With the NBA season in jeopardy, one player will still be playing at least one sport professionally - StarCraft II.
The fate of the 2012 NBA season is unknown at this point. No collective bargaining agreement between the owners of the teams and the players' union currently exists and NBA players have said that they will play basketball in Europe or elsewhere overseas if the season doesn't begin as scheduled on November 1st. While that means Lakers stars like Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest might end up playing in other countries, one professional basketball player is staying stateside to compete in a different arena. Gordon Hayward - a 21-year-old member of the Utah Jazz - practiced hard for his appearance in the IPL 3: Origins tournament this past weekend in Atlantic City as one of 256 StarCraft II players competing for a share of the $100,000 prize pool.
"Pro-gamers are really sports stars themselves," he said while prepping for the tournament. "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."
Hayward didn't fare that badly in the Starcraft II tournament. According to his Twitter feed, Hayward won his first match two games to none. Unfortunately, he lost his second match, and there were technical problems with his third match. The tournament organizers tried to reschedule but the rematch conflicted with an important interview, so Hayward had to forfeit. The two losses forced his exit from the tournament.
While he may not have had any of the tense back-and-forth battles that viewers of StarCraft II replays on YouTube are familiar with, Hayward doesn't see any difference between the sports. "If you're winning a Starcraft game for the championship at IPL for the six-figure pool prize, that's probably pretty stressful," he said. "At the same time, if you're going to shoot a three-pointer to win the game with someone guarding you, that's pretty tough too. I'd say they are both tough in their own right."
I have to respect Gordon Hayward for heading out to Atlantic City and showing the world that professional gaming is every bit as fun and engaging a sport as basketball.
Someone needs to show writers like Ben Golliver from CBS Sports that playing videogames competitively isn't strange or unbecoming of a pro athlete. It's just awesome. Save the mockery for the NBA owners, Ben.
Thanks to cobra_ky for the tip!