FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME
I love basketball. Since I shot my first jumper on the playground in 1st grade, to watching Penny drive and dish to Shaq in Orlando in the mid 90’s, to watching Kobe score 60 in his last career game, the game of basketball has always been the number one sport in my life. So as you can imagine, being in Cleveland the last week working games 3 and 4 of the NBA Finals has been a dream come true. For those that don’t know, the company I work for provides the software for official stats and scoring of all NBA, WNBA, and D-League games. As a result, for larger or unique NBA events, such as the Finals, All Star Games, or Global Games, the NBA typically brings in staff from our company to assist with set up and support of various NBA IT services in addition to supporting game stats.
I’ve worked NBA Global Games in the preseason before in Berlin, Istanbul, Milan, Madrid and Rio de Janiero, but this was my first time at the NBA Finals, either as a fan or working. I am usually pretty good at containing excitement while working at sporting events, but this one was different…
Back in high school, you start to get bombarded with questions that bring your first reality checks in life. “Where do you want to go to college?”, “What do you want to major in?”, “What do you want to do for a career?” – I seemed to get asked these questions by friends and family every day. When I was younger, the questions were a lot easier to answer. First, as a little kid it was I wanted to be a race car driver! Then I watched Top Gun for the first time at 5 years old and it instantly changed to I wanted to be US Navy Aviator and F-14 Tomcat pilot. That dream lasted the longest, pretty much until middle school. As time progressed though, it gets more serious and you really have to decide what you want to become.
What I’ve become so far has allowed me to travel the world, visit places I never imagined I would ever see, and work sporting events I never thought I would go to. The thrill of being around sports, the atmosphere, the competition, it’s what drives me in the career I have chosen. Of course I considered different career paths where I could have probably made more money or whatever, but that isn’t the only thing that would motivate me or provide me joy at work. Being courtside at a NBA Finals game, watching the greatest basketball players in the world competing, playing the game I love – that’s what does it for me. That’s what makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something in my career.
Tracy McGrady was my favorite basketball player of all time. I watched him night and day in middle and high school. Recorded his games on TV, watched Youtube highlight reels back when Youtube first started, had at least a dozen pairs of his shoes that I played in my whole varsity basketball career. I was all T-Mac. Well, guess who was at Game 3 Wednesday night watching the game courtside? Yea – him. After the game ended and the arena was clearing out, I walked up to him, determined to meet my basketball idol. In my hand, I had my phone on with a picture I had of all his shoes that I have. After all, I had to brag to him about always wearing his kicks! So, I went up to him, showed him the picture, told him how much of an inspiration his game brought me. He looked at me and said, “Aw that’s what's up and cool man!” and then shook my hand. Moments like that quick 10 second exchange made my whole decision to work in sports completely worth it.
Whatever motivates you, drives you, makes you tick - do it. Don’t settle working in a career that brings you no joy outside of work. Don’t just listen to what the world, or even what friends and family will say, where “money”, “benefits”, “stock options”, etc are all that matter. Yes, they are important and essential in a practical sense, but those aren’t the only important things in your work life. Find your passion and turn it into a career. For me, it’s simply for the love of the game and that’s why I work in sports.
See below for some videos and pictures from my week in Cleveland: