Tom Hammonds shows his athletic diversity

First there was basketball at Georgia Tech, then the NBA and a dramatic move into drag racing.

Now Tom Hammonds is into martial arts, specifically Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

“I have always loved martial arts,’’ Hammonds said. “When I was in the NBA at Minnesota, I used to go into the bookstore at the airport and buy kung-fu books. I remember being on the plane and Kevin Garnett was goofing off and people were playing cards and betting, and I was reading these books.’’

Finally in 2012, more than 10 years after retiring from the NBA and moving away from drag racing, Hammonds began his jiu-jitsu training at Capitao MMA in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

“I called the gym and told the trainer I wanted to start,’’ said Hammonds, who is 6-foot-8. “I told him I was pretty big, and he said no problem, come on by and watch a class. But when I walked through the door, his eyes almost feel out of his head.’’

At first, the training was tough.

“Let me say this, I knew everything that was on the roof of the gym because I spent a lot of time on my back,’’ Hammonds said. “It was very humbling as I had never experienced anything like that. There was a certain technique I needed to learn, and I was like a big tree falling. My instructor would pull a move on me and say ‘timber.’’’

But Hammonds progressed quickly and received his white belt and won a tournament at the end of 2012 in Macon. In the masters’ ultra heavyweight division, he has since won a world championship as well as a gold medal at the Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Also, in February he will be honored at a banquet for his accomplishment as an amateur in jiu-jitsu in the state of Florida.

“(Former Georgia Tech basketball coach) Bobby Cremins is coming down for it,’’ said Hammonds, who has advanced to a blue belt. “It’s been a great experience, and usually it takes 10 years for people to get their blue belt. I always need to be in something that is competitive.’’

No telling what is next.