Aug. 12, 2022

561: What's it Like Playing Basketball in Europe!?

(From the "Where''d You Go" podcast w/ Hunter Wynn)


Hunter Wynn sits down with former NBA player Paul Shirley to catch up on what he's been up to lately over at The Process as well as sharing stories from his time as a professional basketball player in Europe. 

 

Paul shares his experiences with being shorted on his contract, playing for teams owned by Chinese oligarchs, dodging projectiles while playing on the court and many more!

 

You can buy Paul's book : "The Process is the Product" here on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Process-Produc...

 

 

Check out his website: https://www.createyourprocess.com/

 

 

Twitter: @paulthenshirley

Instagram: @paulthenshirley

email: mysocalledcareer@gmail.com

 

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Transcript

Brian Nichols  0:00  
Instead of focusing on winning arguments, we're teaching the basic fundamentals of sales and marketing and how we can use them to win in the world of politics teaching you how to meet people where they're at on the issues they care about. Welcome to The Brian Nichols Show. Well, happy Friday there, folks, Brian Nichols here on The Brian Nichols Show and thank you for joining us on of course another fun filled episode. I am as always your humble host but I am in fact only your humble host for this really quick intro because today you guys are in store for a great episode where you're joining our friend Hunter win and his amazing amazing podcast the where'd you go podcast. Now Hunter has been doing stuff here at the The Brian Nichols Show behind the scenes. And all the while he and his wife have been touring all across Europe and he with that has been having some great conversations. On today's episode, I wanted to go ahead and share a conversation that Hunter had with former NBA player Paul Shirley, where they catch up on all that's been happening in the world sharing some stories from his time as a professional basketball player in Europe, and then also discussing what's it like playing for teams owned by Chinese oligarchs dodging projectiles while playing in the court, and much more so guys, if you enjoy today's episode, please do me a favor and head over to Apple podcasts or wherever it is that you listen to your podcast and make sure you hit subscribe for hunters the where'd you go podcast. So with that being said onto the show Hunter win here on The Brian Nichols Show.

Hunter Wynn  1:26  
Welcome to the where'd you go podcast where we talk to interesting people doing interesting things and interesting places. My name is Hunter. I'm the host as always, and today I'm going to share my experience as a fan at a Euro league basketball game. I've been a basketball fan as far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to go to Europa League basketball game. I finally had the chance back in December when I visited Greece. I saw to the league's premier teams in a matchup, Panathinaikos versus Barcelona. The stadium was located in a giant Olympic sports complex. So you can imagine I was pretty lost when I got there. As you walk through the complex, you notice there's a giant cycling arena, a giant Olympic pool, and all sorts of crazy other buildings that I just couldn't wrap my head around. So having no clue where to start. I just tried to find some basketball fans and just follow them. When I gotten towards the gates, there was a long line for the security. Everyone was just trying to file into two little lines. Police presence was heavy. There's about 40 armed policemen, right around the gates, but the security was pretty relaxed. Nobody pat me down. There was no metal detectors. I just scanned my mobile ticket and walked right through the turnstile. My first moments is walking through the arena, I noticed all the graffiti on the wall back home. I'm used to seeing the arena's spotless compared to what I saw, I could already tell my experience was going to be 10 times different than it was back home and when I go to basketball games, when I sat down on my seats, I couldn't help but notice the big fan section in the corner. Everyone was already chanting and beating drums and going off on their megaphones. The crowd was literally chanting the entire game. They never stopped even during halftime. Everyone was still singing

at halftime at grab some concessions and boy were they pathetic. You had a wide variety of options, just three different flavors of chips, and two different sodas without ice Of course. Oh in the team shop, it was just one giant table. It looked more like a merch stand for a band. The style of play is just a little bit different. Of course the talent levels from the NBA are vastly different, but I still had a very good time. And I loved watching the game. It was a close game, Panathinaikos fell short, which was the hometown who I had to root for. But it was a moment I will never forget. I got to cross it off of my bucket list. I actually really enjoy the no frills environment, everyone was engaged in the game. The fans were just chanting, singing, dancing, clapping, of course, booing when things didn't go their way.

Now that you got my perspective, from a fans point of view, we're going to hear from our first guest on the show who's had some experience in the NBA as well as playing overseas in Europe. His name is Paul Shirley. used to play for the Phoenix Suns you might remember him. Also shout out to Matthew Fouts, my Twitter friend, also known as Old Man suns fan. He gets the assist for getting fall on the show. Matthew, you're the real MVP. If you're watching don't forget to subscribe, comment, share, like do anything that's going to make this podcast grow. So with that being said, let's get on to the show. Hello and welcome to the where'd you go podcast. My name is Hunter I am the host and today I am actually recording from Copenhagen. It is 130 in the morning, so a little bit late or it could be early depends on what what you're Looking at but yes, it is a late night for me, but that's okay. We are actually making history today with our very first guest. And he's a former basketball player and current awesome, dude. Paul, surely. Thank you so much for joining today.

