Sunday, April 3, 2016

LozinTransit in 2015: American Roadtrip, FIBA Oceania and Asia.

<<crossposted on the 'Loz in Translation' blog

Founded in Lithuania during EuroBasket 2011, I've been documenting my search for basketball experiences on my @30HomeGames project. It became an Instagram-focused pursuit when I got my first smartphone in 2014, each day capturing a moment through the lens of basketball. Whether its snapping Basketball kicks on a Bushwalk, a jersey at a Foodie gathering or finding Hoops of the World. These daily scavenger hunts have made my adventures at home as novel as my adventures abroad, a premium placed on quirky and improbable intersections.

I started 2015 with a splash, spending 2 weeks on the US East Coast. The New York Knicks graciously hosted my friends and I at the World Famous Madison Square Garden. An auspicious start for my mission to visit all 30 NBA Cities.

In 2011 and 2013 I quit work and went on extended trips, 13 and 6 months respectively. I knew this wouldn't be the case for 2015 but continuing my FIBA (International Basketball Federation) streak would be a solid consolation. During my EuroTrip I spent a month in Lithuania as they hosted the biennial European Basketball Championship. I made sure to attend the Americas equivalent in Venezuela during my 2013 South America Trip. For 2015 I had a choice between FIBA Asia and AfroBasket. I had sights on the African tourney in Tunisia but ultimately decided against it with uncertain developments in the area. Going to Changsha, China for FIBA Asia and adding nearby Wellington and Melbourne for FIBA Oceania rounded out a worthy mission for the year.

Under the header #30HGaustralasia, the itinerary is as follows:
Aug 15 - Melbourne, Australia. FIBA Oceania Game 1
Aug 18 - Wellington, New Zealand. FIBA Oceania Game 2
Aug 22 -  Melbourne, Australia. LSU Downunder Tour
Sep 23 to Oct 3 - Changsha, China. FIBA Asia
Oct 11 - Shenzhen, China. NBA Global Games

As with previous forays into FIBA action, watching games came with a learning curve. I endeavour to watch as many of the competing Nations as possible, sourcing tickets through official channels. Regular games usually don't meet quarter capacity whilst the Host nation plays to a packed house which often means having to brave the secondary market. With FIBA Asia in Changsha, there was little choice but to deal with secondary vendors. Rather than having booths by the stadium, tickets were sold at the nearby university. A stall was set up with all the tickets emanating from a lone backpack manned by a student-type, these were snapped up by enterprising locals who tried their luck reselling them. All transactions were cash in hand which makes one wonder where the money ultimately ended up. How much you paid for tickets fluctuated with demand and the whims or mercy of the vendor, a glimpse into the negotiable markets of China.

In some ways this helped. I paid most for tickets in the beginning when I was just getting my bearings and saved money progressively. I watched all 7 Gilas Pilipinas victories paying around 100-200 RMB (AU$20-$40) for the earlier, less coveted games. Come the Playoffs as Gilas matches were incorporated into Double-Headers with the China games, we were able to ask for tickets from the departing locals who only wanted to watch their National team play. We had to compete with savvy resellers doing the same. Newcomers invariably get taken advantage of so it helps to ask around and get a lay of the land as early as possible. The fun part about these trips are always the things you stumble on and the connections you make that can only happen by being on the ground and having your feelers out.

A photo posted by 30homegames (@30homegames) on

Whilst this proved successful for watching other games, I ultimately couldn't stomach paying the high price to see the Host nation play. I departed Changsha altogether on the morning of the Philippines VS China Grand Final knowing it'd be futile trying to watch it live. Reports would later say that even Filipino Coaching staff had trouble securing tickets for the game.

This proved the same for the NBA Global Games in Shenzhen between the Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers. With tickets starting at a hefty AU$80 and ultimately selling out, I braced myself for an uphill battle. I was happy to observe the pandemonium in search for access but didn't want to risk any money by joining them, I witnessed every manner of bribery and trickery imaginable from eager travelers and locals desperate to watch the game.

Vista views: Fenghuang and Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
Ticketing aside, for me these trips are shaped by the adventures outside of basketball. Without the benefit of a rolling start and the considerable language barrier, this mission was arguably my most challenging travel experience. As South China was less frequented by Western travelers I didn't encounter many peers, on the other hand I was less concerned about falling prey to travel scams. Interestingly as China is densely populated and I'd unwittingly visited during the Golden Week Holiday, I was never very far from hordes of Chinese locals who were commuting during their short Annual window away from work. En route to my Final basketball destination in Shenzhen, I spent a week traveling through Fenghuang (Ancient Phoenix town) and Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (popularly inspiring 'Avatar'). Heavy rain and a severe dose of food poisoning put a damper on some of the days but it turned out to be some of the most scenic places I've ever visited.

