Sportscaster Jim Gray lived with John Madden in The Dakota for a short time, talked sports with President Nixon in the back of a limo, chatted briefly with Yoko Ono and played a game of backgammon with Lucille Ball.
These are just some of the amazing encounters of Gray’s nearly 45 year career as an interviewer. I just completed reading his new book, Talking to GOATs: The Moments You Remember and the Stories You Never Heard, and I have listed 12 fascinating tales from the book below:
1. Mike Tyson, after receiving a $30 million check for a prizefight in June 1997, proceeded to give away a $350,000 Lamborghini believing the vehicle was bad luck. A short time later, he spent nearly a million dollars in a Versace store.
2. Michael Jackson, attending a boxing match in the ‘90’s, approached Jim and his guests Dr. J, Steve Wynn, Clint Eastwood and their wives and asked how many innings were in that “game” before being corrected by Gray.
3. Jim Gray’s 1999 Pete Rose interview created a firestorm of threats, evil glares, and seemingly endless controversy for the sportscaster because of his no-nonsense questions about Rose’s gambling transgressions, which have kept him out of the Hall of Fame.
4. Jim met Tiger Woods as a child prodigy and watched him grow into a brilliant, yet incredibly arrogant professional who seemed to care about no one but himself.
5. Tom Brady’s singular focus and relentless commitment for many years to be as great as possible as an NFL quarterback. He and Jim are longtime friends.
6. The ordinary ways of Ali as his career came to a close, including a fabulous story which took place during a 1980 roadtrip. The champ and Gray stopped to get gas, then Ali spent hours shooting hoops in a random neighborhood with stunned and excited kids. He then showed them his magic tricks.
7. George W. Bush’s incredible poise and brave disposition while throwing out the first pitch at Yankee stadium in the early aftermath of 9/11.
8. Floyd Mayweather betting $250K then $300K on an NBA game, then showing Jim a checking account slip showing $198 million in one account.
9. The fierce competitiveness and tireless energy of Michael Jordan during a scrimmage and in general during the 1992 summer Olympics. Also, a sea of people gathered near a golf course in the mountains of Barcelona, Spain to watch MJ, Dr. J, Gray and Chuck Daly golf. Everyone knew the crowd was there for Jordan.
10. Jim knew Kobe Bryant from his infancy all throughout his career. He had forged a huge level of trust with him, and interviewed him dozens of times.
11. The crazy behind the scenes details of LeBron James’ 2010 free agency period which led to the heavily criticized and infamous “Decision.” It was broadcast in July 2010 and after James revealed his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, all hell rained down on Jim, LeBron and his team and the network.
12. Legendary Olympian Michael Phelps was a very humble unknown during the 2004 games. He would eventually finish with a record 28 medals!
If you love sports, especially of the professional variety, I urge you to read this book. It’s magnificent and very interesting!