February 21, 1983
After 18 years of elbows to the chops, former NBA forward Terry Cummings spent his first year of retirement surrounded by music production and editing machines in a studio in his San Antonio house. For weeks at a time in the fall of 2000 he left home only to buy groceries. Exercise? "Lifting food to my mouth," says Cummings, who ballooned from 265 pounds to 292. "I wanted to get basketball out of my system. Writing allowed me to pour out musically what was emotionally in me. Some good stuff came out."
Cummings, 40, who has been around music (running a publishing company, playing keyboard, singing, writing and producing) since he was 21, is currently putting the finishing touches on an album of "inspirational ballads," a mix of R&B and hip-hop with jazz, blues and gospel undertones. His company, Cummings Entertainment Group, has produced music and videos for, among others, Pizza Hut, Coca-Cola and BET, though many of his projects—including a 1989 Christmas single with David Robinson and other San Antonio Spurs and a '91 Super Bowl Shuffle-style video featuring the lyrical stylings of Scottie Pippen—have been for charity. This latest work is strictly personal. Says Cummings, "It's a project I feel that I should have done a long time ago."
There was, however, the little matter of basketball. After Cummings led his hometown DePaul Blue Demons to a 79-6 record over three years, the San Diego Clippers made him the second pick in the 1982 draft. He was named NBA Rookie of the Year in '83 after averaging 23.7 points and 10.6 rebounds. Seven teams and nearly 20,000 points later, shoulder and groin injuries led Cummings to retirement. Early in his NBA career his cousin, soul and gospel producer Percy Bady, had inspired him to pursue his musical interests. Cummings took a keyboard on the road and learned to read music. He has written more than 500 songs, and lately he has branched out into screenplays, though he plans to finish his album before he shops any of them. "I played on the highest level as an athlete," says Cummings, "and I want every part of my life to be that way."
Exercise has helped Cummings get back to his playing weight and enabled him to maintain the travel schedule demanded by his ministerial work (he became a Pentecostal minister when he was 16) and as a divorced father of three sons (Antonio, 23, lives in Chicago, T.J. is a sophomore forward at UCLA and Sean, 15, lives with Terry). "They talk about the lost books of the Bible," says Cummings, who has been to only one NBA game since he retired. "I'm finding all the lost books of Terry."