WellPlayed Interviews: Gordon Hayward

Written by PhilPhoenix
Jun 20 2011, 8:41 AM EDT

alt text A shock rippled through the StarCraft II community a few weeks ago when Utah Jazz player Gordon Hayward tweeted that he was going to be streaming online as he played StarCraft II. As the word spread, more and more incredulous viewers tuned in to watch Gordon playing casually with his friends and having a blast. In the following days, many wondered if what they had seen was a bizarre mirage, but sure enough Gordon returned shortly after with an improved stream, holding the promise of much more StarCraft II action and proving that there were StarCraft fans in high places.

WellPlayed: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Most people know that you play in the NBA, but can you tell us a little about how your career is going?

Gordon Hayward: Well, I am a professional basketball player for the Utah Jazz (as most people already know) but I was always an avid gamer growing up. I played every sport you could play in my youth, and when I wasn't playing sports, I was playing video games. I played Basketball in high school as well as Tennis; I was a two-time first team All-State singles player. I am ultra-competitive and I hate losing, and that carries over into the world of gaming. I guess you could say I started being a serious gamer when the XBox came out. I played Unreal Championship a lot and got pretty good at it. If anyone knows anything about the Unreal scene, I was a part of Sol clan and NwO clan for a little while. Then I fell in love with Halo 2 and I played it so much that my parents set a limit on the amount of time I could play every night. Once Halo 3 came out I jumped on board that train and formed a clan of my own with some high school buddies (TwT, Time Will Tell). We won some money at a couple of local tournaments, but we were never able to play nationally due to some conflicts I had with the sports world.

As far as my basketball career is going, I had a decent year for a rookie in the NBA and I am continually working on improving my game to be the best player I can be for next year. My career high this past year was 34 points against the Denver Nuggets during our last game of the year. That’s also the most points I have ever scored in an official game, so it was a great way to end the season!

WP: How did you get into playing StarCraft II? Did you play StarCraft: Brood War at all?

GH: I got into StarCraft in high school when some of my friends on the tennis team introduced me to the game. I really enjoyed playing Command & Conquer: Red Alert and other RTS games growing up so StarCraft was right up my alley. We were all nerds anyways so it was cool. In Brood War I played strictly on maps like “Fastest Possible Map” and I hated the normal maps that everyone else played on. I also played a lot of custom games. I pretty much just played for fun, and fun is exactly what I had.

WP: Do you prefer to play 1v1 or 2v2?

GH: I just recently started playing 1v1 and I like that a lot. I've always been a big 2v2 and 3v3 guy in the past so I enjoy that as well. I'll play whatever.

WP: Are you strictly a Terran player, or have you tried all three races? What in particular appeals to you about the Terran race?

GH: I have tried all the races and I like them all in their own way. I enjoy playing Terran the most though, and I feel it is my duty as a human to compete and represent humanity in an intergalactic war.

WP: Do you follow the StarCraft II pro scene at all? Do you have a favorite player?

GH: I have recently been watching a lot of the pro videos as I feel like the best way to get better at something is to watch the best people in the world and try to emulate what you see. I think it is very cool that there is a pro circuit type system involved in StarCraft II and I had no clue how popular it is in the gaming community. I’ve watched a lot of Jinro and I have some Swedish background in me so he had an early lead, but right now my favorite player is MarineKingPrime.

WP: How much time does your schedule leave for activities like gaming?

GH: During the off season, my schedule is very busy; it’s filled with training, speaking engagements, training, appearances, training, charity events, and more training. However, most of what I do is in two to three hour amounts, leaving a lot of downtime to relax and play some video games. I do have a girlfriend though and I love watching movies so a lot of my free time gets devoted to those as well. During the season it is a little bit different story. With games almost every night there is a lot of time during the day or after the game for me to play. I always bring my laptop on road trips, so as long as the internet isn't terrible I typically play in the hotel.

WP: Will we be seeing you stream again?

GH: I just recently built a new computer with a much better stream so I will definitely be streaming again! I am not a very good player compared to a lot of the StarCraft community so I need to improve my skills a little bit so I don't embarrass myself on the internet. I guess I could continually stream so everyone would get to see me improve every day. That might be kind of cool.

WP: Which is more stressful: trying to score that last point before the buzzer or fending off a cannon rush?

GH: Haha! I'm definitely going to have to say trying to score that last point before the buzzer goes off as I have been taught how to successfully fend off a cannon rush and now realize it is quite simple to defeat.

WP: Have you found there to be any similarities between playing Basketball and playing StarCraft?

GH: There are definitely a few similarities the two. StarCraft II is an extreme mental toughness game, as is basketball. Strategy is obviously a big component in StarCraft II and it’s a big part of Basketball as well. The best players in the world in Basketball are always thinking two or three plays ahead of what they are actually doing, and after watching pros play StarCraft II, it’s obvious that they do too. Staying calm in adverse situations is essential to playing both games, as is being able to maintain mental focus and strength throughout the whole game.

WP: Do you have any friends or teammates who play StarCraft II? I’m imagining some sort of underground NBA StarCraft league…

GH: I have some friends from my hometown that play StarCraft II yes, but there are only a few StarCraft II players on my NBA team. I know that Fesenko, and AK47 play a little but definitely not as much as me. They are both big into World of Warcraft, which I have no interest in. I don’t know if there is an underground NBA StarCraft II league, but if there wereas I would definitely be interested in joining it.

WP: Do you ever watch StarCraft II in your free time? Would you ever go to spectate a StarCraft II event like a Major League Gaming tournament?

GH: Like I said, I do watch StarCraft II in my free time and I think it's really cool that they actually have commentators for the games. It’s pretty crazy. If I had the time I think I would love to go to a StarCraft II tournament or an MLG event. I always wanted to go to one for Halo but I never got the chance.

WP: As a professional athlete, what are your thoughts on the comparison between professional sports and professional gaming?

GH: Like I said, I think that there can be arguments made for comparing the two professional sports. Basketball is obviously more physical, but the hand/eye coordination of the StarCraft II pros is ridiculous! I think one of the main differences is that most people do not watch or are not interested in professional gaming so it does not have much popularity.

WP: Any final thoughts or shoutouts you’d like to make?

GH: Thanks to WellPlayed for doing this interview and thanks to everyone who takes the time to watch my stream and read this interview. GL HF!!!

You can find Gordon playing on his stream occasionally and follow him on Twitter here.