In June of 2018, I had a chance to talk with 4-time NBA All-Star, member of the All-NBA First Team (1993), as well as the 50-40-90 club (1989); Cleveland Cavaliers legend, Mark Price.
Beginnings with the Cavaliers
In 1986 you were drafted by the Mavericks and then traded to the Cavaliers. How did you feel in such chaotic situation?
I was excited to be drafted by Dallas because it was close to my hometown in Oklahoma, but I found out 30 minutes later that I had been traded to Cleveland. I didn’t know much about the Cavs at the time, but it ended up being a great opportunity for me.
What were your hopes and expectations at the beginning of your career?
I didn’t have a lot of high expectations going into the NBA because most people thought that I was too small to be successful at the NBA level. I had belief that I was good enough to not only play in the NBA but to excel.
How do you recall your first year? Was it hard for you to get used to the lifestyle of NBA player?
My rookie year was a lot of ups and downs. I started out as the backup point guard and was gaining confidence until I had an emergency appendectomy that sidelined me for a month. The rest of my rookie year was up and down as I was never in great shape the rest of the season.
Coach Wilkens and first playoffs
How did you feel in the coaching system of Hall of Famer, Lenny Wilkens?
I loved playing for Lenny Wilkins. He was a Hall of Fame point guard, so I was able to learn a lot from him. He saw the value in my ability to shoot the ball from the point guard position and allowed me do develop into one of the top point guards in the league.
In 1988 you reached your first NBA Playoffs. Did you feel much more pressure during those games, when you felt that your season could be on the line?
My first playoff experience was in 1988. There is a lot more pressure in the playoffs as teams are trying to advance to the round. You have to raise your level of play every game because you are playing against the top teams in the league.
Becoming an All-Star
One year later you were selected to the NBA All-Star Game in Houston. You received third most votes of all Eastern Conference guards (behind Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas). How much did it mean to you?
In 1989 I was blessed to be picked for my first NBA All-Star team in Houston. It was a fantastic opportunity to be picked as one of the top players in the world and to get to compete with them in the All-Star game. Not bad for a kid they said was too small to play in the NBA.
During the same season, you were selected to the All-NBA Third Team. Is it true that receiving such awards for the first time is always better than being awarded for the second, third time?
Any time you are picked for an All-NBA team or an All-Star game the first time is always the most exciting. After that you expect to achieve those goals.
In 1988-89 you became a member of the 50-40-90 club, as the second player in the NBA history after Larry Bird. What does it mean to be in such elite company even today?
To be in the exclusive 50-40 90 club is an accomplishment that I am very proud of. To be one of only a handful of players to ever do that is Special. to have my name alongside players like Larry Bird, Steve Nash, Stephen Curry, Etc., is a great honor.
After few good seasons, Cavaliers finally reached the Eastern Conference Finals. Though, you couldn’t beat the defending champions, Chicago Bulls. Do you think that this was your biggest chance for the NBA title, and you could have done more?
I played for some really good Cleveland teams and I believe we were good enough to win a championship. Unfortunately, we were unable to get past Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
In 1993 you were selected to the All-NBA First Team with Barkley, Jordan, Malone and Olajuwon. What comes through your mind when you think about it? You were in the best team of the entire season.
1993 was an amazing year for me as I was voted to the 1st team All-NBA team. To be picked as the best point guard in the league that year. What a great pinnacle to my career and at times is still hard for me to believe. I would have never dreamed I would ever be picked 1st Team All-NBA.
NBA and Cavaliers records
You are one of six players who won the Three-Point Contest in two (or more) consecutive seasons. Do you think that you were the best shooter of the 1990s?
Winning Two 3 Point contests at the All-Star games in 1993 and 1994 cemented me as one of the best shooters in the NBA and in the 1990s. In my opinion I was the best.
You still hold three best results for the highest free throw percentage in a single season in Cavaliers franchise history. What made you such an incredible shooter from the free throw line?
Being a great free throw shooter was something I took great pride in. My goal was to finish my career with a free throw percentage higher than 90%. I was able to do that and when I retired in 1998, I had the highest career FT % in NBA history.
Who was the toughest player for you to guard? Did you have big troubles with any player?
Isiah Thomas was one of the toughest players I had to play against. We had a really good rivalry going as both his Detroit teams and my Cleveland teams were very good. We also played each other 6 times per year which added to the rivalry. Isaiah was a Hall of fame guard and a great challenge for me every time we played. I knew I had to bring my A game when I played against him.
What was the highlight moment from your years in Cleveland?
One of the highlights of my career was beating the Boston Celtics in the Conference Semifinals. It was Larry Bird’s last professional game of his great career. I will always remember that game.
In 1999 Cavaliers retired your jersey number. How do you feel when you enter the Quicken Loans Arena and see a banner with your name and number?
Having my jersey #25 retired by the Cavaliers in 1999 was amazing! To have the Cavaliers franchise honor me that way was very special for me and my family. It still gives me chills to go to a Cavs game and to see my Jersey hanging in the rafters.