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What I Learned From Playing ‘Fortnite’ With NBA Rookie Naz Reid

Naz Reid’s rookie season with the Minnesota Timberwolves ended earlier than he’d have liked. The COVID-19 pandemic put the NBA season on hold in mid-March and gave the league’s players a lot of free time to fill. Some famously didn’t even have a basketball hoop in their driveway or apartment, and so with team facilities closed everyone did their best to stay in shape and occupy their time.

For Reid, that meant playing a lot of video games. The strategy worked both as a way to pass the hours and stay in touch with friends, and with it game a trio of games he spent the most time with. The first is pretty obvious: NBA 2K. Madden was another sports sim he put in work with, along with battle royale shooter Fortnite.

“I’ve been trying to keep my mind off the court as long as I can because lord knows everybody’s itching to get back on it,” Reid told Uproxx Gaming. “So you want to get back on it but you can’t right now, so you’re trying to find new hobbies and just stay focused and stay positive.”

Reid let us tag along with him during one of his gaming sessions back in April, and I got to virtually spend an afternoon with the Timberwolves big. Unlike my crash course into NBA 2K20, which was punctuated by getting dunked on by WNBA star Ariel Powers, we thought an afternoon on Twitch with Naz Reid should be more of a cooperative endeavor. And since I would need a lot more work on the digital court than I would in a first person shooter, we choose Fortnite.

The goal was to turn me into a respectable Duos partner, and after some technical difficulties were sorted out we got to work.

“I’m a squad guy. I really like playing with friends,” Reid told me later. “If I ever play by myself, it’s late night when I have nothing else to do and I just want to play something else.”

My goal was to follow his lead, and so we followed the same path each time: head to The Agency, get away from everyone else and start loading up on weaponry.

Fortnite

“For me, I always start in a place called the Agency. I want to get the best guns as quick as possible, in case I run into trouble,” Reid said. “And then, whatever the case may be, you may not run into as many people but at least you’ll have the guns and whatever’s happening, you can handle it.”

It’s not exactly revolutionary advice, but it’s not a stretch to apply basics when it comes to playing with a stranger like me. Fortnite is a game of survival, and in Duos you attempt to outlast teams as the game’s map gets smaller and smaller. Our strategy became pretty simple: fly down to The Agency, take out the NPC guards.

Only once did I have an extremely embarrassing incident. It actually happened right after we won our first Duos match, which perhaps gave me far too much confidence considering I only managed a single kill while Reid did all the driving and strategizing. In our second game I landed on part of The Agency’s roof where there wasn’t access to get inside the building. I tried to jump down to a better location and accidentally fell all the way to the ground level, where I was subsequently pegged by guards and killed.

Reid, the nicest competitive athlete I’ve ever encountered, didn’t seem the least bit annoyed when I did that too far away from him to revive me in time, thus causing us to be eliminated almost immediately. His instructions were very gentle and usually involved something to the effect of “there’s someone shooting at us over here” or “grab that and get on the back of this helicopter.”

I was more than willing to play second fiddle to someone that clearly has spent more time in the Fortnite universe than I have, but I did get in some decent kills and watched his back faithfully as we zipped around the map looking for enemies to eliminate.

While playing we talked about other games he frequently plays as well.

“Mainly 2K and Madden because those are the games that my friends play,” he said. I mentioned my own experience playing with NBA and WNBA stars, who get special logos next to their gamertags and garner a lot of attention on the 2K courts. Reid said he and his friends always get more attention than they’re looking for.

“They send me invites, everything. And it’s like ‘I don’t even know you,'” Reid said. “It is kinda fun, though. My friends think it’s cool so whenever we want to start up a game we can, whenever we want.”

My initial good luck seemed to run out for a while, and some matches were more fruitful than others we did manage to win two out of the half dozen or so we played. Something tells me my low ranking may have helped us when it came to matchmaking, but I’ll take the wins where I can get them.

Since we played, though, Reid has been forced to change his strategy. The Agency got blown up in an in-game event back in June, so it’s not quite the weapons haven it once was for us. With the Timberwolves stuck outside the Orlando bubble, though, it will be a long offseason of gaming while the rest of the NBA settles things in Orlando. But take it from me when I say he’ll have plenty of people willing to play with him while he waits.

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