For Father's Day, we caught up with the NBA star, a father of three who has released Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge. His book is a collection of essays by about 50 well-known professional athletes, performing artists, politicians and leaders of faith, including Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Taye Diggs, Tony Hawk, Al Sharpton and Chuck D. The essays focus on being a father, having a father or, in some cases, like Thomas', not having a father around. The former Syracuse basketball player was born in New York but grew up with his mother, a teacher, in Oklahoma. In his book, he writes, "Be there. Those seven letters encompass the Tao of fatherhood.'' Thomas is also a published poet, a peace activist and a contributor to the Huffington Post, as well as a participant in President Barack Obama's Fatherhood Initiative.
What's on your nightstand?
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Raising Cain by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson and Breaking Through: Beating the Odds Shot after Shot by Chamique Holdsclaw, the WNBA player.
Is reading Raising Cain project related?
No. I'm learning for my own son. They talk about the emotional health of young boys. How society keeps them bottled in.
What poets inspired you to write poetry?
Saul Williams. I love listening to him. He had this Shakespeare style with this incredible imagery. Also Nikki Giovanni. I also fell in love with Shakespeare when I was a kid, but it wasn't just his poems and sonnets. I loved all his plays. Othello, although horribly tragic, is my favorite.
It's not every day that someone says that as a kid they fell in love with Shakespeare. How did that happen?
It was my mom. She got me started on Shakespeare at a young age. She'd take me to plays. It was through her, but once I started reading, I thought it was the coolest thing on earth. I loved his simple sentences and the way he constructed certain things.
I hate to put you on the spot, but whose essay was your favorite in your book?
They were all great, but I have to say it was an honor to have Tony Dungy do the foreword, and Ice Cube was great. I want young people to get something out of it, and they automatically listen to what Ice Cube says, and he's talking the raw. He talked about how black fathers don't have to listen to negative statistics and how prison is no place to be. I couldn't have scripted it better.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer, can be reached at [email protected]