NBA pre-draft interviews are a way for teams to get to know prospects better. A lot of things can be figured out through game tape and medical history, but the interview is priceless to get a feel for who the person really is. How do they carry themselves off the court and treat the people around them.
With that in mind, prospects — usually between 18 and 21 years old — prepare to say things that team executives want to hear. As a result, they give out stilted answers which revolve around their intention of becoming the best player they could be. It is either that or they share their immense love for the game of basketball in as many endearing words as they could utter.
A nerd whotripped upon a basketball
Like any other prospect, Cleveland Cavaliers big man Jarrett Allen had to go through a pre-draft interview. However, what set him apart was that he didn't have cliched answers in his bag. So when an interviewer asked him if he could live without basketball, Allen's mind diverted to his family and his other interests, particularly computers, math, and space.
"I was thinking, like, I got my brother, I got my mom, I like doing other stuff. It didn’t occur to me that they were trying to get this answer out of me. I was just answering honestly," Allen said, per Fox Sports.
"It never ever occurred to me that I had failed the interview."
Jarrett Allen, Fox Sports
Executives came out of the interview confused out of their wits. The scouting report says Allen was a monster on the court with the height and might to dominate in the paint. They were not aware that Allen seemed to be a nerd who just picked basketball as a hobby and turned out to be better than most. Browse through Allen's Twitter account and you'll see tweets about space, video games, Pokemon, and a load of other things.
Allen's seeming detachment from the sport might be why he was selected 22nd in the 2017 NBA Draft. He could have been easily in the top 10 with his 7'5 wingspan and next-level defensive instincts. But as executives have seen and observed, more than the prospect's physical attributes, what sets the good ones from the would-be legends is their mindset. Basketball was just one of the many things on Allen's mind.
Little do these head honchos know that everyone has his way of dealing with things. Myths would have you believe that Michael Jordan had basketball running through his mind 24/7. Reality shows, however, that Jordan, too, had to turn his brain off for a couple of hours. And he did this by playing golf, even in the middle of a tense playoff series.
From the looks of it, the same logic applies to Allen. He did not get to the NBA and land that massive $100 million, five-year contract in the summer by accident. Instead, he put in serious work: late nights in the gym became normal. Film sessions became a ritual. Hearing criticism became a need.
Like any other human, Allen needs ample time to decompress from the stress brought about by the sport. He stands out probably because his other interests are out of his world (literally). But he is just like any other intelligent human being - curious with a desire to learn more about the world.