The Korea Herald


Basketball legend Seo talks about rumors, early life

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Aug. 16, 2013 - 15:08

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(Yonhap News) (Yonhap News)

Former South Korean basketball player Seo Jang-hoon on Thursday talked about a series of rumors -- namely one concerning his ex-wife Oh Jeong-yeon -- that had followed him around during his storied career.

Appearing on MBC talk show “Golden Fishery: Knee Guru,” the 39-year-old former center said that most of the rumors surrounding Oh were not true, adding that the former KBS announcer is “an easygoing and good person.”

“People had been telling stories ever since we got married. I thought they would go away soon, but instead they kept on growing,” Seo told the Knee Guru’s host Kang Ho-dong, another former star athlete.

When confronted on rumors of him being mysophobic, Seo answered that he likes to keep things clean but denied that he was pathologically obsessed with it. “When someone (like me) who is not good-looking is also dirty, that’s a real eyesore,” he jokingly added.

The former MVP talked about his earlier days as well.

Seo said that he, along with his former rival and close friend Hyun Ju-yup, were the worst players on his middle school team. This may have been because Seo had just changed from baseball spikes to sneakers.

“My height was mediocre and Ju-yup was fat. We were virtually non-entities,” he said. Seo eventually hit a growth spurt as a ninth grader and became one of the top middle school players in the country at 197 cm.

After annihilating just about every competition he faced in high school, Seo was keenly sought by top universities across the country. He was at crossroads between the nation’s top two most prestigious schools in basketball world: Yonsei University and Korea University.

The 207-centimeter prospect chose Yonsei, but the reasons behind it were rather unorthodox.

“Yonsei had a lot of girls. On top of that, Ewha Womans University was right next to it,” Seo said, while adding that he thought he would “have to do nothing but play basketball” if he went to Korea University. “I felt like this was a place for me.”

But Seo said that after attending all-boys schools for six years, the high percentage of girls was one of key reasons for choosing Yonsei.

In March, Seo announced that his retirement after 15 years in Korea Basketball League.

Dubbed “Goliath” for his on-court dominance, the two-time MVP and two-time champion is regarded one of the best players in the country’s history.

Seo was the first Korean center who combined size, strength and skills. He could run, jump, and hold his ground against other big men, but also had a soft shooter’s touch and a shooting range that extended beyond the arc.

He is the record holder for the most points and rebounds in KBL history with 13,231 points and 5,235 rebounds. The runners-ups in the respective categories, Choo Seung-gyeun and Johnny McDowell, have long left the league, making the two records virtually unreachable for years to come.

Seo is also duly noted for his contribution to the national squad. People still talk about his famous battle against supremely talented, 228-centimeter Yao Ming of China in 2002, which led South Korea to win the first Asian Games gold medal in 20 years.

His performances earned him another well-known nickname, “National Treasure.”

While Seo’s skills were never in question, he is among one of the most controversial figures in South Korean sports. In the entire course of his career, he was bashed for complaining to the referees too much, and Seo’s intimidating game face did not appeal to the fans either.

His three-pointers, while effective, also became a topic of dispute because some thought that he lacked the toughness required for post players.

By Yoon Min-sik