The life of a young NBA player is complicated. In addition to adjusting to a league of grown men, they must deal with new requests for money and all the other travails that come along with being an instant millionaire.
With all these responsibilities, these players learn to enjoy their downtime. For many of them, there's no better way to kick back than by playing video games. On road trips, especially in far-off towns like Sacramento, that can mean many hours are spent playing all manner of games like "Call of Duty" and "Gears of War." Oh, and benchwarmers can pop in any game from the "NBA 2K" series and pretend they're superstars capable of averaging triple-doubles on championship teams.
Count Gordon Hayward among the NBA players who will join a new league during the lockout.
But he's not headed overseas or to Las Vegas. He'll also be playing a different kind of game.
The 21-year-old Utah Jazz player has joined a professional video game league with IGN Entertainment. Hayward will compete with other eSports video athletes in a StarCraft II competition from Oct. 6-9 at Caesars Atlantic City in the IGN Pro League.
Hayward is excited to be among 256 players shooting for a share of a $100,000 prize pool in IPL 3: Origins.
"I've been playing video games for as long as I can remember," Hayward said in a news release. "I'm a competitive guy, and I love the competitive nature of video games.
"Pro-gamers are really sports stars themselves," he added. "The mental strategy that goes into planning your next move and what your opponent is going to do are skills you need to be successful playing basketball — and playing StarCraft II. If you want to be good, you have to put a lot of time and effort into it, just like with other sports. I've got the best of both worlds."
From the sound of things, Hayward's involvement in the league may be part of a promotion, which isn't to say that he's not awesome at "StarCraft II." But, from what I've gathered, competitive gaming requires a commitment as great as that of professional basketball. Those guys experience the world of the Protoss and the Zerg on a totally different level from us mediocre humans, some of whom had to look up those names on Wikipedia.
Yet, while Hayward may now stand out as a master of the NBA gaming world, he probably doesn't play much more than his colleagues. Not many basketball players opt for "StarCraft," but many spend several hours per day playing video games. Hayward just happens to favor a game that lends itself well to leagues. Plus, he probably looks a little more like the standard fan than someone like Paul George.
So let's give our congratulations to Hayward without singling him out. He's indicative of athletes' interests, not separate from them.
- Gordon Hayward