Paul Shirley  5:15  
I'll take current awesome, dude. Put that on a business card move forward.

Hunter Wynn  5:20  
Yeah, I would too. So yeah, I really appreciate it add. So how I know you is from the Phoenix Suns basketball team, was it? Oh, 405. You were on the team? Very good. Yeah. I'm a bit of a Phoenix Suns junkie. So yeah, New Year from that season. That was back in Steve Nash running gun era. And then a couple years ago, I was actually in Half Price Books, just browsing around on my weekly trip. And I came across your book, can I keep my jersey I'm like, Dude, I know that guy. He was on the suns. So bought it immediately. And I read it all in one week. So it was a really fascinating journey. And then ever since we started doing our trip here. I was like, you know, I had to put together a shortlist of people to interview and you were definitely on there. So seriously. Yeah. Thank you so much for joining. And we got a lot of questions I want to ask you. So I hope you're ready to answer them.

Paul Shirley  6:16  
I'm ready. I'm pleased that you found my book in a half price bookstore. In some ways, that can be insulting, but in a lot of other ways. It means that it reached a level of saturation, where people were finally like selling it back. That's like so I feel like that's a good spot to be in. There's certain books that I mean, my books not in this level, but there's certain books that you always see in used bookstores. And some of them you can tell they just printed way too many copies. And they had to just do just do something with them. I think there's that. Say author's name, Michael Shaban or Shavon or however we say he wrote a book called the Yiddish, policemen's union. I think that's so random. That came after he wrote a book called The The Adventures of cavalry and clay that was like a huge hit. And then I think with the next one, they thought it was gonna sell billion copies, and it did not. And then they was just everywhere and used bookstores, too. They just had to get rid of. So anyway, I'm not that kind of book, but good that I exist.

Hunter Wynn  7:21  
Yeah, no, I was I was pretty pleased. And like, Hey, I'd pay full price for this. But hey, if it's half price, even better. So. Yeah, before we get into your journey as a professional basketball player, you both played in the NBA in the Europe, I kind of wanted to dig into what are you doing now?

Paul Shirley  7:40  
That's a good question, considering the title of your podcast.

Hunter Wynn  7:44  
Where did you go? Yeah,

Paul Shirley  7:46  
I still write books. But I have definitely moved beyond that as any kind of main income because it's really, really hard to do. into AI. We help people through this company I run called the process, build habits and routines, so they can focus work deeply and accomplish big projects. So a lot of our members are writers, and freelancers, creatives, then we also work with businesses in the same regard. So a lot of lot of staff members are increasingly disconnected from like, why they're doing things. And so we're helping them as you know, I would say often fall in love with their process. So like, what are they like about the day to day? And how can we help them focus in and actually accomplish those things?

Hunter Wynn  8:35  
Yeah, do you guys get a lot of remote employees to join?

Paul Shirley  8:39  
Yeah, that's, that's our main market. This was actually something. So I used to run a space in Los Angeles called writer's block that was a co working space specifically for writers. And even pre COVID, we had started this other company. Just because we had started to see that like, our model, which is structured sessions of in that model, physical space working applies not just to writers, but to all creatives and really, to all kinds of digital nomads like I've been. I've been a digital nomad since before it was a thing. And I think my partner and I were noticing, like, oh, there's a lot more of these people all the time. And now we're seeing the proliferation of that, almost to a degree that is absurd, right? Like, I'm in coffee shops now. And people just take calls in the coffee shop, and I want to slap him across the head because I'm like, hey, look, we made a deal with these coffee shops, which is we would not be obnoxious, and they would let us sit here for the price of a coffee. They are going to quickly take that away, which I think is gonna happen soon, which is a whole tangent. But anyway, there are a lot of people in the world and have been for a long time like you and like me in certain portions of my life where you are bopping around trying to find a place to work and what we in joy about what we do in the physical space and online is just showing people they can get a lot done in a short bit of time if we can help them focus.

Hunter Wynn  10:09  
Yeah, I know that I can attest to that, it's, it's been a hard adjustment because I'm, I love being in work and being around people. And I thrive off that kind of culture. Now, transitioning by fours kind of before by COVID, when I was previously with my previous job, that kind of forced us home. So I kind of struggled in you know, staying connected, and you know, all that. And then it disrupts your work life balance, you got to try to focus while you're at work even more now, because you got distractions you got, you know, family members, you got your phone with you, you got nobody over here. So I can definitely see how that can be very advantageous for people who are working remote.

Paul Shirley  10:50  
Yeah, it's, it's a struggle for everybody. I was at a coffee shop today. And these two girls were sitting, one table down, and I heard one of them say, Man, I just I can't focus at home. And part of me wants to just say, like, what did you expect. But I'm also have to realize that not everybody's seen what I've seen. I've, I've kind of been doing this kind of thing, even, you know, even as a basketball player, a lot of my job was mustering willpower, right? In the summers, I didn't want to go to shoot by myself or lift weights or whatever. And it's hard. And I think people are seduced by the prospect of being their own boss, and they forget just like, it's a lot more difficult than they realize. I would say that the tricky thing about being on your own is you have to come up with a to do list, and then you have to do the to do list. And that's actually a pretty big double step. You know, like, lots of people want to have just a to do list and then they knock things off. Or they want to give it to other people. But when you're doing it for yourself, it's both.

