How did your decision to open Caesar’s Palace Salon and Barber Shop come about?
It came about because one of my friends who had always been cutting our hair and he told me, “Man, I want to expand. I think I’m ready now that I understand the business side of [operating a shop].” The timing and his skill set matched with me wanting to help him grow as a barber was how it all happened. It took us a year to find the building because we wanted to be precise in choosing the right location. We finally found one downtown that we liked and then we moved in.
You recently donated $1 million to your alma mater, the University of Memphis. You also decided to go back to school. What made you go back to get your degree 10 years after you left to play in the NBA?
I wanted to go back to school because I made my grandmother a promise that I was going. I believe that education is important. Getting a college degree is something that a lot of people don’t do, especially athletes. When I graduated, it was definitely the happiest day of my life because it was like I really accomplished going back to school after I left and I really did not have to. It makes me proud every time I say it to a kid or to anyone.
Do you have any advice for players on how they can set themselves up for life after basketball?
I do, though, I must say a lot of guys really don’t listen because they believe what the retired players come and tell them will never happen to them. Too often you will have the guy making $16 million on a team and a guy that is making the minimum is hanging out with him, spending all his money. Don’t try to go out here and buy jewelry, a lot of clothes, and the most expensive car. Take care of yourself but don’t be so “come up” that you spend all your money trying to “keep up.”
My advice is to always pay attention to your business. Always take the time on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis to check on your bank account and pay your own bills. That’s one thing I started doing because at first, I was allowing the bank to pay my bills then I found out people were putting their cell phones on my account. Also, after you cover your mom and maybe buy you and her a house, put yourself on a legitimate budget.
How close are you to completing the Penny Hardaway Fast Break Courts 100,000 square foot facility in Memphis?
Since the facility will benefit the Memphis community, we met with and presented to the State Representatives in Nashville, to secure state funding. Once we get the money, it will be about 18 months before it is all said and done. We plan to host all kinds of tournaments there. It’s going to be filled with a lot of different sports, not only basketball, mentoring programs, ACT tutoring and all kind of things that will help keep these teens off the streets and help them achieve their dreams. I cannot wait.
What other projects are you looking forward to the most?
Right now I have an AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) program called Team Penny for children ages 12-17. I coach the 14 and under team and my friends coach the other teams and we’re trying to compete and win the national championship this summer. I also would like to be back on the big screen. I had a great experience filming Blue Chips and am certainly open to similar projects in the future.