This is an article from the March 22, 2010 issue
The former USC Trojan—who allegedly received improper gifts, including $1,000 in cash funneled to him from former coach Tim Floyd, in violation of NCAA rules—is averaging 17.7 points per game
Dan Patrick:When you're talking to kids, do they ask you more about LeBron or Kobe?
O.J. Mayo: Kobe.
DP:What do you tell them?
OM: It's always great to play against Kobe, the best player in our game. It's an honor to strap up my shoes and play against him.
DP:There were reports that it got a little personal between you and Kobe the last time you played. He wanted to lock you down in that game. Anything to that?
OM: No, I think that was more about him coming back for his first game after an injury and being excited to get back to basketball.
DP:Was going to the D-League a good thing for Hasheem Thabeet?
OM: It was good for him to develop a little bit. He hasn't had the opportunity to play much, and this deep in the season we don't practice much. So it was good for him to get some games under his belt.
DP:Does anyone talk more than Kevin Garnett? When you walk by him, he's going to yell at you, isn't he?
OM: Probably so. I don't think anyone talks more than him.
DP:What does he say to you?
OM: I can't say what he says on the air.
DP: A couple of curse words?
OM: You'll have to mike him up for the show.
DP: Now that the USC investigation is over [in January, the school found Mayo's involvement with a booster to be improper and imposed sanctions against the basketball program], can you tell me why Tim Floyd got fired?
OM: I honestly don't know. I hope it wasn't over $1,000.
DP: If no one gave you money, then why did he get fired?
OM: I don't know. There was a lot going on that I didn't know about. I guess you can call [USC AD] Mike Garrett and ask him. I really didn't understand it. I talked to [Floyd, now a Hornets assistant] when we played in New Orleans last week, and he said it was a big mess and he's moved on.
DP: Did he pay you?
OM: No, sir. I almost want to say I wish he did. But no, sir. I stayed in Troy Hall and rode a bicycle. Probably more than anything, I think I had the wrong type of people around me. Maybe they had some things going on that I didn't know about.
DP: You could have somebody representing you who may have taken money that was supposed to go to you, but they ended up keeping it. Do you think that's what happened here?
OM: Probably so. I don't really want to throw [anyone] under the bus, because I don't know what happened. But more than likely, that's what could have happened.
DP: It has to bother you when people say O.J. Mayo took money to play at USC.
OM: If you've ever been on that campus, if you've ever seen the basketball facility—why wouldn't you want to go there? It's got the best babes in the world. Sunny weather. Academically it's great there. It was just a big mess after I entered the NBA. I can't let it bring me down. I've just got to try to get better as a ballplayer and more mature as a person.
Reggie Miller doesn't believe that Kentucky point guard John Wall is as clear-cut a top pick as everyone else apparently does. The TNT analyst told me, "I like the kid from Ohio State better, [swingman] Evan Turner." Miller mentioned the transition that point guards have to make in the NBA: "I know [Chicago's] Derrick Rose was Rookie of the Year, and he did it," Miller said. "John Wall may very well do the same thing. [But] a lot goes into being a top-flight NBA point guard."
Fox analyst Darrell Waltrip said that Carl Edwards couldn't have foreseen Brad Keselowski's car flying through the air when he wrecked Keselowski earlier this month in Atlanta. "Carl had no idea, and I wouldn't have either, that that car would [go airborne]," said Waltrip. "He gave it a little tap. His intentions were to send it through the grass and ruin that boy's day."
Line of the week
Major league umpire Tim McClelland talked about instant replay in the wake of last year's controversy-filled postseason: "I don't want anyone to have to go through the media scrutiny I went through in the playoffs. It's not fun. If there's some medium that can correct [bad calls], then the umpires are starting to favor that."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Bill Self and John Calipari discuss the NCAA tournament.
2. Unsigned pitcher John Smoltz on his plans for this season.
THE FINE PRINT: 50,000 saw the Pacquiao-Clottey fight at Cowboys Stadium. Clottey's cutman was so busy, he had to cancel Jerry Jones's eighth-round face-lift.