Hunter Wynn  12:01  
Yeah, no, I've been I'm very guilty of making lists, because I love to make lists. But the next step is actually going out and doing it because you tell yourself, Oh, it sounds nice. Like I'm thinking about doing something, I'm thinking about making a change, but the biggest step is actually going out and doing it. And I think creating good habits is almost just the whole thing is just creating positive habits to break out of your bad ones.

Paul Shirley  12:25  
It really is I right now, as we record, this, I'm in the midst of recording the audio book for the process is the product, which is the nonfiction book that a lot of this is based on. I do not like recording audio books I've done one I did stories I tell on dates, which was my second book. And I'm noticing even with this, right, like I've done this before I've done a lot of podcasting, you would think that I would be pretty good at whatever recording my own words. But I've had to really think about how can I, using the constraints that are that exist, get this done in a way that won't take two months, right. So I'm recording at our headquarters in here in Denver, I know that my guy who opens the building for our customers, our members to come in, he's gonna get there at eight. So that means I need to get there at 715 to have a half hour to record as much as I can, and then save it for the next day. And a lot of that is I've set up that deadline for myself. But I know I gotta be done by 750. So that means I need to start by 715. So that means that I need to get out of bed at 615 to get there. And then I gotta figure out like, Well, how am I going to make this palatable to myself? Because I don't want to do it, obviously, it's early in the morning. So I've been rewarding myself by taking myself out to breakfast. So now I have a little, this little mini for two weeks, kind of this little miniature habit. That's like a slightly different way of looking at the beginning of my day, from what would normally be the case. And it you know, again, I'm Captain willpower over here, but even I still have to think about like, Well, how am I going to make this repeatable and reasonable so that I can do it day after day. Otherwise, like everybody, I would just put off, like, well off, I'll record you know, record two hours at the end of the week instead of in 30 minute chunks. Now, this doesn't mean it'll be good, necessarily, but at least I have a system for how I can accomplish it.

Hunter Wynn  14:28  
Ya know, I can appreciate systems and, you know, I usually try to have a system on whatever I'm doing because it creates habits it creates good habits. And you got to make sure it's one that's you know, productive. So yeah, I can definitely appreciate that and I'm really excited for that to come out. So you're still in the process of writing it or you finish and you're just waiting to publish.

Paul Shirley  14:49  
No the books already out. We're doing the audiobook now. So the book came out in December of last year of 2021. Okay, and now we're When the audiobook, which is terrible.

Hunter Wynn  15:06  
Well just wait until it's finished. It's a work in progress. That's right. It's part of the process. Cool. Well, yeah, I'm glad that you shared what you're doing now, because it sounds really, really beneficial for lots of people in the world today, especially because of the whole COVID thing and everyone being forced to work from home, or just, you know, just the expansion of, you know, everyone working wherever they want, which is pretty cool. So love to talk about and we're going to try to keep this focus on travel now. So after you played at Iowa State, what was your first experience like you're you were trying to go to the draft, you were trying to get signed by a team or was that a little process like?

Paul Shirley  15:49  
It was that largely because we were really good my senior year, I think we ended up we ended up losing in the first round the NCAA tournament as a number two seed, which was not ideal, but we were still, you know, top 10 basketball team in college basketball, I and two of my top two of my teammates who were not necessarily first round draft picks got invited to the Portsmouth invitational tournament, which is kind of a showcase for college seniors who were in that bubble between maybe getting picked in the second round of the draft or going overseas. Right so I went off to that, which happened I think, in May of my senior year, with a bit of a devil may care attitude, I had not really loved the way I had to play in college because I was more relegated to roleplayer status. So I went to this camp, not really caring whether I impressed anybody and then of course did impress a few people. And that led to getting an agent and getting invited to summer league with the Cleveland Cavaliers This is the Cleveland Cavaliers of man what era is this? John Lucas was the head coach it was Savannah job was like a pic draft Carlos Boozer played for that team. So did Matt Barnes, Trajan Langdon, anyway, winter training or to summer league with the Cavaliers and also played pretty well. I think, again, people didn't realize I was as good as I was because mostly third or fourth banana to Marcus Pfizer and Jamal Tinsley at Iowa State. And then that resulted in an invite to training camp with the then World Champion Los Angeles Lakers, which was intimidating. As you can imagine. This was the Lakers, Phil Jackson and Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Oh, yeah, that training camp was in Hawaii, which was exciting, but not something I could really enjoy. Because I was mostly terrified the whole time. I made it I lasted a whopping three weeks in training camp, which is about the time that teams start making cuts the mechanics for those who are not familiar, at least back then there was something like 18 or 19 Guys in training camp. And, and we were all fighting for like one half of a spot that was remaining they, the Lakers had made a half guaranteed contract, deal with Samaki Walker. Nobody's gonna remember that name. But that was the guy. So So we're, you're always in a tough spot in that situation, because it was the case that you have to be better good enough that they're going to eat half of guys contract in order for you to stick around. So I probably wasn't, I wasn't really there to try to make that team it was more like maybe in a year or two, I would end up back with the Lakers. And so according to a plan, that was an action that I didn't really understand at the time I got released, went home, my parents basement to figure out what came next. One thing that I think is important to remember as a professional athlete, like especially me, kind of marginal, professional athlete type. It's not like I knew I was gonna then play for 10 years, I hadn't actually played at all yet. So I was still thinking, you know, if I don't get a contract offer in a month or so, do I just go get an MBA or like what do I do? I don't know. Right? Because I wasn't I certainly wasn't at that point, willing to go play for the Dodge City legend of the USBL right, like dollars a week. I would eventually in my career play in some minor leagues, but those were usually with an eye on. I now know I'm good enough to make it to the NBA. So we'll go hang out in the minor leagues whilst we wait for somebody to get hurt or something. Anyway, so point of that story, I guess is that eventually I think I left the the US on Halloween of that year. I signed with a team in Greece. which was exciting to me. I had never been to Europe. I'd been out of the US a few times, like to Canada and Puerto Rico and

