Hollis Thompson hit 40.1% of his three-pointers in each of his first two seasons in the NBA (even though he attempted 120 more this year than last). This past season that was good enough for 14th in the entire league. He has a promising basketball career ahead of him, but really, he just wants someone with whom to play Magic: The Gathering.
You see, Hollis Thompson is a nerd. It’s something that’s becoming more and more accepted in the pro athlete community, but he still can’t find anyone who shares some of his super-nerdy interests. “Growing up it’s kinda like a stigma,” Thompson told me yesterday in the offices of indie game developers PHL Collective. “If you play basketball, [then] you play basketball, you go out and party, you don’t really do arty stuff. I do all that stuff.”
Typically, people see professional athletes as jocks. With more and more insight into their personal lives on social media, that stereotype is being broken all the time. Connor Barwin is a hipster. Roy Halladay is goofy. Hollis Thompson is a nerd.
Hollis Thompson’s Smash Bros. go-to is Kirby
And that’s what brought him to spend a day at PHL Collective, a six-man indie game developer in Philly. Through a tangential connection between PHL Collective founder Nick Madonna and his work on Shaq Fu 2, Hollis reached out to learn the ropes, figure out how much he doesn’t know, and learn lessons from where Curt Schilling went wrong.
“I love playing basketball, it’s my dream job, but I won’t be able to play basketball forever,” Thompson said. “And after playing basketball my dream would be in a studio like this, with these guys, just making games.”
He wants to run his own studio and make everything from expansive open-world games to party games. His eyes light up every time a topic that typically would only appeal to Comic-Con-goers comes up. The Spawn movie? Yup. His ongoing “Monopoly Season 2015″ at his house? Uh-huh. The fact that sometimes he’s gotta stop playing a level he can’t beat because he’s gotta… go to practice for his NBA team? Yeah.
But Hollis lights up about his non-nerdy side too, like when he’s saying how good Joel Embiid is, how brilliant Sam Hinkie is, and when talking about the new uniforms, which he’s seen.
In between rounds of PHL Collective’s Clusterpuck 99, Thompson is thinking about his future. Soon after making it to the NBA, he says he sat down with his people – something few gamers would even pretend to have – to discuss what the plan is for when he can’t play anymore. He immediately went to video games.
“I wanna have my own video game studio, but I don’t know who to have work with me if I don’t know how to code, or don’t understand the basic concepts there,” Thompson said.
He planned on taking in as much as he could (and PHL Collective said they’ll have an open-door policy to Hollis in the future), while learning as much as he can on his own on road trips (and also getting his Georgetown degree). And while he might be the only dude he knows on in the NBA who wants to get into the business, he’s not the only gamer.
“Michael Carter-Williams loved Shadow of Mordor,” Thompson told us. Jerami Grant and JaKarr Sampson play Diablo, and they all played Diablo 3 together on the road. Thompson doesn’t play NBA 2K too much, but when he does, he plays with the Sixers, unless he’s playing with friends because he feels weird about just shooting with himself every time. But does he (and other players) pay attention to his ratings in the game? “Oh, big time. That’s the first thing everyone does. Guys are like, I gotta kill next game to get my ranking back up.”
Hollis’ phone has been ringing off the hook since the Embiid news broke, but he doesn’t know anything we don’t. Coach Brown asked him who he wants them to draft, and as long as the Embiid situation isn’t serious, he thinks it’ll be “one of the guards.” He’s looking forward to the new practice facility in Camden and wants to talk to someone about getting a sweet gaming setup going there.
“Hopefully I’ll be in Philadelphia for a long time,” Hollis says when asked about where he’d like to set up his eventual game studio. And as long as he is, he’ll be able to learn as much as he can from the guys at PHL Collective. Or, at the very least, use Kirby in Super Smash Bros. against them.