When Greg Anderson was a freshman at Houston in 1983, his usual
means of transportation was a 10-speed bicycle. Seeing the 6'10"
Anderson pedaling across campus instead of sitting behind the
wheel of a late-model car--like so many other top college
athletes--was an odd sight and a refreshing one. The bike,
friends said, was his Cadillac, and before long he had a new
nickname: Cadillac Anderson.
This is an article from the Sept. 21, 1998 issue
This sweet story has followed him throughout his 10 NBA seasons
as a backup center with six teams (last season he played for the
Atlanta Hawks), which is why, even though he is 34, the image of
Anderson as an unpretentious teenager lingers. But the stories
going around about Anderson these days are dark tales, and they
are being told by the FBI.
Anderson and three other men, Kenneth Blackmon of Houston, Howard
Hill of Jackson, Miss., and Kevin Porter of Biloxi, Miss., were
indicted on June 25 on charges of conspiracy to sell cocaine.
Anderson is scheduled to stand trial on Oct. 5, but according to
an affidavit by FBI special agent Matthew Campbell filed with a
U.S. District Court in Mississippi in support of the indictment,
Anderson has already confessed to his involvement in the drug
deal, and he helped authorities gather evidence against Blackmon,
whom he has known since high school. Anderson declined to speak
to SI for this story.
People who know him are nearly speechless as well. They have a
hard time reconciling this case with the Anderson they know, the
man who almost always found a roster spot in the league largely
because of his friendliness and his ability to steer clear of
trouble, the player who took a young teammate aside and counseled
him against using marijuana. Anderson was so well-liked that two
teams, the Hawks and the San Antonio Spurs, brought him back for
second tours of duty.
Oliver Brown, the track coach at Worthing High in Houston when
Anderson was a high jumper there, remembers him as a gawky
teenager. "The basketball coaches didn't want anything to do with
him," Brown says of Anderson's high school days. "I worked with
him on skipping rope and playing hopscotch to develop his
A few years later, when he was a freshman at Houston, Anderson
was backing up Hakeem Olajuwon. He went on to become a star
himself and was drafted in the first round by the Spurs in 1987.
"No one would have believed he'd be in the NBA," says Brown. "No
one would have picked him to be in this mess, either."
Certainly no one would have expected Anderson to be in this mess
once he became an established pro, if only because he didn't
appear to need the money. In addition to pulling down a hefty NBA
paycheck for 10 seasons (averaging 7.3 points and 6.2 rebounds),
he spent two seasons in the Italian League, 1991-92 and '92-93,
during which he was paid a total of $6 million. "This is not
Cadillac's style," Gary Hahne, a former agent for Anderson, said
of his current legal predicament. "Money's not that important to
him. He's not your typical greedy guy ruined by money."
But Anderson's life has grown complicated since the days he was
biking across campus. His marriage turned sour, his bank accounts
were frozen in the ensuing divorce proceedings, and he hooked up
with an old friend of questionable character. At one point in his
career Anderson was teased about being called Cadillac at a time
when he was driving a Ford Taurus. Last season he gave Atlanta
general manager Pete Babcock a book he had read and liked,
entitled The Millionaire Next Door, that extolled the virtues of
a frugal lifestyle. Most people assume that a professional
athlete, even a marginal one such as Anderson, has it made
financially. He would have to be either stupid or evil to throw
away his career on a drug deal. By all accounts, Anderson is
neither, but if he is guilty of the charges against him, he may
have played his last NBA game.
"Everybody says this is a good guy who doesn't do drugs and
doesn't hang out with people who do," said an FBI agent, who
asked not to be identified. "He just needed cash." After Anderson
was caught, the FBI agent asked him the obvious question: Why
would a wealthy basketball player get involved in something like
this? "He told me that his wife had just filed for divorce and
that lawyers had frozen all his bank accounts and he needed money
quickly," says the agent.
Tammie Anderson, Cadillac's wife of eight years, had indeed filed
for divorce in April, two months before Anderson was indicted.
Anderson is challenging her efforts to keep half the family's
assets, citing a prenuptial agreement the couple signed in 1990
that calls for Tammie to receive $5,750 per month for "as long as
Cadillac has a professional career." While the division of
property was being adjudicated, a judge restricted Anderson's
access to some of the couple's bank accounts and assets.
Anderson's legal troubles began when he agreed to broker a drug
deal between Blackmon and Hill. When investigators, acting on a
tip from an informant, tailed Hill from Houston to Atlanta, they
spotted him sitting in Anderson's Georgia Dome seats during the
first-round playoff series between the Hawks and the Charlotte
Hornets. Then they followed Hill to Biloxi, Miss., where they
stopped him and Porter as the two men were traveling in Porter's
truck. They discovered approximately one kilogram of cocaine in
the truck's engine compartment. In subsequent conversations Hill
and Porter told the agents they had picked up the cocaine at
Blackmon's home in Houston and were to share the profits with
Blackmon after they had sold the drugs. Hill said Anderson
received $1,000 for his part in this deal.
Hill agreed to cooperate with the FBI, allowing agents to monitor
several calls he made to Anderson. In a May 18 call Hill told
Anderson he had $26,000 in cash and still had some of the cocaine
left. He encouraged Anderson to come to Biloxi to pick up
Blackmon's share of their profits. On May 20, Anderson flew to
Biloxi, where Hill picked him up at the airport and drove to the
Grand Casino Bayview Hotel. The two men went to room 870, where
Hill gave Anderson the $26,000 and showed him three ounces of
cocaine. A few minutes later an undercover FBI agent came to the
room and purchased the three ounces while Anderson watched. As
the undercover agent left the room, six other agents swept in and
Now it was Anderson's turn to help the FBI snare Blackmon, 30,
whom he had known since high school. "We were friends--until
this," Blackmon says. "He did me wrong."
Anderson helped set up the meeting that led to Blackmon's arrest.
He asked Blackmon to meet him at a popular Houston hangout, Joe's
Crab Shack, near the Astrodome. At Joe's the FBI listened in as
Anderson and Blackmon discussed future drug deals. When Blackmon
walked out of the restaurant, three vehicles full of FBI SWAT
team members--wielding MP5 submachine guns--swooped in and
surrounded him in the parking lot. Blackmon told agents that he
was not a drug dealer but a part owner of a local recording
company--he reached into his car and got a compact disc that bore
his name as co-owner of Inmate Records. The name of the group:
20-2-Life. "That's appropriate," a member of the SWAT team said,
"since that's what you're going to get." (In truth, if convicted,
Blackmon faces a maximum sentence of 25 years)
According to friends, as Anderson awaits trial he is spending
most of his time in Houston, doing the things he usually does in
the off-season--playing in pro-am leagues and in pickup games at
his old high school, and thinking about where he will be playing
Anderson may be thinking about something else as well--about the
days when that 10-speed bike may have been all he had but was
also all he had to worry about.
ruined by money."