Hawaii, I realized Hawaii in the US. But that felt, yeah. So yeah, I just I got on, I bought a laptop and got on an airplane that was destined for Athens, Greece. And then that's when my whole world started to open up that Greek team played games, not only in Greece, so most European teams play, of course, in their domestic league, but a lot of them will play an international league as well. So we would play weekends in Greece, and then on during the week, we would go play either away in France, or turkey, or Israel, or Poland, and then or at home, and one of those teams would come to us. So that really opened my eyes to travel very quickly, as you can imagine.

Hunter Wynn  20:57  
Oh, yeah. I mean, you were immediately thrown through the wringer there. And I was gonna ask that sounded like you were pretty excited to go to Greece, were you like, you know, oh, man, I kind of have to go to Greece. This is kind of scarier is like, oh, man, this is so cool. I get to go play in another country, this is going to be great. What was your attitude, like kind of going into it?

Paul Shirley  21:16  
a running theme in my life is that I'm always scared. I was not pleased to leave because I didn't know what I was going to get into. But I also knew it was good for me. And it was going to be a good experience. I think life is like that. People don't necessarily always cop to that fact. When somebody says, I'm so excited that I get to do X, like, Well, I think you're excited about how it's probably going to be. But when it comes to the actual, like, starting was so excited that I got this new job. Are you excited, because you should be a little scared. Most humans are scared of such things. And I was the same way, right? Where I was intrigued and excited for future Paul to have this experience. But I was really nervous about what I was getting into like, was like good enough to play? How would I fit in the each European team is only allowed or was only allowed at the time to Americans. So you're right, I knew there's only gonna be for sure one other guy who speaks English, I don't know what language the coach speaks, I don't know where I'm gonna live. And so sure enough, like I get there, and European contracts call for players to get an apartment that's paid for by the team, right? So they usually just have an apartment that they rotate players through. And similarly, like, they need to have a car for you. And when I got to Greece, because as I would eventually learn, the Greeks don't do anything correctly. I went straight to live in a hotel, which was kind of cool. But after four weeks, it was getting very old, didn't have a car yet didn't know my way around at all. So I was very much in a bit of limbo for a very long time, right of not knowing are they going to keep me around? Is this real? Like what what's happening here? Eventually, they did put me in my own apartment. Got a car, little Hyundai Accent, my first ever stick shift learn how to drive stick in Greece, which was weird, because it's real hilly. And that's, I think that's what then led to the next four or five years actually, well, eventually, like nine or 10 years, but the next four years that was a real whirlwind of just going to training camps and getting caught and making it to the NBA and then go into Europe and go no matter like, like it was just my life was the life of a true mercenary. I went where the job was, and and that was my existence.

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Hunter Wynn  24:18  
Yeah, I think that's one thing that people don't actually realize about a lot of American players that play overseas is that nothing is really guaranteed for them not even the pay. I remember in one of your book, you weren't even paid properly what they guaranteed you right?

