NBA All-Star Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz is a huge gamer. In fact, while he was playing at Butler he had to ask special permission from his coach to make sure competing in a Halo competitive tournament wouldn’t violate NCAA rules (it didn’t). And he won. He also took Butler to the NCAA Championship game in 2010.

Although he’s now a full-time professional basketball player for the Utah Jazz, Hayward still logs a lot of hours on his laptop and Xbox One playing games like League of Legends and FIFA 17. He’s also the first NBA player to sign an endorsement deal with an eSports/video game company (HyperX) and he wears their gaming headset all the time.

Hayward talks about his own video game skills and explains why it’s now his “job” to play games in this exclusive interview.

I&T Today: How does your own video gaming change from during the season to off season?

Gordon Hayward: During the season I’m able to play a lot on the road just because you have a lot of time. You have weird hours and late nights with the travel schedule, and sometimes you can’t sleep so I always bring my laptop and I’m able to play on the road. It’s a little more difficult to play at home during the season just because you’re not there that much so you want to spend some time with family or hang out with some friends. And then during the off season I still probably play a couple of hours a day usually when the family goes to sleep. I’ll stay up a little bit and play.

I&T Today: What’s the gaming set-up you have at your house?

GH: We just moved this summer and my wife said I could have one room in the house to do whatever, so I made it into a pretty cool little gaming room. I have my stacked monitors with everything I need up there, so I love going up there. I have an Xbox One and a really nice computer. And I use my HyperX Revolver headset every time I’m on it.

I&T Today: What’s the reaction of younger fans when they find out you’re actually good at video games?

GH: Everyone’s really surprised. They just assume that because I’m a professional basketball player I’m supposed to be really bad at video games. So everyone is really surprised.

I&T Today: Do you feel that hand-eye coordination translates from being good at real sports and being good at video games?

GH: That was the argument I always used with my parents was that I was working on hand-eye coordination. It’s strategically, mentally through your mind. There’s definitely some hand-eye coordination going there, but I don’t know if there’s that much of a connection.

I&T Today: As a gamer, are there particular eSports teams you like to watch or games you like to play?

GH: I watch a lot of League of Legends. I actually got a chance to go to Worlds at the Staples Center. When I was younger I was into StarCraft and I watched a lot of StarCraft to try to learn from the pros. Right now I watch some Halo when it comes on. I watch a little bit of Overwatch, but now more than anything I just watch League of Legends.

I&T Today: How do you learn from pro gamers?

GH: I like to watch the games that I’m playing more than anything because I try to learn a lot from it and try to get better at it. I like playing League of Legends, but the only problem for me is that sometimes it takes 30 to 60 minutes for each game. And that’s hard for me now with having two little girls, so I play a lot of League on the road when I know that I have a lot of time. But I also play Overwatch. I play some Destiny too on the Xbox, and definitely Halo.

I&T Today: Now that you’re working with HyperX you have an excuse for playing video games because it’s part of your job, right?

GH: That’s right. I’ve been able to use that one with my wife from time to time.

I&T Today: Does it work well or is she not buying that?

GH: It depends. You got to catch her at the right moment. She’s been great though. It’s just all about balancing because as soon as you have kids it changes you as a person in many ways, so there are definitely times when I’d just rather play with my girls.

I&T Today: NBA 2K17 wasn’t on your list of games you play. Is that because it’s your day job?

GH: Yeah. I’ve never actually really been a sports video game guy. I just would rather play the sport than play it on a video game. The only sports game that I’ll play is FIFA, and that’s really the only one I play with any of my teammates as well. We’ll play FIFA on the plane or at the hotel against each other and get some good rivalry games going. I really have never been a 2K guy. I bought the game right when I got to the NBA just so I could see myself in the game, but other than that I’ve never really played it.

I&T Today: A lot of NBA and NFL players all like playing FIFA.

GH: Yeah, that’s kind of the trend I’ve seen as well. I don’t know what that is. Everyone just likes playing FIFA.

I&T Today: Do you have a go-to FIFA team that you like to play as?

GH: It’s hard not to play with either Barcelona or Madrid when you‘re playing a match for money, but my favorite team probably has to be Bundesliga in Germany.

I&T Today: When you say a match for money, do you guys place real money on FIFA video games?

GH: We’ll put some money up for it. Nothing big, just makes it interesting.

I&T Today: How good are you when it comes to FIFA if you’re playing against your teammates?

GH: I’m definitely the best on my team, for sure.

I&T Today: So technically you’re still kind of a professional gamer if you’re making money playing video games in some capacity?

GH: Yeah, but that’s on the down low.

I&T Today: We’re seeing a slow rise in eSports with females and girl gamers. At some point when your girls are that age and they’re playing video games, do you feel like you’ll be a little more open to things than your parents were when it comes to video games?

GH: Oh, absolutely. I’m looking forward to being able to play some video games with them. It will give me just more things that I can do with them and an area I can hang out with them more.

Featured image: screenshot from HyperX on YouTube, licensed under Fair Use.