable and amusing basketball broadcast teams in recent memory.
Whats it been like working with Zumoff? You knew each other before this, but on-air chemistry is sometimes different from relationships outside the broadcast booth.
Its been exactly what I expected. Hes an easy going guy. Easy to talk to. Easy to get along with. I think it helped that we started the season with a five-game road trip. Its like when youre playing and youre on a road trip, youre out there just you and your teammates. You get to know each other. In the broadcasting game, its the same. We worked out together. We went to dinner every night. He even got me to climb a mountain.
Wait, you and Zumoff climbed a mountain together?
Oh yeah. Marc is a workout junkie. Laughs Yes, yes, yes. We were in Phoenix. He said listen, Im not going to the health club today. Im going to climb a mountain. You should come with me. Im a former athlete, so Im thinking I know I can knock this out. How hard could it be? Man, I almost died going up that mountain. Marc was steppin. He could have done it again when we were finished. I had to keep stopping to take a breath and hes like, Malik, lets go. Squaw Peak in Phoenix . It kicked my tail.
How much did you follow the Sixers before this year, and whats the ceiling for them this season? How do you see things ending?
To be honest, I started following the Sixers last year when they made that second half push and my family called talking trash about the Sixers this and Sixers that. I thought they could really hit the ground running after the lockout same roster, same coach but a six-game win streak to begin, thats almost like a sprint. Im not surprised theyve gotten off to quick start, but I am pleasantly surprised about how significant that start has been. They dont go away. Portland tried to put them away and couldnt do it. The Knicks tried to bury them and couldnt do it. They dont quit.
I wouldnt be surprised if they can really compete for a home playoff series. They can also compete for winning a first round. Anything after that would be total gravy.
Before you said anything on air, people talked about you because of your Twitter avatar. It got a huge reaction. How exactly did you end up with a photo-shopped picture of an Eagles fan punching Andy Reid?
Laughs It wasnt what everyone thought. Im a diehard Eagles fan and I got to ride with my boys. Im actually a big fan of Andy Reid. I think hes a great coach, and I still think hes the best guy to lead them to a championship. The avatar I lost a bet when they lost to the Cardinals. My buddies in San Antonio are Cowboys fans. They put that avatar together and I had to use it. When Comcast hired me, that was one of the first things they mentioned to me. So I took it down. But I would have taken it down anyway. I have season tickets with the Eagles. They might have revoked my season tickets.
Youve already gained a huge following because of the off-the-wall things you say on air. Im going to read some of them back to you, and then you can react. After a big Thaddeus Young play to put away a game early in the season, you said, Tell the ball boys to sit down, theres no reason to mop up the janitor already did it.
Yeah, my nephew corrected me after I said that. He told me to say custodian instead because janitor is derogatory. My nephew is really smart.
In the Pacers game, you said Jeff Foster got away with the crime of the century, and you said he fell to the floor like he was shot by a sniper from the book depository building. Tough to work in a JFK assassination reference in a basketball game, but you pulled it off.
Laughs I love history. And you saw it. Foster was faking that foul, man.
You called Elton Brand an Old School Chevy during the Kings game. I have no idea what that means.
That one laughs yeah. It was a compliment. I swear. I have old Chevys. I have an old Chevy Nova and a Chevelle. Love the Chevelle. It runs so good, man. The muscle car era, those are my favorite cars. Im really into those cars. Theyre better than Mercedes and all that. Theyre classic. No matter how old they get, they still run well and they look really good. And they have power, right? Its like with Elton. People say hes getting old and all that. But he still runs with the best of them.
You threw out a quasi-Animal House reference after an Evan Turner basket and said, Do you mind if I dance in your paint?"
Oh, yeah, the fans loved that one. Some of those just kind of slip out. I dont plan them. With me, I watch a lot of sitcoms and movies. I watch the Dave Chappelle show religiously back when it was on and now I watch the re-runs. I grew up watching movies, especially comedies. I try to relate some of those funny lines to basketball. When you have a giant head the size of mine, I guess useless facts and quotes just stay in there. In Animal House, all the white kids take their girls to a black club, and some of the black guys come over and ask excuse me, do you mind if we dance with your dates? Even Turner drove the lane, so it just hit me excuse me, do you mind if I dance in your paint? Laughs.
You mentioned the Chappelle Show. You used one of his bits, too Negrodamus.
Laughs I didnt know that one was going to get such a reaction. Everyone was talking about it. I said it, and it was like Twitter blew up. I was talking about how Spencer Hawes can shoot threes, and then all of a sudden he got the ball up and put up a three. I was like, aw, man, if he hits this, it would be perfect. I predicted it. Nostradamus. I had to get my Negrodamus on.
You know theres a hashtag on Twitter devoted to lets call it stuff Malik says. Thats not the actual hashtag, but you get the idea.
Oh, yeah, its crazy how many people know about it. My brother in San Antonio told me about it at first. And, oh, get this: In New York, Jared Jefferies came up to me, and the first thing he said to me was S---MalikSays Really? Really? I had to laugh.