RIF: Besides playing in the NBA, what would be your dream job?
Etan Thomas: I’ve always had a passion for young people. Maybe because my mom’s a teacher and every year, since high school, she has asked me to talk to her class about peer pressure and other topics. When I retire from the NBA, I would love to teach political science or history at a high school or an Historically Black College or University (HBCU).
RIF: How did your teammates first react when they found out you were a poet?
ET: At first they were like, "Man, what’s up with that?" But once they came to an event where I recited my poetry, they were like, "Yeah, that’s cool because you’re talking about important issues."
RIF: Who was your favorite poet as a child?
ET: I really liked Shakespeare; I liked his use of language. He wouldn’t just say, "She walked down the street." He was more creative with words.
RIF: When did you start writing poetry?
ET: I wrote my first poem in high school. It was about dealing with stereotypes as a young African-American male.
RIF: What do you like most about poetry?
ET: I like that poetry is so diverse. It can be narrative, like telling a story, creative, like putting yourself in another’s shoes, or a therapeutic way to just get stuff off your chest.
RIF: What do you like most about reciting your poetry in public?
ET: I’m really into politics, so a lot of my poems are political. I like reciting my poetry because afterward, people will come up to me and challenge me. It opens up this great political dialogue between me and people in the audience.
RIF: What is your favorite poem that you’ve written?
ET: It’s hard to choose a favorite, but I guess it would be My Heritage, which I wrote with my younger brother. It’s about our family’s Caribbean heritage—our grandparents are from the West Indies.
* Read an excerpt from My Heritage. *
RIF: What advice would you give to a young poet?
ET: Don’t let anyone put you in a box labeled athlete or musician or scientist or whatever. Like me, you can be an athlete AND a poet. If poetry is your passion, just follow your heart and don’t let anyone or anything stop you.