“I came to Korea to win” Dante Cunningham, a ‘humble NBA leaguer’ who appeared in Korea

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Dante Cunningham (35, 203cm) is a player who played 10 seasons in the NBA. Before the start of the 2022-2023 season, the news that he was playing for KBL thrilled fans. He has an excellent career, but there were also concerns about coexistence because LG has a strong 1st option Assem Marais. At the beginning of the season, Cunningham was not powerful, but he stirred the court with a new unit along with Kim Jun-il and Justin Gutang over the course of the schedule. Teams meeting LG felt like they were facing two teams. Due to the existence of veteran Cunningham with a high level of defense, LG was able to form a defensive unit player, which became the driving force for rising to second place.

※This article was published in the March issue of Jump Ball, a basketball magazine.

It’s a tight match schedule, but how is your physical condition?
Rather, tight schedules fit better. There are a lot of games that have a similar schedule to the NBA. It is much better to play a lot of games than to train a lot because there are few games.

As a player, what is the reason for LG’s second place?
It seems that the growth as a team and as a unit has a greater effect than the growth of individual players. It just took a while to get the teamwork right. I think it’s a result of getting better as we spend time together.

Do you spend a lot of time with your co-workers?
We talk a lot and joke around on the court and in the locker room. But I tend to like being alone. That’s why I like to spend time alone off the court.

Is there a player who talks a lot?
Of course, I became very close with Asem Marey and we talk a lot. He also jokes a lot with Kim Jun-il.

I heard that he often scolds Kim Jun-il. What is the reason?
She scolds and jokes. In particular, it gives a lot of soul about the choice of shoes. Choose odd-colored basketball shoes. It doesn’t match the color of the team’s uniform… haha.
※ According to coach Cho Sang-hyun, Cunningham often scolds Kim Joon-il, who focuses only on his attack, saying, ‘Don’t just look at your attack, move to an empty spot’.

What do you think of Lee Kwan-hee’s watch ceremony?
cute. The ceremony belongs to Damian Lillard. Lee Kwan-hee is not original. In a way, it seems to be a message to our team members, ‘It’s time to wake up’.
※ The originator of Lee Kwan-hee’s wristwatch ceremony was Portland NBA ace Damian Lillard. Lillard, who is good at driving in the 4th quarter, succeeds in scoring in a clutch situation, and holds a wrist watch ceremony to signify that ‘Dame (Lillard’s nickname) time’ has come.

It’s already been 5 months since you came to Korea. What was your goal when you came to Korea?
My goal was to somehow help the team get to the playoffs. It was also my goal to help the team grow.

Since you are in second place, are you well on your way to that goal?
Of course. Of course, it’s going in the right direction. I have surpassed my original goal, so I think I need to set a higher goal again.

“The cookie dough is delicious.”
Cunningham prefers to play in multiple leagues because he enjoys experiencing different cultures firsthand. As much as he is, he is not hesitant to try new things. Cunningham’s secret hobby in Korea is to try Korean snacks. I fell in love with the charm of eating a piece or two of the snack placed on the table in the home and away locker room. Before the interview, I stopped at a convenience store and bought a home run ball, banana kick, and cones for Cunningham메이저놀이터. During the photo shoot, Cunningham grinned at the snack, and after taking a bite during the shoot, his expression brightened. It was a moment where I could see how much he enjoys experiencing various cultures and how much he likes Korean sweets.

He knows that the reason for experiencing multiple leagues is to get in touch with various cultures. I wonder how he came up with that idea.
He played for a long time in the NBA, but since he only stayed in one place, he felt trapped in a bubble. Staying in one place can make you a frog in a well. I don’t think there’s any reason not to refuse because I can experience the world through a good opportunity. He often nags his friends about seeing and experiencing various things.

You have experienced many countries such as France, Puerto Rico, and China. How does Korean food taste?
Korean food is delicious enough to be picked as the top 2. Satisfaction with food is high. I especially like briquette bulgogi.

I know you like Korean sweets, but I don’t think they will help you take care of your body.
Korean sweets are a cheat day concept, so it’s okay (laughs).

I heard you like cookie dough. Is there a reason you like it?
It looks like crackers, but it’s not too sweet and it’s soft, so the texture was good. Not too long ago, my older sister came to Korea and said, ‘Try dipping it in coffee’, so I ate it that way. It was delicious.

Have you enjoyed snacks in other countries?
It’s not sweets, but when I was in France, I enjoyed eating bread and cheese.

Officials from KBL clubs say that the level of clubhouses of some teams is closer to that of the NBA. As someone who has experienced the NBA, do you really think so?
I don’t know because I haven’t been to the clubhouses of other teams. Our team (LG)’s clubhouse weight training facility in Changwon is like that. It is a good facility.

Is there a difference in training volume between NBA, CBA (China), BSN (Puerto Rico), Jeep Elite (France), and KBL? They say Korea has a lot of training.
From easy to difficult, NBA, BSN (Puerto Rico), KBL, CBA (China), and Jeep Elite (France) are in order.

