Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with NBA legend, Charles Oakley. Oakley is an NBA All-Star and power forward who played for the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets during his 19-year NBA career and is ranked as one of the best rebounders in NBA history. Since retiring from basketball, Oakley has taken on a series of successful business ventures and has proven that he easily transitioned from the basketball court to the boardroom with ease. He founded Oakley’s Car Wash in 1995 and has expanded his business to several locations in New York. He also has turned his passion for food and cooking into a full-time commitment. Oakley is part owner in Red, The Steakhouse, which has locations in Cleveland, Ohio and Miami and he recently showed off his cooking skills on the Food Network’s cooking competition, Chopped “Tournament of Stars.” Oakley has hosted several online cooking shows and recently launched a new cooking series, “Café Oakley” being aired on Bronx Net Television and live streamed worldwide.

PA: Can you tell me, how you became interested in basketball? Were either of your parent’s athletes?
CO: I was a kid playing in the playground and one thing led to another. My parents weren’t athletes and I worked hard to achieve my success.

PA: You played football and basketball in high school. Which sport were you better at?
CO: I love sports and played to my strengths in both basketball and football. You have to work harder to play basketball since there are less players and you have to make those difficult shots. To me, football was easier and there were more guys to watch then in basketball.

PA: What is your favorite professional moment as an athlete?
CO: One of my favorite professional moments as an athlete was when I was offered multiple scholarships to college and when I was drafted into the NBA.

PA: You played for the NY Knicks for 10 seasons. Is there a highlight that stands out in your mind?
CO: Coming to NY and playing in front of the greatest fans in the world, will always remain a great highlight in my career and competing in the NBA Finals, will always remain a one of a kind life experience to me.

PA: You played with Michael Jordan on the Chicago Bulls for 3 years and then against him the rest of your career. What do you think you learned from playing with him?
CO: Whether you were his teammate or not, you realize that you must work hard all the time to achieve greatness and nothing less. I must admit, it was a total nightmare to try and get to the finals because we could never beat him in the playoffs.

PA: What do you think of the game today?
CO: The game is a big question mark.

PA: Since retiring, you have made a transition from sports to the boardroom. Let’s talk about some of the things you are working on?
CO: Currently, I’m working with an on-line gaming company called Kizzang, working on a cookbook, shooting a TV series called Café Oakley, consulting with different companies and giving my time to inner city groups in Cleveland. I love to work and I’m always available to listen to an interesting opportunity.

PA: Recently, there has been a lot of buzz with you cooking. What are you doing as it relates to food these days?
CO: I’m cooking at a lot of charity events, private parties and for friends. Also, working on filming a few more segments for Café Oakley and my cookbook. Cooking is one of my passions for sure!

PA: Tell us about Café Oakley?
CO: Café Oakley is an on-line cooking show in its 7th or 8th season. It has been a work in progress. It took a few turns and we hit a few bumps in the road and now, it’s going straight ahead to Florida just like a road trip and is looking real good. Also, there are a lot of cooking and charity events around Café Oakley that we will be hosting.

PA: Do you think you will have your own restaurant one day or would you rather cook for intimate groups?
CO: I want both. I want to have my own restaurant that I can be at 90% of the time. I know what I like, what other people want to eat and how they want it cooked. I’m a real good cook I hear!

PA: Tell me about the new BIG3 League and I hear that you will play and coach the Killer 3’s?

CO: The BIG3 is a professional basketball league set up in a 3-on-3 concept featuring former NBA greats and players. Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz started the league, which debuted on June 25 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. I think the fans will really embrace this and it gives people a chance to watch some real good basketball in the off season.

PA: Do you see yourself pursuing any other business ventures outside of hospitality and sports?
CO: I’m always looking for different opportunities and open to meeting with other entrepreneurs. Life is about growing and expanding in order to keep evolving so I say, bring it on!

PA: I know you do a lot to give back to the community and for underprivileged children. Can you tell us about the charities that you are passionate about and why?
CO: Every charity that I work with is important and I’m passionate about them all especially anything to do with kids. I support the American Cancer Society, JDRF, All 4 Kids Foundation and Jayson Williams Foundation, to name a few. I truly enjoy knowing that I can make a difference and encourage kids about the importance of staying in school and believing in themselves.

PA: What advice can you give the young athletes of today who want to play basketball professionally?
CO: The advice that I like to give to the young athletes is to be respectful, listen to your parents, study hard and stay out of trouble. Be a leader and not a follower.