Former NBA star Kenny Anderson now spends his days as a full-time father… (Andrew Innerarity )
PEMBROKE PINES, Fla.
He ran the production like a former point guard, which Kenny Anderson is, and as if his life depended on it, which, in a way, it did. He lined up the consents of five women -- the mothers of his seven kids, some of them more amenable to the idea than others -- and coordinated the kids' flights, same days, same arrival times, so as to minimize the waiting-around time at the airport. There was no time to waste. He was finally getting his kids together.
They came in two waves -- the boys first, 11-year-old Kenneth and 8-year-old Devin, in from New Jersey for a three-week stay with their dad. Then, after they left, the four girls: Danielle, 19, flew in from Georgia. Christy, 17, had the longest flight, all the way from L.A. Lyric, 14, and Jazz, 12, who, unlike the others, had never traveled alone to visit their father, came in from New Jersey.
Meeting them all at the door of Anderson's house were 8-year-old Kenny Jr., of whom Anderson has full custody, and 8-year-old Tiana, Anderson's stepdaughter. Hugs, kisses, smiles. Whatever awkwardness there might have been among the various Anderson kids, some of whom had never spent time around the others, it soon melted away.
From the comfort of his home, Anderson, who didn't know his own father until his early 30s, contemplated the blessings of fatherhood and beamed. In the faces of his kids, he could see the evidence of his own past mistakes -- the womanizing, the failed marriages, the hollow attempts at fatherhood he made during a 14-year NBA career that ended in 2005.
But over the course of those few amazing, late-summer weeks, he could also see the seeds of his new beginning, a new chapter for Kenny Anderson -- now a 38-year-old, full-time, stay-at-home father to Kenny Jr. and Tiana, and an aspiring college basketball coach who wants nothing more than to distance himself from those past failures as a father, as a husband, as a man.
The magnitude of the moment absolutely blew him away.
"It was awesome," Anderson says. "Now they could all see how their daddy really is. They can see for themselves. . . . I'm involved in their lives, all of them, but this was the first time I got all of them together.
"My mother, she'd be rolling over in her grave, she'd be so happy."
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The transformation began with trauma -- the threefold explosions of career exile, maternal death and financial ruin.
In March 2005, Anderson, the former No. 2 overall pick of the New Jersey Nets in 1991, was waived by the Los Angeles Clippers, his ninth team, effectively ending his NBA career after 14 seasons, 10,789 points and 5,196 assists and one all-star team (1993-94).
In October of that same year, Anderson lost his beloved mother, Joan, who had raised him alone in poverty in the sprawling Lefrak City housing complex of Queens, N.Y., and whose comfort and happiness in her later years provided Anderson his primary motivation to succeed.
That same month, mounting financial woes, much of it the result of child-support issues, forced Anderson, who earned more than $63 million in the NBA, to file for bankruptcy. To many of those around him, it was inevitable -- and it was necessary.
"I believe he had to be at the very bottom to be able to say, 'Wow, things are different,' " says Natasha Anderson, Kenny's third wife, a clinical social worker at a psychiatric hospital in Miami. "He had to do this."
Thank God for Tasha, say those who are closest to Kenny Anderson.
They met during the 2004 NBA playoffs in Miami: Kenny in street clothes, injured, on the Indiana Pacers' bench. Natasha, beautiful and bubbly, a graduate student in social work, sitting courtside in the seats of her best friend's father.
"He asked for my number," Natasha says, laughing, "and it's history from there."
Within a few months, they were a serious enough item that Anderson was ready to introduce Natasha to his mother. It was a step he always dreaded, because Joan was hard to please.
But this time, when Kenny showed up with Natasha at his mother's ranch house in Glen Cove, Long Island -- which Anderson had bought for her within a week of signing his first NBA contract -- she leaned close to Kenny's ear, he recalls, and said: "You've got something here, son. You gotta keep that woman right there.'"
"Me and my wife -- that's unconditional love there," Anderson says. "My other wives: infatuation. It wasn't love. It was just something to do."
Natasha, to be sure, was unlike any other woman Anderson had had in his life. She was salt-of-the-earth. She was strong. She "held Kenny accountable for Kenny," as she puts it.
"She just loves Kenny," says Dick Gilbert, Anderson's longtime mentor and friend. "Some of the other ones didn't love Kenny. They loved what Kenny could bring."
"Meeting Tasha," says Irwin Levy, Anderson's longtime attorney and friend, "was huge."