Can you elaborate on the differences between NBA, which is the easiest, KBL, which is medium, and France, which is the most difficult?
The NBA doesn’t have a lot of team training because there are so many games. I tend to do a lot of body management, strategy, and video meetings, and I do a lot of personal training. The KBL has a similar game schedule to the NBA, but more team training than individual training. Still, it is less physically demanding than in the French league. France must do team training in the morning. Also, since we only play one game a week, we have a lot of training time. Of course, there will be differences between teams in each country.

What are the conveniences of living? Players who have experienced KBL are highly satisfied with this part.
right. KBL has good living conditions. It is an environment where you can focus on taking care of your body and rest well.

I heard that you get a pretty good NBA pension. can you tell me how much

haha. I can’t tell you exactly how much, but… Until age 55, I’m on my pension from the NBA. After that, I can live without worrying about old age because I receive a state pension. Does KBL have a pension system?

KBL has no player pension. Unlike the NBA, there is no players union.
So what if you retire? Unbelievable.

The bridge of the nose is low, but the skill is high! Humble NBA leaguer
“His personality is so good. As a player who has played for a long time in the NBA, KBL may seem trivial. But he doesn’t have that part at all, and even if he puts in a minute for defense, he faithfully plays his role on the court without showing any regret.” This is what director Cho Sang-hyun said about Cunningham. You could tell his personality just by looking at the interview. He was fatigued from the match the day before, but he appeared in a nice plain suit for the shoot. Throughout the photo shoot, he took several poses following the words of the photographer and interpreter. The smile was at the automatic mounting level.

In fact, if you look at your career, there is no reason to come to Korea. What made you decide to go to Korea?
He has never won a championship while playing basketball so far. It was all about winning the conference in college (Villanova). Even then, I couldn’t win the tournament. My ultimate goal is to experience a win in my career before I retire. While meeting with LG, I could see that it was a team that could challenge for the championship. I felt like I could help the team win by adding my skills. That part motivates me.

How was your adjustment to Korea related to basketball?
Of course, there are difficult parts to adapt to because every league and team has a different style. However, I think overcoming and adapting to this is the way to learn about basketball. I think the charm of basketball is that no matter how much you learn, there is no end.

What kind of director do you think Cho Sang-hyun is?
The coach understands the strengths of each player well, and uses a specific player well in a necessary situation. He is a leader who grants players a role that suits them and encourages them to play freely within it.

KBL tends to require foreign players not only to score points but also to defend the team. Did you have any difficulties with this?
There are many options as well as various changes in defensive tactics and strategies. So it took me a while to learn. However, once I learned and understood it, there was no problem.

What’s the secret to staying fast at 35?
The team gives red ginseng, and that seems to be the secret (laughs). Just kidding. I think it’s a virtue that God protects me well. Next is hydration. Drinking water is really important, and I wish I had known about it since I was young. I am also adjusting my diet, and I keep trying to find and eat good foods.

He played an average of 20 minutes in other leagues except for the NBA, but he plays an average of 14 minutes and 57 seconds in LG. I don’t think it’s easy to maintain your skills while running for a short time.
From a young age, he was taught that it is important to contribute to the team and win in any situation when it comes to team play, and he believes so. He is a firm believer that whether you play 2 minutes or 20 minutes, you have to do 110%. So, if you have less time to play, maintaining your skills is not a problem. There is no specific secret, and given my age, I am controlling the amount of training and rest well. 

Who was your most memorable teammate in basketball?
Dwayne Anderson, a friend of mine since college. he grew up with The friend is retired and works as a college coach.

You’ve stopped a lot of players in the NBA, but who was the most difficult to stop?
ah… There are too many… Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony… too many. If I had to pick one of them, it would be Durant. He’s a lot taller than me, but he’s a good shooter and he’s fast. I think he is the best offensive player in the NBA.

Who is the most interesting Korean player as an NBA leaguer?
SK No. 2 (Choi Jun-yong). Compared to his size, not only his shooting ability, but also his two-man game and passing are memorable.

What made you start playing basketball?
I have an older sister who is 7 years older than me, and since I was little, I liked to imitate what my older sister did. I started because my older sister played basketball. At that time, I was (only) 4 years old.

I heard she’s building a gym in her house in America?
bought a lot of land It’s not something grandiose, but I’m trying to build a gym where I can wake up, shoot, call my friends, and play pick-up games. In fact, the first reason I bought the land was because I had a personal car collection, and I wanted to display it in a large space.

What is the best car you have?
It’s a 1965 Lincoln Continental. It’s a very nice car. I like classic cars.

You have never played more than one season in a league other than the NBA. Are you willing to work with us next season in Korea?
Playing one season at a time was the team’s choice rather than my choice. The idea of ​​continuing to play in Korea is open.

How long do you plan to be an athlete?
The impact on retirement is greater for my son than for my age. As my son grows up, he is exposed to various sports, and I have a strong desire to watch him grow up from the side.

If you were to imagine a scene on your way to the airport after finishing this season, what scene would come to mind?
I think I will think of the moment when I win and lift the trophy (laughs). Maybe so.

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