중앙데일리

An open letter to Kim Young-man

You picked the right time to retire, but you will be missed

Mar 14,2007
Kim Young-man, seen top in a January game with the KCC Egis, retired from professional basketball last night. In the pregame ceremony, Kim was flanked by his current head coach and former teammate Hur Jae, left, and the Egis starting point guard Lee Sang-min. Top: Provided by the team. Above: [NEWSIS]
To: Kim Young-man, former KCC Egis small forward, now assistant coach of the Chung Ang University basketball team.
Re: Your retirement.

I watched your retirement ceremony before the game against the Dongbu Promy last night. It’s always sad to see a favorite athlete retire, but as you said, it was time to go.
The Korean Basketball League has lost one of its original players, an essential part of the finest dynasty in the sport’s history.
But I was happy to hear that you will not leave basketball entirely. You said you will be an assistant coach for your alma mater, and the job opening there made you retire before the season ended. For what it’s worth, your team was dead last anyway, so perhaps it was better for you to leave before this mess gets any worse. And hopefully, you can teach those kids everything about three-point shooting and the right defensive approach.
Anyone who watched you in the 1990s ― and I am one of them ― has fond memories of you as the starting small forward on the Kia Motors championship teams. Oh, talk about a dynasty. You guys won back-to-back industrial league titles in 1995 (your rookie year) and 1996. When the professional league opened in 1997, your team took the first championship.
The team featured a who’s-who of Korean basketball. Shooting guard Hur Jae was so great they called him the “president of basketball.” Gang Dong-hee was Korea’s Magic Johnson, with his versatility, clutch shooting and unpredictable passes; Kim Yu-tack was a nimble center and a rebounding machine.
Then there was you. You might have been lost in the shadows of those veterans, but you were named to the All-KBL First Team in 1998, won the defensive player of the year honors that season and were also on the league’s All-Defensive team twice.
You helped Kia win its first title in three years. You were that proverbial piece of the puzzle, the Scottie Pippen to Michael Jordan, or Hur Jae in this case.
But then the injuries happened. You know how a nagging injury here and there can rob a player of what should have been a long career? Remember Bill Walton?
The knee injury in 1998 apparently affected your mobility. And after a back injury in 2001, you were never the same. Your scoring average used to be more than 20 points a game, but the numbers soon dipped to below 15. And I think you can now look back and admit you should have gotten more rest. Maybe it is one of the “regrets” that you said you have about your playing career.
Do you ever remind people that you were a center in high school and at your university? Choi In-sun, a former head coach of yours on the Kia team and later on the SK Knights, said over his coaching career, you were the only player who made the successful transition from center to small forward. He gushed over your ability to drive, shoot and defend, and also your work ethic.
There are forwards who excelled at the university level only to falter in the pros. You know, foreign players clog up the middle, and these young forwards, in most cases, aren’t tall or strong enough to battle in the post. And it’s not like they have the speed or the shooting touch to play on the perimeter. We call them ‘tweeners.
Let me give you some examples. Song Young-jin was the first overall pick in the 2001 draft as a center out of your Chung Ang University. It took him six seasons to become a decent scorer at small forward. Kim Dong-woo was the star center at Yonsei University before being drafted ahead of everyone in 2003. He has not averaged more than nine points or three rebounds per game in four pro seasons so far.
I haven’t seen a two-way Korean forward quite like you this decade. Some say Choo Seung-gyun, your Egis teammate, is the guy, but for all his defensive work, he hasn’t averaged more than 20 points a game in a season, and that’s something you did four times. Yang Kyung-min of the Promy, your college buddy, has the scoring touch and defensive skills to match, but, as you know, this guy once gambled on his own team’s playoff game.
We all know the last three, four seasons have not been very flattering for you. You bounced among four teams after being traded for fringe players, and toiled on the bench to play mop-up minutes.
I’ve read somewhere that you should have retired earlier, perhaps not while on top of your game, but at least when you were still playing significant minutes and contributing. Perhaps you would have received more adulation that way.
But I disagree. You decided to leave on your own terms. You even said so yourself, telling reporters last week that, “I guess it’s about time. I’ve been thinking maybe this or next season. I didn’t make this decision on a whim.”
For the retirement ceremony last night, your ex-Kia sidekick Hur was your head coach, and the floor general Gang was on the other bench for the Promy as an assistant coach. Kim Yu-tack, the former center, was the color commentator for a cable station.
And now you’ve joined them on the periphery of the game. Perhaps you will coach a professional team someday. Remember, there’s quite a bit of the Kia old boys’ network in the KBL coaching ranks.
Speaking of a pro coach, Choi In-sun had one last thing to say about you. He thanked you for having played for him during those glory days.
I, on behalf of your fans and sports writers, thank you for the memories.
Sincerely,

Yoo Jee-ho


By Yoo Jee-ho Staff Writer [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]



dictionary dictionary | 프린트 메일로보내기 내블로그에 저장