Joe Asberry is an American ex professional basketball player that really has seen it all from crime to drugs, but also playing against legends like Gary Payton, Jason Kidd and Brian Shaw being teammates with German legendary player Christian Welp and had a 11 year professional career that saw him toil around in the minor leagues of Germany, but he belonged to the best in his day at that level. Since retiring from the game, he has been a spokes person for young kids and drug prevention, guest speaker, worked in the Alba Berlin organization, been a master of ceremonies for UBC Hannover and been a mentor for young Americans coming overseas trying to live the dream of being a professional basketball player.German Hoops had a chat with the charismatic American.
Joe, thanks for talking to German Hoops. First of all I´m sorry it took so long to interview you. Would it be fair to say better late than never?
No problem Miles, thank you better late than never works for me all day
You have done and seen so much in your career as a basketball player and just being involved in the German basketball scene. Would it be fair to say you are a basketball legend in Germany that is a bit off the radar simply because like so many unknown Americans looking o live the basketball dream here, you like them have not gotten the deserved respect you should have gotten especially when you were a professional player here in the 90´s?
In my own pea brain, I´m a legend in Germany for sure, just for the simple fact that I´m probably the only American who got paid to play here that was on CNN World Sport and made a commercial dunking a lot and speaking broken German, but I´ll let everybody else in the German basketball scene cast a vote and let me know where I fit in LOL!
You go by the name of Jumping Joe Asberry. I have heard you dunked over 100´s of guys in your career. Was your crazy athletic ability one of the reasons you got this nickname?
Yes my athletic ability was unreal and on a NBA level for sure. I dunked on plenty of people. I was never a shooter. I´ve still got a bit of bounce, but now I´m a ogee and it hurts when I hoop, but I still get out there and give youngsters buckets!
You made a name in high school winning the state championship at Olympic high school with German legend Christian Welp. What memories do you have of him and why do you feel couldn´t he break through in the NBA?
Winning a State Championship with Big Christian Welp was magnificent. The best memory I have of him at that time was us both at a big Kegger party after we won. All teenagers doing way too much underage beer drinking, him laughing a lot at my corny jokes and me giving everybody at our party a play by play of how it went that night in the Colisuem in front of 20000 crazy fan and since he was the big German who started getting hammered at 16, he slaughtered all of his American Allies! In the NBA he just went to the wrong teams. If he went to a team where his coach fell in love with him,the same way Marv Harshman did at Washington, he would have averaged 20 and 10 and been a NBA All Star. He told me the coaches don´t care about me Joe, so i´ll do my job, collect my big money, buy you plenty of cock tails and we can go fishing on my boat if you like! LOL!
He averaged like 25 and 20 in that title season while you averaged 17 and 10. He kind of stole the show from you. Was this something that took hard for you to accept or was your personality and good fun spirits something that eased that?
He didn´t steal the show at all When he got there, he was already a pro. He had played in Leverkusen in the 1st league and was a stud so I was happy he was there. Not to mention, I was heavily recruited. I had all of the big west coast D1´s all over me, so he was the icing on the cake. I played in a game before he came and I dropped 33 points and had 15 rebounds, so if he wasn´t there I would have just lead the league in scoring or maybe got hurt, so it all played out well. I´m sure we would not have won the Championship without him, it´s always been about winning with me, basketball is a team game
Where were you on July 4th 1993 when Germany surprisingly won the European championships over Russia where your ex teammate and friend Christian Welp became a hero tying the game with a dunk and winning it with a free throw. How many people do you suppose have you told in your lifetime about being teammates with him?
All of the old school people who have played on a high level and the youngsters who study the game have asked me about him plenty of times, It was a honor to play with a great like that. I love him still to this day and miss him dearly, may he rest in peace
It is no secret that you have been involved with crime and drugs in your life. Stealing at Pepperdine led to you having to go. Do you ever wonder where your basketball career may have gone and where you might be today if you had been able to refrain from these things?
To be honest Miles, I think about that a lot. It was one of the biggest mistakes I made in my life. I just took it for granted and was PRETENDING to be a gangster. All of those movies and dreaming about being Al Capone caught up to me and I paid a heavy price. I had a legit shot at the NBA or a shot at CSKA Moscow, but I blew it. Believe me when I tell you it hurts, but I bounced back
Your college career continued at San Francisco CC and San Francisco St. (NCAA3). What was it like then back in the day to get into the professional ranks? You came over to Germany in 1991 and had a long career. Did aggressive agents even exist back then for players looking to become professional overseas?
There were good agents back then but most of them were crooks. The only agent back then that took a chance on me was Pat Elzie, the head coach at Itzehoe. I´m loyal to him for sure. When I walked into that big nice apartment in Braunschweig he put me in, I hit the floor kissed It and cried like a baby. Welcome to pro ball in the lower league, but that Apartment was beautiful and if felt like a NBA Mansion to me.