Paul Shirley  24:37  
That is true, my great team. I believe that made the first two payments in full. And when I say payments, what was going on? Because I think it's always nice to know these things. My contract was for $100,000 which is pretty great to play basketball. It's not huge. I mean, like a lot of guys in those in that league. Were making five or $600,000 but I was first year. So they made my first two payments were, which were each about $12,000, they made those payments in cash, which was wild, because they paid me before practice by handing me an envelope with whatever that is, what was that? 120 $100 bills, right, they paid in dollars. That I because we didn't have actual lockers just when I just put it in my shoe. And then went practice hope it was still there. When we got back, it was thankfully put that in a bank account, which is harder to get in Europe than you realize, as you may know, Andhra. And then on the third month that I was there, they handed me a an envelope that was light, like I physically could tell this is not this does not have 120 $100 bills in it. And I said what is going on? And they're like, well, we'll pay you the rest of Rio. Right? I'm rule means tomorrow in Greek. So I come back the next day, I'm like, okay, so where's the other $6,000, or whatever the number is, and they're like, oh, of Rio Malacca every day, it turns out real means tomorrow in a literal way. But it also figuratively means some day. And so sure enough, they had, they had kind of figured out that they could just stay a certain amount behind and just kind of like, bleed us out over the course of the year. And that personified my experience in Greece. It was, it's, it was tough, because here I was, you know, fresh out of college, I don't, I'm playing pretty well in Greece. And you know, if, if things had gone differently, I may have just stayed in Europe the whole time. But I didn't feel like I was good enough. It wasn't like I had enough renown, to just say, To hell with you guys. I'm not practicing or playing until you pay me. So I think they kind of knew they had me over the barrel a little bit. And then sure enough, enter the year they have paid me It turns out the contract for $100,000 has become 105, because we qualified for the playoffs, I think. And by the end of the year, they had paid me 52,000 of the 105. So we sued them and won. And the Greek team appealed. And we won the appeal. And then because enough teams were in arrears in Greece, the Greek minister, Minister of Sport, said to all the teams, as long as you promise to never do this again, as long as you change your name, the name of the team, you'll be forgiven all your debts. So that's what happened. They just no way they was washed them all away. One of the things that the postscript to that, that I find amazing is that my contract that first contract I signed, had an option. On the second year, the team had an option for $150,000, which when I signed it, I was like, that's the most money that anybody could ever have. So why wouldn't I send this? Well, after they've not paid me, and we've sued them and won the appeal. They had the nerve that fall to say, hey, so Paul, we're going to exercise the option on your contract. And I was like, No, you're not. There's no contract. You didn't pay me the money. And so they, they said, Well, what about this? What if we wired you $30,000 And then you come back and you play on this. And I remember being I didn't know what the term gaslighting was, but it was the perfect form of gaslighting because they were so sure of themselves. And I was like, Maybe I'm crazy, but this seems wrong. I feel like they should just send me all of the money they owe me. And then we can decide what to do from that. So anyway, needless to say, I did not go back, nor did I ever get that extra $53,000.

Hunter Wynn  28:54  
No, I mean, who would and that's the saucer crazy story. It's unfathomable for people who are you know, normally just watching the NBA or use casual people don't really pay attention to like, oh, yeah, you know, these guys are guaranteed contracts, making tons of money, and then you go to overseas, and it's just a completely different world. I actually went to a game in Greece. I saw. Yeah, it was awesome. It was on my bucket list. So got to cross that off. And I just wanted to see how different was and you know, I usually do pay attention to the European players and teams. I think it's fascinating. It's just different than the NBA, but who did you see what it was a Panathinaikos versus, I think was Barcelona. Oh, like a year or two big teams? Yeah, big yearly game. So I was fascinated. So I get there and the stadium is at like an Olympic Park Complex is huge. And I'm kind of lost and I'm just trying to follow these people on my wall. They look like basketball fans. And I get there and the stadium is just It's littered with graffiti and dudes are smokin, like in the stadium, like not giving a crap. And everyone's singing the entire game. And the concession stands are hilarious. It's literally just you know, soda without ice and chips. This is awesome.

Paul Shirley  30:19  
I know it all sounds very familiar. Anybody did anybody? Were there any projectiles involved?

Hunter Wynn  30:26  
No, but I actually did sit by a younger guy. And he looks at me and he goes, where are you from? I go, I'm from America. And he's like, he's like, You came all the way here to see this. I'm like, Yeah, kinda. You're crazy man. And he shows me a video of I think their rival team is Iakovos Yes, it shows me a video of one of their former games, and there's flares going off and people are just jumping on. Dude, why can I go to that game?

Paul Shirley  30:59  
It was that part was It was wild in a spectacle spectacular way in the sense of it is a spectacle. And it felt a little dangerous at times, but it was mostly very fun to be a part of there would be like it our games. I think so often, there were more riot police than actual fans because they had such a reputation for getting out of hand. That year that I played in Greece, Panathinaikos and Olympiakos played for the championship. And because the fans got so out of control, that they one side tipped over the bus, the team boss of the other team, they banned fans from the last game and played in front of an empty stadium because they were like, we can have the fan. So yeah, there would be Roman candles were a big deal. They would shoot Roman candles across the court at other teams fans. They were I think kind of frustrated when Greece switched to the euro, which happened while I was there, actually, because the old drachma was a very solid chunk of metal that made for an excellent like mini weapon frisbee that you could throw at the players, they would just launched stuff at us during the games. I never actually got hit, which is amazing. But I did I remember pretty vividly like just dodging like a huge two liter bottle of water that was coming on my head in the Olympiacos Stadium, which I think is called Peace and Friendship Stadium,

Hunter Wynn  32:33  
which is ironic. Wow, it's so it's just so weird to me, like just going over here and knowing that, you know, people are just crazy. I mean, people are crazy in America for sports and stuff. But for some reason, I mean, it's just to another level. And it's pretty scary. If you're a fan or a player, like you said, like, there's this projectiles going everywhere, and you're not sure if you're gonna get hit. Now, I've heard plenty of stories like some of my basketball buddy used to be a coach and the girls team at the high school. He said, he played in Egypt, and you know, people were, you know, come into the game with sticks and just ready to beat someone on like that. It's just

Paul Shirley  33:17  
wild. Sounds right.