The China trip gave me lessons and set expectations for AfroBasket and FIBA World Cup if I am to pursue them. Likewise for "Missions" in general. At times it can feel more like a Business trip, as previously these basketball trips were happy detours on a larger backpacking adventure I never really noticed the process before. Interestingly all my trips this year have been in the service of basketball, beginning with USA to Melbourne, New Zealand and China. I like traveling with a larger theme in mind, so its only fitting.
It's been a good year. My daily Instagram snapshots, whilst seemingly one-dimensional with its basketball theme offers a fair accounting of what I've been up to. No plans for 2016 but I've got my head up waiting for the next play.

Friday, June 26, 2015

NBA maps: Updated 2015 '30 Home Games' Facebook cover wallpapers

I've updated my Facebook covers for 2015. A slew of teams have changed their logos including Atlanta, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Toronto and the LA Clippers as well as changes for Phoenix and Washington. Enjoy!

Update: These have been optimised for best quality
NBA Map Facebook wallpaper - Ball logos
NBA Map Facebook wallpaper - City logos
NBA Map Facebook wallpaper - City listings
1) Northwest Division
Colorado | Minnesota | Oklahoma | Oregon | Utah
2) Pacific Division
Arizona | California
3) Southwest Division
New Orleans | Tennessee | Texas
4) Atlantic Division
Massachusetts | New Jersey | New York | Ontario, Canada | Pennsylvania
5) Central Division
Illinois | Indiana | Michigan | Ohio | Wisconsin
6) Southeast Division
Florida | Georgia | North Carolina | Washington DC

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Tao of Jalen and Jacoby: What to do in each City

I'm a big believer that the reason we enjoy travel is more in the spirit we carry than the destination we're at. When we're abroad, we find novelty, we are more adventurous and outgoing. We have an appreciation for our immediate surroundings. That's partly the reason I've gone on these FIBA adventures, the destination is negligible. I know that if i'm there with a pretext that excites me (basketball) I can find novelty when I'm on the ground or I'll have a blast seeking it, it's just a matter of setting expectations.

Jalen and Jacoby talk Kyrie Irving, Super Bowl and more (1/29/15) | Grantland Channel
DAVID JACOBY: I've been to every major city in the Country. Not every City is New York, where things open late and there's big parties and big Night Clubs everywhere but there's something to do in every City. Its not like Cleveland is dead. You know what I mean, there's trouble to get into if you want to get into it if you're JR Smith.
JALEN ROSE: That's not accurate. Yeah if you want to get online and do all types of things that you would do on your computer yeah that travels with you. But if you're talking about going out to Dinner, hearing music, going to lounges, clubs, speakeasies, bars
JACOBY: Its not gonna be the same as New York but they have that
ROSE: But if you're used to eating that Tao at 11 o'clock, that comes with the lifestyle [rather than]... Applebees at 7:30... there's a different infrastructure when you're in that comfort zone

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

#30HGaustralasia Plans for 2015: FIBA Oceania in Melbourne and Wellington, FIBA Asia and the NBA Global Games in China

It all started in Rotterdam when I met a Spanish fellow in a hostel who was starting a new life in the Netherlands. I saw he had a ball and told him I'd been trying to have a basketball experience in each Country I visited. He remarked "So you're going to Lithuania then?".
He was introducing me to a new world, back then I wasn't familiar with FIBA's regional, biennial tournaments. I booked flights to Lithuania that evening and have been hooked ever since.

I traveled all over Lithuania for EuroBasket '11 watching as many group games in each of the smaller towns. I made fast local friends and had memorable experiences all because the love of the game brought me there.

 #30HGeurope (2011)
 #30HGsouthamerica (2013)
Whilst my basketball journey had organically begun when I arrived in Europe months previous, I officially founded #30HomeGames in the Country's capital, Vilnius. It was my mission to have a basketball experience in each Country visited. Be it watching a local league in action or finding a pickup game. It was buildup to my ultimate goal, visiting all 30 NBA Cities in America.

In 2013 when I backpacked South America, I realised it overlapped with FIBA Americas. The host Country was Venezuela but several friends familiar with South America warned me against going. With a little trepidation I went ahead and had another great time, albeit a challenging one.

- FIBA Oceania 2015, Gm1 Melbourne, Australia (August 15)
Gm2 Wellington, New Zealand (August 18)
- FIBA Asia, Changsha 2015 (September 23 - October 3)
- NBA Global Games, Shenzhen (October 11)
With momentum behind me, I was compelled to continue my FIBA streak for 2015. Though I originally had designs for FIBA Africa, current news on the ground gave me pause for concern. I've decided on twin trips to FIBA Oceania and FIBA Asia instead. Dubbed the #Homecoming, the Oceania event promises the strongest ever Boomers squad, fielding most of our rising and established Aussie NBA stars. Going to China also gives me the opportunity to watch an International NBA Game between the Houston Rockets and the Charlotte Hornets.