In the early 90´s you played at the San Francisco Pro A and registered 29 points and 10 boards against guys like Jason Kidd, Brian Shaw and Gary Payton. You stated that this saved your life. Does the fact that you not only was able to compete with guys like that, but exploded on the court give you constant headaches about why you never got a chance at a higher level then just the German regionalliga?
Yeah Miles, it damn near made me go crazy. Here I am holding my own against West coast legends( I mean with the dunks, I could never guard any of them) but they gave me respect because of my bounce. We played in front of 3000 people in those summers at Kezar and then I found myself in Bergedorf playing in front of 200 fans. I was pissed off but I put myself in that position so my mission was to dunk on everybody, cheerleaders, fan´ s, coach´s, the other Americans,Yugos or Russian,everybody LOL!
You played with Giessen in the Regionalliga in 1991 and had a gun and selling dope. Did you just have to much free time and too little choices to be able to make wise decisions with your free time? Do you feel like your decisions may have been different in today´s age with the internet and just overall different lifestyle or do you feel like you would have been more out of control?
I made the decision to start selling dope and pack a gun for two reason´s. The first was who I was at that time. You can´t change the stripes on a Zebra and second I was angry that they were only paying me peanuts. I bought a big seven series BMW to show off. Then one day Coach Thomas Andres pulled me to the side and said,”Joe,you´re an awesome American basketball player, but stop acting like a idiot. EVERYBODY know´s what you´re doing, but the kids love your dunks that’s the only reason I haven’t kicked you off of the team” At that point I toned it all down so thanks Coach Thomas, you kept me from losing another game to the German police! If internet and camera´s were rolling like they are now, I would still be in that prison for American´s in Butzbach, But then again, maybe not, in today´s age, coach´s ,manager´s and agent´s would have saw the video of me rebounding and blocking shots and gave me a tryout for sure!
You were quoted in Slam magazine saying ““My love of guns and pretending to be a gangster had me headed on a one-way street to death or jail. Dudes were making major paper in the crack trade, so I wanted a piece of the pie like everybody else. The problem was I was a well-known cat from hoops. Everybody knew me as the clown ass dude with hops, so they didn’t take my gangster serious”. How happy are you that you weren´t a boring cat, but an outgoing guy with that special character that so many would die for?
I´m so happy Miles. I remember those times like it was yesterday. REAL GANGSTERS would laugh at my corny jokes and tell me, ”Man, didn´t we just see you playing in the Pro Am on Saturday? What are you doing out here, go home little boy before you get HURT” I held my own out there but believe me, when gun shot´s rang out, I defended myself and then ran the FAST BREAK! LOL! To keep it 100 there is a silent code that good basketball players always get a pass in the streets. it´s always been that way. The real gangsters respect your talent and don´t want to see you end up like them. They would trade places with you in a heartbeat
You also stated in Slam magazine “I played in the Third League because my reputation as a party animal and gangster kept me out of the First League. But I made more paper in the Third League than some dudes in the First League.” How would a young Joe Asberry been as a player in Germany in 2018? Do you feel you could have played at a higher level with how today´s style is or simply by finally getting a real chance by a team? Has anything changed in how team´s really look at players with bad resumee´s?
In today´s game I could have played at a higher level only because today with social media you have more exposure. But I don’t like to take anything away from the guy´s balling now. They deserve everything they get. I hate when guys from my era talk that bs. Players are bigger, better, stronger and faster now. I could have been able to dunk on people just because my athletic ability was god given and freaky, but I was too damn dumb to run Coach Tyron McCoy´s plays. Nothing has changed if you have a bad resume, they won´t even give you a look. Your best bet is to do what I did, get on a lower league team and show them what you can do or jump in a showcase for exposure.
You had some great seasons in the German Regionalliga like scoring 42 and 22 for Braunschweig or 28 points and 25 boards for Hamburg. What were some of your highlights on the court?
My highlight was back in the days in Giessen when I was playing with the awesome point guard Vladi Bogjevic(Alba Legend). He dropped me a dime and I took off and when the smoke cleared the back board was shattered from my vicious dunk. Little European kids mobbed me. That moment I´ll take to my grave. That was much more fun then running from the Police in California LOL! One other great moment was winning the TD1 dunk contest in Hamburg and talking crazy on DSF with all of my crazy street kids there.They looked up to me for telling them stay out of trouble so that was big.
One of my favorite terms from you is Spermany. How true is this and did this at first originate in the 90´s when you were playing pro ball in Germany and just wanted some respect for your game?
Spermany is just another one of my corny jokes. I started saying it because I was pissed off that people wouldn´t give me a 1st league tryout. If you give me a tryout and I play horrible and you cut me. fine, but give me a look I dropped 26 and had 20 rebounds against the Hannover Flyers and I practiced with the 1st league team in Giessen for 3 months and was dunking on damn near the whole squad except for the American(My homey Marzel Price, he was killing me) so NOBDODY can tell me that I couldn´t play on a higher level if I just got the shot, so I started saying that the talent scouts were spending too much time in wonderful German Brothels thus the word came to light LOL!
