Paul Shirley encapsulated our interests because he told it like it was. He was just another guy, but one who happened to be at the end of an NBA bench, observing all the craziness that is the league, then having the forum and willingness to write about it. Sure, he happened to have decent enough basketball skills that most of us don’t, but it was that extra insight outside of the game that intrigued a growing readership.
From his first diaries for Suns.com to his book “Can I Keep My Jersey?” to his ESPN blog My So-Called Career, Shirley brought the average dude into the NBA. Despite a cold shoulder from ESPN following his comments about the Haitian relief efforts in early 2010, Shirley has been working on writing for his website, FlipCollective, as well as contributing to Yahoo!’s ThePostGame.com blog and Spanish newspaper El PaÃs.
I caught up with Shirley to chat about just about everything, including a failed TV pilot based on his life, playing with Steve Nash and how he’s doing after calling it a basketball career.
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Dime: What have you been doing? Obviously you’ve been writing a lot, and basketball is kind of in the past, I guess?
Paul Shirley: What I tell people is that I thought of myself as a basketball player as recently as a year ago. I accepted a job in Italy. It was going to be what I had always thought would be the dream end-of-career job; it was in Verona, Italy, second division, so the pressure would be a little bit less. I thought it was going to work out well for a sort of cap of the career. As is often the case in basketball careers, it fell apart at the last second, which was probably OK. I had to have surgery on my ankle. I’m not sure playing another year on a bad ankle was a good idea.
Most people have sort of lost track of my career. I played another couple of years in Spain, got injured in a fairly catastrophic ankle break that led to three surgeries on that ankle that came after a surgery on each knee. My career went the way lots of basketball careers went. My body just started to decide that it had enough.
Dime: Do you miss it? What’s it like, just being able to look at it like, “I can’t play anymore?” That type of deal.
PS: I don’t miss it at all actually. It’s strange for me in that I don’t know that it’d feel this way if my career had ended solely because I had chosen to end it. Now I associate basketball with a lot of pain. It just makes me think of being in agony. It’s not that hard to walk away from it when the only thing that comes to mind is my body hurting.
Dime: Are you living in Kansas right now?
PS: I split my time between Kansas City and L.A. As you said, I hesitate to say I’m writing for a living and that’s a lot of fun. I don’t know that will be the way forward. I am coming to terms with the fact that I had this really sometimes positive, sometimes destructive relationship with basketball for fifteen years. It’s a lot like getting out of a divorce, a marriage that consumes your life. It takes a while to come down from that. I’m fine to all the time say to people, I don’t know what’s next or who I am just yet. I spent so much time wrapped up in basketball.