James Nunnally opens up at The Crossover

Nunnally opens up with Joe Arlauckas and shares his experiences about the multiple team's he's been at, Zeljko Obradovic's evolution and the injury that could have caused his career
There are some guests on The Crossover who need to be chased down. And then there is James Nunnally, who went to host Joe Arlauckas last season and told him we wanted to be on the podcast. The result is an entertaining hour about the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague star’s life and basketball career.

James Nunnally played many sports growing up and could have had a future in American football, but growing up in the shadow of his older brother Michael, James followed the path to basketball stardom. James enjoyed an outstanding college career, where he even played against Michael, but when he was not selected in the 2012 NBA Draft, the younger brother packed his bags to start his career in Europe.

He left his first stop in Greece after not getting paid by the club and then bounced around for several seasons, with brief stops in the NBA with Atlanta and Philadelphia as well as spells in Spain and Israel. All told, he suited up for 11 clubs in eight years. Throughout that, Nunnally remained confident.

14:00 “I never doubted myself. I just always wanted to raise the bar each year. I wanted to go a step up each year. That was my goal,” he explained.
An outstanding season in the Italian League with Avellino changed everything. Nunnally’s play caught the attention of Fenerbahce Istanbul and soon he was on his way to the Turkish metropolis to play for the winningest coach in European basketball history, Zeljko Obradovic. Nunnally was about to find out what playing for the coaching legend was like.

15:25 “The first year playing for him is tough,” Nunnally shared with Arlauckas, who won the EuroLeague under Obradovic in 1995. “You have to earn his respect. He’s played at the highest level in Europe. He’s played in the Olympics. He’s coached the best players. He’s seen everything. What are you going to do to be different or to stand out or to gain his respect?”

Ultimately, Nunnally was able to stand out for Obradovic on a stacked Fenerbahce team that won the EuroLeague in their first season together, 2016-17, and returned to the championship game the following season. It was in that second season, however, that his career nearly came to a sudden halt.

In a January 2018 game against Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, Nunnally was frustrated with Coach Obradovic after not playing at all in the first half. When he got in the game in the third quarter, he was eager to make a statement.

33:30 “Brad [Wanamaker] gets a steal. He tosses it up and I was about to dunk it so hard with one hand and just look at, and just stare Coach down because I knew a timeout was coming. Like ‘I should have been in’. And it didn’t go like that.

“So I was setting up my feet to dunk with one hand and I see Beaubois come and swipe at the ball last minute. So I picked the ball up, jumped off the wrong foot, dunked it with two hands and I didn’t have enough… I jumped off the wrong foot so I didn’t get up high enough. I couldn’t grab onto the rim when I tried. Once I dunked it, all I hear is everything went quiet and I just heard a pop sound, And that’s all I remember.”

Nunnally landed on his neck and blacked out. The next thing he remembers is arriving at the hospital. Nunnally was diagnosed with a concussion, nine brain hemorrhages and a broken left hand.

Ultimately, he made a full recovery to help Fenerbahce get back to the Final Four. After that, Nunnally’s career was on the move again. He returned to the NBA with Minnesota and also played for Houston and New Orleans in the NBA, Milan, Fenerbahce (again) and Maccabi in the EuroLeague and Shanghai in China before reuniting with Coach Obradovic in Belgrade in the summer of 2022.

One of the biggest challenges for Nunnally in recent years has been being away from his family. He and his wife decided that to give their three children a normal childhood, where they could grow up in the same place with the same friends, the children would remain in the United States with their mother during the season and only come for visits, as opposed to living in Belgrade together. It is not always easy for Nunnally.

50:15 “They are younger, so I am missing all their accomplishments, achievements. Just the small everyday things that I want to be around for like school drop-offs, making breakfast in the morning and helping them get ready. Those are things I really miss that a lot of people don’t understand about the sacrifice as players we have with families,” he explained.

With a one-hour format of exclusive one-on-one interviews, The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas goes well beyond the playing court with each podcast to delve into the life experiences that have made his guests protagonists and legends of the EuroLeague. The Crossover debuted in 2018 and has featured such current stars as Mike James, Lorenzo Brown and Mario Hezonja; coaching greats such as Georgios Bartzokas, Dimitris Itoudis, and Zeljko Obradovic, and legends like Theo Papaloukas, Nikola Vujcic and Mike Batiste, among others. Nunnally is the third guest this season after Nigel Hayes-Davis and Kemba Walker.

The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas is available on Youtube, iTunes, Audioboom, Spotify, Deezer, RadioPublic, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher, CastBox, iVoox and other platforms.



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