If you had to give a rough estimate of how many guys you dunked over how many would it be and what was your favorite own dunk you did back in the day?
I´ve dunked on too many people Miles. My favorite though was at a summer league at a Naval Base in California. My big Brother Mike and my homey Mike Brown told me it was similar to the one Vince Carter did when he flew over the French guy. I don´t like to use names or be disrespectful when it comes to that. To be mentioned in the same breath with VC is a miracle. I´ll take that LOL!
Who was the toughest player that you battled on the court that would reach the NBA?
There were so many but the guy who gave me the toughest battle was Marzel Price. The guy who put me on. We would play games of 51 in 90 degree heat and he would destroy me. He let me win a few so I wouldn’t cry or drink 1000 forty ounce beers and poison myself LOL!
Since you retired in 2002 you have done many things off the court like helping kids on the streets, coaching, scouting for agents, helping American players overseas, being a masters of ceremony and working for Alba Berlin just to name a few. What are your current duties in your life that helps you pay your rent?
I´m a guest speaker and I still do drug prevention and basketball shows for kids and I recruit pro´s for MAC Sports. Big Shout out to Mike Baron for giving me the opportunity to be a talent scout. I´ve learned so much from him about what the coach´s and manager´s are REALLY looking for when they choose a American player. So paying my rent is easy LOL!
After your troubled past with crime and drugs, how enriching has it been continuing to help young kids on the street? Does this give you some peace of mind for how you were as a young adult?
Miles, I am truly blessed. To help young kids is my mission in life. I really believe I should have been shot and killed a long time ago but god left me out here so I can warn youngsters about what REALLY goes on in those streets that´s why I laugh at internet thugs and iphone gangsters. It keeps me in tears. I know they´re just like I use to be a WANNA BEE THUG.
You also have been helping young Americans who want to live the dream of playing professionally overseas. Talk a little about how you make these kids aware of what basketball life really is like overseas?
I take so much pride in that. I just tell the American´s who chase they´re dream what is expected of them. How they should conduct themselves on and off the court and try to give back to German basketball.
Another quote I love from you is “Don´t make excuses”. What does an American player need the most to be able to survive overseas? There are so many obstacles that players aren´t aware of. The best example is the Westfalen Mustangs. You have seen so many bad things in Germany.
The Wesfalen Mustangs was a perfect example. You have people who are really circus clowns, lying to players and taking advantage of them. I was overjoyed to see Kris Douse bounce back from that and play well. That show´s the world he has HEART! The best way to survive overseas is to play well. If you have a bad game, no biggy, don´t make excuses, it´s that simple. Go back to the lab and keep working on your game daily.
You have been master of ceremony for the UBC Tigers Hannover in the past. You’re a very charismatic guy. Have you never had aspirations of going into show business in some kind of capacity?
Thank you for the compliment Miles. I have mad respect for you too. All of the ballers love you and appreciate you. Your interviews are awesome and you can call games or MC like I did on any level. If it´s CSKA Moscow in the Euroleague or if Its doing a Pro A or Pro B game, you understand basketball. The BBL should have you calling games every where, but that´s Spemany,political as ever LOL! I´m going to go back into commercials one day with my corny broken German. I´ve been casting , but right now I just don´t have enough hours in a day.
You are 53 years old and have not only accomplished a lot as a person, but seen so much. What goals do you still have in life?
My main goal now is to just be the best talent scout I can be and find the next Big Dirk,Or next Dennis Schroeder,or next guy who can dunk on everybody, but can´t remember the plays. I´ll get him a job in Finland and call him “JUMPING JOE”
If you had to construct your own NBA rushmore which 4 heads would you pick? I have a feeling you will pick Bill Russell and have more of the old school players here like Bird, Magic and Jordan or will you have some of the younger bucks like Kobe and Lebron?
Dominique Wilkens, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Lebron James. I can´t put Michael Jordan on the NBA Rushmore. He is a basketball GOD!
What is your personal opinion about the never ending debate about who is the greatest of all-time Jordan or Lebron?
Jordan was just a killer who could put a team on his back and WIN. Lebron is a wonderful passer and rebounder. I don´t compare the two. Lebron looked up to him so if I had to pick one of course I´ll go with GOD JORDAN but as the clock ticks, Lebron is going to be who the next generation will be talking about. He´s too big, too strong, and just too damn good.
You lived in San Francisco a city I fell in love with. What is your favorite place to be when you are there?
What was the last movie that you saw?
Babyboy. I actually starred in that movie in Pittsburg California. I was the homey Tyrese had who was dunking on people and pretending to be a real rider LOL!
Thanks Joe for the chat.