Hunter Wynn  33:21  
par for the course. So yeah, you played in Greece. But you played in quite a bit different countries, too. You played in Spain, just playing Russia and China, too.

Paul Shirley  33:32  
I played in Russia, and I played for three teams in Spain. And then I played for a Chinese team that was headquartered in Los Angeles, because they had gotten kicked out of the Chinese League, because they would not give their best player, a guy named son UAE who actually got drafted by the Lakers, eventually to either of the two big teams in China. So this was a, the team I played for. If I can dial up the memory banks, I think was called Beijing AI ocean. And they were not one of the big boys were the Shanghai sharks that I think was the Army's team. And there's a Army team in Beijing. Those teams, I think, historically had just been able to sort of in a very Chinese kind of authoritarian way, they could just pluck the best players from all the other places and, and the owner of my eventual team said, You can't do that. And so they kicked him out. And he took the entire team to the US to play in the ABA, which was a minor league that existed at the time. And I was hired, along with another American to basically be like, the, I don't know, it's almost like a player coach, although I was still young, in a way to kind of like, if we needed a basket, give it to one of the two Americans and also to sort of show the Chinese players how to play they were so robotic that it was comical to watch them try to like adapt to American players. So anyway, no, I never played for a team in China. But I did play for a Chinese team.

Hunter Wynn  35:12  
Gotcha. Yeah, cuz I was looking at your Wikipedia page, which you know, it's always fun to browse on Wikipedia pages. You never know what you're gonna see. And I was like, I don't remember in playing the Chinese League, the CBA. But yeah, like you said it was like pseudo Chinese.

Paul Shirley  35:28  
Yeah, it was that team played in a rec center in like East Los Angeles. And because the owner wanted to watch the games back in China, they had rigged it up with basically like, a closed circuit television system, which I thought was a lot. And then thought was even more a lot when the liaison, this woman who was at our games, she was not the coach, we had a coach American guy, she would be on her phone with the owner back in China. And he would tell her what substitutions to make. So she would run down the bleachers, and tap players on the shoulder and send them into the game, leaving the coach completely flabbergasted like, what? How, why is that guy in right now. But there wasn't much he could do, because the owner had a lot of money. And also Chinese oligarch types, much like Russian oligarch types are pretty scary. So you don't necessarily say no to them. I actually didn't last very long with that team. I stayed like, I think three weeks or a month. And then I was out. I just I couldn't take it. It was too weird. And it I was actually in LA at the time to make a TV pilot. And was using the basketball team as kind of a way to stay in shape because I was only 27. And I was not I mean, I the the TV thing was more like a whim. Which is confusing to any of your listeners. They're like, Wait, what was a TV? Has, it seems weird to me to like, it's kind of nice to be able to reflect back on these things. Because sometimes I can't even make sense of the various twists and turns.

Hunter Wynn  37:17  
Oh, yeah, doing a little more background research on you. And I was like, Man, this guy has done everything. And he's got a engineering degree. He had a TV show. He's a podcaster wrote books played basketball. I think that's fascinating. So that, definitely, I had to have you on and share that experience with everybody. So yeah, you you played in Russia, in Spain? Like, in Greece? What was the travel situation? Kind of like? Was it kind of a grind? Like it wasn't the NBA? Or was it like a little bit better of like a travel schedule.

Paul Shirley  37:53  
Um, it's, it's much worse, if you're playing for a team that is playing European league games, also, which, again, most of the teams I played for, did have that. So as an example, I played for a team in Kazakhstan, Russia, because on is on the Volga River, it's kind of in the middle of the sort of European part of Russia, I wouldn't say it's in the middle of Russia, because that would be like, God knows where I'm in the middle of nowhere, I actually have a giant map of Europe on my wall. And I'm sort of looking at it because Ong is it's it's in deep, it's deep into Russia. So that meant that if we were going to play games against other Russian teams, we're probably gonna have to like connect through somewhere. One of our games actually did not go on this trip. But one of our games was in Vladivostok, which is next to Korea, right? It's like, three flights away, even though it's still in Russia, right. And then it gets really complicated when you're playing like we played a game in scopey, Macedonia, Macedonia, sorry. And that meant that we had to then fly to Moscow, and then fly, I guess, from Moscow, probably to Macedonia. But I wouldn't be surprised we had to connect somewhere. And these teams, like they spent a lot of money on players a lot of times, but they'd never spent a ton on travel. So we'd be sitting in the airport for hours and hours and hours. Which is not I mean, that's a real well, I don't want to say it's a first world problem because Russia is not a first world country. It's more like a second world country. But it I mean, there are worse things to do. But it was taxing right like it. It's challenging to be so alone. You know, when I played in the for the Russian team, I did have an Australian teammate Chris Anstey that I'm still close with. And then Sherman Williams played for that team. But we were all like, hired guns and then it's a lot of Russian guys and the coach doesn't speak English and just don't know what's going to happen at any time. So it was pretty it's restful, it just you're on, you're constantly in the state of heightened stress. I just I can remember feeling in Russia, like I might disappear at any time, and I'm not sure anybody would know how to find me. Which, you know, seems kind of, I don't know. exaggerative. But it there really was this sense, like, especially in Kozani, it was just so far from everything that I didn't, I felt uneasy all of the time that I was there.

