In the latest piece on poker players accomplished in other areas, we look at those from the sport of basketball. To be frank, there are not as many basketballers who have delved into poker as those from other areas, like business or mixed martial arts, for instance.
This could be due to a number of reasons. The largest basketball league in the world, America’s National Basketball Association (NBA), does not field a team based in Las Vegas, where most major US poker events are held.
The NBA season is also gruelling, lasting at least 82 games over at least seven months of the year, leaving little time for players, coaches and managers to do anything but work and rest. Nonetheless, we have found five basketball figures who have had various degrees of exposure to top level poker.
Frenchman Tony Parker was once known for being the other half of stunner and TV starlet Eva Longoria before they decided to go their separate ways. Besides that, Parker is also well known for his solid 12-year career with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, where he is the team’s starting point guard.
That role is one in which Parker has dazzled, having been a five-time NBA all-star, one-time NBA finals MVP, as well as being a major part of the Spurs’ championship wins back in the 2000s.
One of Parker’s hobbies outside of basketball is poker, and it is something he has engaged in more and more as his basketball career progresses. Parker signed with French online poker site Betclic back in 2010, a sign of his continuing closeness to his home country as well as his fondness of the game. The Spur has also used poker as a way to help others, having hosted a number of charity poker events over the years.
Pierce has been one of the top players in the NBA in recent times, plying his trade over 15 star-studded seasons with the Boston Celtics. Known as the Truth, Pierce has broken a number of team records during his tenure with the Celtics and among his greatest NBA achievements is being a ten-time NBA All-Star (for those who aren’t basketball fans, that is really hard to do, like really hard).
It also includes being part of the Celtics squad that won the 2008 NBA Championship. Pierce was traded to the Brooklyn Nets earlier this year, where he is set to be a leading player on that team’s run for the 2014 championship.
In his downtime, Pierce likes to play poker, and he’s shown that it’s something he wants to take seriously as his NBA career enters its twilight stages. He has entered a few tournaments at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) over the years, with his most recent event being a $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha tournament back in July.
Few modern NBA players have shown themselves to be as versatile as Shawn Marion. Over his 14-year career, Marion has been an asset for the four teams for which he’s played due to his ability to work well on both ends of the court.
A major live tournament accolade still eludes him, something he attributes to him being more of a ”cash game type of guy.” Marion has shied away from high-level tournaments, but has competed in a number of WSOP events over the years.
Don’t be too surprised if you see more of him in poker when his basketball days are over – he has previously stated that he may become a poker pro once he retires.
When it comes to the biggest influences on the NBA from behind the scenes, the late Jerry Buss is high on the list. Buss was widely known as the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the most reputable teams in NBA history.
Under Buss’ ownership, the Lakers won 10 NBA Championships, 16 conference titles, and 18 division titles. The team had superstars such as Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, James Worthy, and Kobe Bryant under Buss’ watch, which helped lead to the team’s massive success.
Buss was also a shark on the poker table and carved out a reputation as a solid high-stakes cash player. He wasn’t too bad at tournaments either, having placed in the money in numerous events before his death in February this year.
Among them were four in-the-money finishes at the WSOP, including a third place finish in the $2,500 Seven-card Stud event in 1991.
It may be surprising for some to see Tony G on a list of basketball figures in poker.
The overwhelming majority of you reading this are sure to know of Tony G and his accomplishments in poker. He has 15 WSOP in-the-money finishes, final table places at various World Poker Tour and Aussie Millions events, and owns a number of major poker sites.
Tony G also has considerable behind the scenes involvement in Lithuanian basketball, having been the team manager of the country’s basketball squad between 2010 and 2012. It was a gig that took him to the London Olympics, where Lithuania made it to the quarter finals. He is also the Vice President of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation, proof that he is much more than a poker shark.