Utah Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward has had a bit of prominence in gaming circles for a while. Apart from the fact that his fantasy value is picking up rather nicely towards the second half of the year — I'm a bit peeved I didn't draft him this year, really — the versatile 25-year-old is also well known for his passion for League of Legends.
He's not the only basketballer to have an affinity for video games, but he's certainly one of the most passionate publicly. The small forward has just begun a new gaming column for The Players Tribune, and he debuted by saying gaming doesn't need defending from mainstream critics.
Hayward has had a pretty long association with gaming. He's teamed up with Riot, IGN for videos about League of Legends; Rick Fox even segued from a discussion about working with his coaches to what Hayward thought about Doublelift moving from CLG to TSM.
The Jazz starter clearly doesn't need any convincing when it comes to the merits of professional gaming. If anything, he's a public advocate — and over at The Player Tribune, he furthered that reputation by announcing that whether people want to admit it or not, they're gamers too.
Have you ever felt a certain rush when a perfect candy arrives and takes out multiple rows? You’re a gamer. Have you killed some time by flinging a bird into a rudimentary structure? Gamer. Have you moved even numbers around to make them add up to 2048? That’s gaming, bro.
Hayward's column opens with a nice aside too. Brad Stevens, the current coach of the Boston Celtics, was Hayward's coach when he was playing for Butler in the NCAA. Back then, Hayward had to ask Stevens for permission to play in a Halo tournament.
But what's important about the piece is what's not said. Hayward is a national figure within the NBA. He's using the agency of a platform designed for professional athletes to speak with their own voice to champion not just professional gaming, but the value of gaming overall.
There’s a bizarre logic that if you’re willing to put in the time to become good at a video game, you won’t be willing to put in the time to become good at anything else. This complete nonsense regresses the conversation surrounding these thoughtful, challenging, advanced games that are consistently pushing barriers.
It'll be interesting to see what direction Hayward takes with his column over the coming year. It'll be fun to follow the Jazz for the rest of the year too: they're currently 8-2 from their last 10 games, helping them just squeak past the Houston Rockets into playoff contention for the Western Conference.