If Ballislife and YouTube were around in the mid 90s, two of the most popular high school players you would be seeing a lot of would be Kevin Garnett and his teammate Ronnie Fields. We all know Kevin's story of a high school man child averaging 25, 18, 7, 7 and becoming the first high school player drafted out of high school in decades but most people don't know about the more explosive and exciting player on that team - Ronnie Fields.
With a reported 50 inch vert, the 3-time Parade All-American that averaged 32pts, 12rebs, 4ast, 4stls and 4blks his senior year was heading to DePaul University until everything came to a crashing halt when he broke his neck in a car accident. Academic ineligibility, off the court problems and his health scared away most colleges so he declared himself eligible for the CBA draft where he was a 7th round draft pick. For the next 15 years he played around the world from Venezuela to Turkey to Lebanon to Greece while American basketball fans would constantly ask the question "Whatever happened to Ronnie Fields"
I was one of those people asking that question and the first and to this day the most popular Ronnie Fields video on YouTube is a mix I made back in 2003 featuring high school footage from a poor quality VHS tape that I bought off ebay (THANKS ANTHONY PETOSA) in the late 90s. Just think about that. Every decent high school player now has tons of HD clips on YouTube but how many of them would have home movie style VHS tapes selling on the internet...with buyers!
I bought one and shared it with the world and this week I had the pleasure of speaking with Ronnie Fields about the new documentary "Bounce Back: The Ronnie Fields Story" which we at Ballislife hope to share with the world too. The following is a couple Q & As on a few legendary stories about his dunking exploits and high school days and then there's information on how you can help Ronnie and the filmmakers get this film released.
You were the first sophomore to ever play in the Nike Best of the Best game in 93. Guys like KG & Iverson were there. What do you remember about playing with those older future Allstars.
It was great playing with KG and Iverson because they where the top seniors and juniors at that time. Iverson was my backcourt teammate and I watched Kevin play as well and then we ended up on the same all star team that year.
I know you crossed paths with Vince Carter once or twice. Who was a better dunker you or Vince & did he really turn down an invite to compete against you in a dunk contest?
I think Vince was. I really enjoyed watching him as well as MJ
Being a high flyer from Chicago you were compared to Jordan a lot back then
I could take off far like Jordan but I also had power and the windmill like Dominique.
You were the premier dunker in a class of high flyers that included Lester Earl, Corey Benjamin, Tim Thomas and Kobe Bryant. I heard a story about you beating Corey Benjamin who pulled out every dunk known to man at a Nike camp with just 1 windmill. What went down?
That dunk contest was amazing and to watch a kid (Corey Benjamin) in highschool jump from the free throw line I was in shock but I new I had something special left so I walked up to the basket and pulled out a windmill 360 and the crowd and coaches said it was over.
Eventhough we know you were the best dunker in the world in the mid 90s even more so than that other Chicago guy flying around the United Center, you were quoted in high school saying "Dunking doesn't prove anything! It doesn't prove I can play in college. I want to show people I'm a leader, not just a player" That was a very mature and unexpected comment from a high school junior.
Dunking doesn't prove you can play, it just shows you were blessed to be able to jump and dunk a ball. It's other things that you have to use in a game and that's smarts.
Scoop Jackson did a piece on you for Slam Magazine back in 95 and talked about how your critics said you didn’t have a jumpshot and he wrote "He's 17 - why should he shoot when he can embarass anybody that guards him" Do you think your overall game was underrated?
Yeah I think people thought my game was underrated because I was an exciting high school player and people got there money worth when they watched us play.
Nowadays if a high school players averages a double double it seems like they are hyped as the next big thing in the NBA. KG almost averaged a quadruple double (25, 18, 7, 7) in high school while having to share the boxscore with your Junior averages of 20, 9, 5, 3, 3.
KG was the best player I ever played with. He was a student of the game even in high school and I will always cherish those moments we played together and it put a smile on many people faces back then. I'm so happy for all the success he is having too and I hope he can get one more ring (laughing).
Your story couldn’t be more different than KG's when you finished high school, beginning with the car accident where you broke your neck. Did you think your basketball career was over?
Yeah. After that I didnt know what was going to happen, but I stand here today thanking the lord for a second chance at life and also to even play basketball as long as I have.
You have spent the last 15 years playing pro ball around the world and won a long list accolades while setting records in leagues. Does it bother you when people say “whatever happened to Ronnie Fields” or “what could have been” as if you never accomplished anything in basketball just because you didn’t play in the NBA?
It is a humbling situation that people still ask about me after all these years that makes me fill good that I had an affect on so many people. I'm sorry I couldn't get to the NBA where they could have seen what I could do or can't do but I thank all the people who still remember me.
So the new documentary “Bounce Back: Ronnie Fields” has been in the making for the past 2 years and is almost ready to be relased. What do you want people to get out of this film?
What I want people to get out this story is that even when you are down you can allways bounce back from anything in life and you have to believe in doing the right thing moving forward in life and take every good and bad experience as a learning one. When they see this, it will inspire them to keep focus even when things get tough and believe in themselves.
From the filmmakers: For the last two years we have been working on "Bounce Back: The Ronnie Fields Story" and are looking to secure funding to complete this documentary that we plan to release in time for 2012-2013 basketball season. In his prime, Ronnie Fields was one of the top basketball players in the nation, when a near-fatal car accident shattered his neck along with his dreams. "Bounce Back" is the story of how one of the most legendary basketball players to ever play has continued to battle back to reach his personal pinnacle, while continuing to be an inspiration to as many people as he can reach. With funding we plan on completing post-production, licencing footage, and obtaining domestic and international distribution (TV, DVD, and theatrical), so that as many people as possible can experience the Ronnie Fields story.