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Josh Hart of the New Orleans Pelicans on gaming in the NBA

Josh Hart is known for his game on the NBA court, but he’s also got game when it comes to e-sports. Ariana Escalante and Andre Stone speak with Hart from the Digital Trends CES Experience Center as part of our ongoing coverage of CES 2021.

While Hart is a couple of weeks into the NBA season, he’s still finding time to keep his e-sports game solid. After practice and training on typical game days, “I probably play like an hour or two of Call of Duty: War Zone or something like that, then nap, get up, shower, get dressed, and go to the [basketball] game…That’s really my game-day routine.”

Hart is also recently engaged, and when asked how his fiancée feels about his gaming, he says, “She’s…um…not the biggest fan,” he says carefully. “But I think she’s learning how to live with it because she realizes it’s not going anywhere,” he laughs.

With the newest tech being announced at CES, Hart says he keeps it pretty simple. “Just a good laptop,” he says when asked about his set-up. “If I’m on the road, I’m going to have my little gaming laptop along with me. You can’t go wrong.”

You can see Hart play on the real courts in the NBA, but you can also see him in NBA2K. “Honestly?” he says with a tinge of regret, “I don’t really play 2K. It’s so unrealistic! I feel like it’s so hard for creators to simulate our movement on the court, and I feel like with [a game like] Madden, it’s easier. But for basketball, it’s totally different.” He adds, “Also, my overall isn’t that crazy high, and I want to go out and score 40 with myself every time. I don’t really get the luxury to do that,” he laughs.

This past year has certainly been a different one for the NBA, and Hart reflects on the strangest aspect of playing in mostly empty arenas. “It’s really weird,” he says of playing a game without a crowd. “It was probably the quietest gym I’ve ever played in. Like, ever. And I’ve been playing since I was 6.”

Earlier this year, NBA players were quarantined in “The Bubble,” an isolated location near Disney World, and the gaming scene there was intense. “I was in it,” Hart grins. He had his laptop, made sure his setup was functioning a few days before, and got all the games downloaded. “I bought a monitor and sent it down there beforehand, so that right when I got there it was already there.” He played every day, “because there’s not a lot else to do there! You go to practice, then you go to the game, maybe you get to go to dinner. Then you go back to your room.” During the first few days after their arrivals, players had to quarantine a few more days, and take multiple COVID-19 tests to make sure they all tested negative. “I played a very unhealthy amount of video games,” he says about that time. And he’s not the only one. Hart rattled off a list of some of the top players in the NBA, and how they play each other online as much as they play each other on court.

“We’re playing basketball so much, and everything’s so intense and so competitive, we kind of want to have something else to relax,” Hart says. “We can just be ourselves, say whatever we want,” and that’s an important part of keeping a balance.

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