Hunter Wynn  40:31  
Yeah, no, that totally makes sense. And I know that you know that your experience with Russia was probably way different from Spain, Spain was way different from Greece, where where did you like playing the most as a home base?

Paul Shirley  40:45  
I think the fact that I got to stay in Spain for two solid years, right at the end of my career was a contributor to me loving Spain. I don't know that Spain was necessarily better than if I had played in France, or Germany or Italy, or stayed in Greece or something like that. Other than the fact the Spaniards mostly paid me on time. But like, just that consistency was really formative, and educational. Knowing that I was, it's not that I knew I would be around because again, all of these contracts are tenuous, at best. But I had some sense that that people there were starting to know who I was, I had kind of found my level Spain, the Spanish league, I think still is and was then the second best league in the world. Like without question. Yeah, that doesn't mean that like, every year, a Spanish team will win the early, but just from, from a top to bottom standpoint, it's the best run, like you're gonna have good teams, one through 18, basically. And so it was really gratifying for me to have found a place where it was really kind of my level, you know, I could, I could be there and score eight or 10 points a game and get some rebounds and have a real impact on whether the team won or a lot or not. The NBA was probably just slightly beyond me, I think I could have been a, I could have been an eighth or ninth guy in the NBA. And you would never have known the difference. Like earlier this guy played for six years in the NBA. But, but in Spain, I was I was much more comfortable. It felt right. And I think they liked the way I played there. That, you know, we now, whatever this has been, it's only been 10 to 12 years, since I stopped playing. But the NBA has really embraced the analytics of non scoring. I think the Europeans without meaning to had embraced that much earlier. Like to toot my own horn a little bit like I just understood how basketball work I was, I was really cerebral as a player in the sense that I just could, I knew how things were going to work. Because I played so much. I played so much basketball. And I think that was valued in Europe, and is now starting to be valued here. But we now do it was like a numbers way. We're like, Well, yeah, you know, here's his whatever P er plus minus. I think like if I watch a basketball game, I can just kind of tell like, Oh, that guy has a lot of impact on winning. This other guy might be scoring a lot, but he's not really that helpful to the actual progression of winning. And so in some ways, the US we were so fascinated, actually a book here that I love, called the tyranny of metrics, right? Oh, that was a coincidence. I didn't actually plan to have to build that up. But like, we're so fascinated with like, what are the numbers say? And when I was playing a lot of the numbers were just like, does you score a lot of points? I remember so vividly. Getting cut by the Atlanta Hawks. And it was my second year out of school, I was close to ready to, like, be on an NBA team, but not quite. When they cut me. They handed me a chart. They said, here's all of the shots you took during training camp. I was like, wow, I didn't realize anybody was keeping track of them. But okay. And they said, you know, you're good. From here. You're not as good from here. And that's the data and, and, Paul, we'd love to see you look for your shot more. And I was like, what I mean, I didn't have the guts to say this because I didn't. I didn't understand but I was like you're paying at the time they were paying Sharif Abdul Rahim to score 20 points again. They had gotten him feel Ratliff, they had Jason Terry and all bunch of dudes at Glenn Robinson, who all Glenn Robinson does at the time to shoot. Right. Right. So what I should have said what I was thinking was like, you don't want me to shoot and I understand that, like, I'm here to move the ball around to be in the right place to play defense like so. I mean, not coincidentally, the Hawks were bad at the time, but I think there it was frustrating sometimes. When I got to the end NBA, it was still behind in some of these, like, more advanced measures of how people actually contribute to wins and losses.

Hunter Wynn  45:11  
Yeah, that's so weird. I mean, you would think that the NBA would just be so far more advanced than that than the Euro league. But when I watch your league games, they play much better team basketball than they do. In the NBA, NBA is usually a lot of isolation, a lot of selfishness going on. But the Europeans, it's just such a different sport to watch. And I'm sitting there like, as a coach, I'm like, Man, this is so cool, man. They're running these plays. Like they're very fundamental. There's a lot less like selfishness going on. But that's crazy difference between the metrics? I didn't even really know that. That's, that's pretty good insight there.

