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What it's like to go viral on an NBA Zoom all the way from Greece originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Moving all NBA press conferences to Zoom amid the coronavirus pandemic has changed just about everything involved in covering a basketball game as a reporter. For those used to covering games in-person, there is less access and stories are harder to come by. But remote teleconferences have also allowed reporters from all over the world to interact with players and ask questions live on a nightly basis.
One of them, Christos Tsaltas, is seemingly ubiquitous. He lives in Patras, Greece and writes for SDNA, a sports website. On a recent NBA public relations call, league officials marveled at how he somehow manages to be on so many Zooms.
It turns out he covers roughly three games every night. And to do so, he has to stay up into the early hours of the morning, sometimes asking players questions when it is 5 or 6 a.m. where he is. He then has to write.
"It's okay, I'm fine about it. I really choose it and I really enjoy every night that we have NBA games," Tsaltas told NBC Sports Washington.
"It's something indescribable. It's a unique experience, especially for me, because I usually saw all those players [on TV]. I really admire a lot of players in the NBA. When I had a chance to talk to them, it means something unique."
Tsaltas, whose Twitter bio reads "basketball never stops," has been covering the NBA for four years, but previously wrote stat-based columns without quotes. He began reporting on games using Zoom when the NBA was in the Orlando bubble in August.
Now Tsaltas is so omnipresent that even the players have noticed. He's had a series of moments on Zoom go viral, including two involving the Miami Heat.
First, center Bam Adebayo took notice of Tsaltas being from Greece and asked him "What time is it over there?" When he found out it was 6 a.m., Adebayo said "You're dedicated."
"I really appreciated that," Tsaltas said.
There was also Duncan Robinson, who called on him by name to make sure he got a question after a Heat shootaround.
"That was very funny," Tsaltas said.
There have been fun moments, but also one last week where he sort of got called out by Suns guard Devin Booker. Booker took issue with how Tsaltas said he was playing "much better" this year than last season.
Tsaltas was surprised the moment took off on social media. He said going viral is never his goal.
"It's okay. It was a misunderstanding from his side. But it's okay, the next day was a new day for me. I moved on," Tsaltas said.
English is not Tsaltas' first language, so misunderstandings may happen (as they do for all reporters). His aim is to bring NBA coverage back to Greece where the league has taken off, particularly in recent years with the emergence of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is from Athens, as the league's back-to-back MVP.
The Wizards also have a big following there, Tsaltas says.
"The Wizards are a team that has a lot of fans in Greece and one reason is Bradley Beal. Bradley Beal is one of the best guards in the NBA, I have no doubt about this. The style, the way that he plays, the way that he leads on the court has created a lot of fans in Greece," Tsaltas said.
"There are a lot of people who want to show him and learn about his style and his attitude on and off the court. We try to give to the people something about that. Another reason, is the European players on the Wizards."
Tsaltas mentioned Davis Bertans, who is from Latvia. Rookie Deni Avdija is also a favorite in Greece because his former coach in the EuroLeague, Ioannis Sfairopoulos, is from the country.
"There's a lot of interest about Deni. The people love him," Tsaltas said.
Tsaltas has been on many Wizards Zooms so far this season. His most memorable moment may have been asking Beal if he was frustrated after a series of losses, and Beal responded memorably with "Is the sky blue?"
It was a good quote.
Tsaltas seems to have a knack for getting those, even if he's thousands of miles away.