Paul Shirley  45:50  
Yeah. Do you feel the same way? Some of it might be in Europe, the coaches, as you probably know, a lot of times the coaches actually go to college to learn how to coach. Whereas here is just like you used to play Do you want to try coaching? And I think there's also just the there's a mythology, especially in the NBA, but maybe in all American sports, of, if you don't have the talent, you just won't be very good, which I think is really defeatist, and weird. I think that European teams will try to seem a little bit more. And you know, there are also fewer games in Europe. I think talent does win out when you have 82 games, because it's just a war of attrition. Oh, yeah. But when you're, you know, in Spain, we would play got 34 games in the regular season, which isn't as many obviously, the right, but you can kind of like scheme out game after game and maybe come up with a plan. We one time when I was playing for a team and Menorca a team, which was just always at the bottom of the standings. In fact, I had been brought to try to save the team from relegation my first year there. And anyway, the the next year, or maybe that first year, it doesn't matter. We we ended up beating in this team called unit QA, which is a Euro league team, that we had no business meeting, but it was because we had time to come up with a plan and they had underestimated us. And so it was it was also a real upset, you know, in the NBA? If so, I don't watch basketball. So I don't know. Who's a bad team Sacramento Kings. Yeah, they're pretty bad. So if the Kings beat the Warriors on a random February night, nobody really cares, because it's just like, there's so many games, they're gonna lose some of them, but and only when you squash the season down, you know, then those games become much more exciting, and much more interesting. That's another, you know, if we're going to really get into the problems with the NBA, there's just too many games. One of the main ones,

Hunter Wynn  47:56  
it really is, I know the difference between youth sports too, is that I was learning this as a coach, the the European model, they practice way more than they play. And then it's kind of opposite in American culture, like we play way more than we practice. And we were starting to see like a wave of that with like USA Basketball, they're trying to incorporate that with the youth model. Because, you know, kids just need to get better. And then you need to be crafted before they get, you know, to the next level. Yeah, I thought that was super fascinating. Well, hey, Paul, I want to make sure honor your time. I appreciate that you came on the show. And we're running short here. And we could probably talk seriously all night.

Paul Shirley  48:41  
If you wound me up, I would just give me three beers. And I'll just tell stories for about six hours, which should be no good for anybody.

Hunter Wynn  48:50  
But yeah, for the sake of podcast time, hey, I seriously appreciate it. This is a really fun conversation. I'm sure a lot of people will get a lot out of it. Before we let you go. What would you have is like the best advice for someone who's probably not like on the cusp of NBA, but they're playing in Europe, like what would you give them as good advice and preparation?

Paul Shirley  49:14  
Well, the one thing that I would tell my younger self, which might be the best way to look at this is I wish I had taken more time between teams and not panicked to think like I gotta go sign now with another team. I had a zillion injuries, which I'm still kind of dealing with. And I think that because I was unsure of myself, I didn't have the patience to go ahead and take the nine months to rehab or to to spend the money on the trainer. When you're in the throes of those first few years. It doesn't feel like it's going to last very long in the sense of doesn't feel like your career is gonna last very long. And I think, as with everything, you sort of have to plan that it's gonna last a really long time. If it doesn't, that's fine. That's just the way the cookie crumbles. But I think my experience was so haphazard, it was just like, I was just making it up as I went. And so I wish I had at times just slowed down. I mean, the easiest thing to say would be slow down and enjoy it. That could be true, too. But I don't know, that was my main problem. It was more, you know, feeling rushed to now go on to the next team, which can be tough when you have an agent where you're like, Well, is he gonna give up on me if I don't, you know, sign this deal, or whatever the situation might be. But some of that is just a matter of self belief and self confidence of understanding that it probably will keep going for a while.

Hunter Wynn  50:52  
Yeah, I mean, what an experience though, and I know that you've, you know, taken your experience of the ups and downs and translate it in your professional life, which, you know, we should always be doing with any experience. So that's awesome. I'm glad that you came on the show. And you know, just shared what you're doing now. And all the cool things that you did with the European and then just the craziness of of that type of world. But where can people kind of just keep track of you and call you on social media?

Paul Shirley  51:22  
Probably best is Twitter, which is at Paul then surely, and my Instagram handle is the same. And if you have if you want to send me a note, write me at my so called career@gmail.com. That's my old school like basketball slash writing. Dress.

Hunter Wynn  51:40  
Cool. Well, yeah, hey, appreciate your time. Yeah, you're welcome back on on the show, anytime and a day if you're watching, if you guys want to subscribe, like, comment and share. Share this with people you think you might find interesting where basketball fans or tribal fans or just in general, but hey, thank you guys for tuning in. And we'll see you guys next time.

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Hunter Wynn

Podcaster

I'm a travelling salesman. Well, more like a salesman that travels. During the week, I work alongside with the great Brian Nichols selling communications and cybersecurity solutions. On the weekends, I am exploring the European countryside with my wife as digital nomads. On top of all that, I host a podcast called "Where'd You Go?" to share our travels as well as interview fascinating guests who have been making similar journeys.