As in previous trips the primary goal is to be there on the ground then see what arises. Travel and exploration is the main component of my journey so the little planning I do extends to just getting there. One difference from my previous trips is a larger emphasis on Social media. Whilst I'll still be relying on street level engagement, I'm hoping the '30 Home Games' project can facilitate connections with locals and fellow hoopsheads in my travels.

Read about my previous FIBA journeys:
- '30 Home Games' recap in Europe (2011) and South America (2013)
- Balancing Basketball and Travel in Lithuania - Part I
- Balancing Basketball and Travel in Lithuania - Part II
- My time in Caracas, Venezuela for FIBA Americas 2013

Monday, March 2, 2015

30HG Interviews: Simon Valenzuela (@dongmegatron) Aussie NBA fan, jersey collector

@dongmegatron - Simon Valenzuela, Aussie NBA fan, jersey collector
I stumbled onto Simon aka @dongmegatron's collection on Instagram and instantly geeked out. Not only did he have an impressive array of obscure NBA jerseys but better still -- was representing Australia.

I've expressed my appreciation for overlooked jerseys, having founded the #Scavenjersey campaign to encourage myself and others to snap novel basketball jerseys in the wild. Interestingly @dongmegatron found himself in my archive when I snapped his Josh Childress' Atlanta Hawks jersey at a Sydney Kings game. This was an interesting revelation days after Simon was kind enough to share his process as undoubtedly the most comprehensive collector of Australian NBA jerseys.

I unwittingly capture Simon for his Josh Childress #Scavenjersey
months before finding his @dongmegatron IG
Find my interview with Simon below and make sure you check out our entries to be ESPN's Ultimate Fan.

1) The first jersey that started the collection and the moment you decided to dedicate yourself to the cause?
I first started following BBall in 1994. My first jerseys were the ones retailing in Australia made by Starter around 1994/95. I first had Shaq and Penny black Orlando jerseys, but the first jersey I was really proud of was the Champion Blue Orlando Horace Grant jersey. Got it from Card Shaq in Parramatta and was stoked to see it in the store. It wasn't til I began part time work that I was able to start buying whatever jerseys I wanted though.

The collection really started to come about when Australian retailers began selling the Concept Sports/Steve Rolton Agencies jerseys that were licenced in Australia. This was around 2001 when they had Jordan Wizards, Kobe, Vince Raptors, KG, Iverson etc. I began buying all of those and then got into the online scene as eBay became more accessible and had much more variety and teams from Nike/Reebok / and now Adidas. Soon enough I had a jersey from each of the 30 teams, then a home/away/alternate etc.

2) What percentage of your jerseys were bought when the player was active compared to after. Could you break it down? 
In terms of the Australian NBA players, I guess a majority would have been acquired after the player was active or had changed teams. Obviously with the current crop of 7 players it's a lot easier to get the base home/away jerseys of these players. However, with the new style of Swingman it's much harder to get role players jerseys made up. Also about half of the Aussies that have played in the NBA are either retired or playing overseas, so all of them I've had to source after they were active.

a) Arena and Team store buys (current, physical)
Went to USA for my 30th and went to 6 different arenas, so bought a jersey at each one. But obviously a very small portion as I don't have access.

b) Auctions, outlets (after, physical)
Meigray for Game Worn jerseys. Bought a few different ones in the last few years. Game worn Mills and Baynes NBA Finals jerseys, Baynes Latin Nights jersey, Baynes Christmas jersey, Dave Andersen jerseys, Mills opening day Championship commemoration jersey and the recent Bogut/Delly/Bairstow Christmas jerseys. Still a small percentage.

c) Online retailers (current, online)
Over the years I've bought a decent amount from online retailers. NBA.com when it was easier in the past, FansEdge, Fanzz, etc. but prices are high and the ones they sell are generally also available on eBay so these days I don't do retail too often.

d) eBay (after, online)
Majority off eBay. Sellers are much more likely to ship to Australia. Steady supply of blank jerseys which is great for making Aussie players. Prices are much cheaper, especially for players not with that team any more (fullmoonjerseys sells cheap Swingmans) as well as plenty of sellers selling authentic jerseys much lower than the $300 retail.

VIDEO: Australia's Biggest NBA Fan presented by ESPN  
This is Simon's submission for the 'ESPN Ultimate Fan' competition. 
Find his entry here and make sure to upvote it. (Entries close March 15, 2015)

3) Where do you stand on counterfeits and the ability to customize jerseys with "Insert name" services? 
I'm against counterfeits especially the ones you see at Paddy's Markets etc that are so obvious. There's some very high quality fakes online which are much harder to spot, and they're not so bad. I think replica screen prints are absolute garbage. The Reebok/Adidas ones are so cheap looking, have huge wide shoulders which make the dimensions look square.

In terms of customising, I'm all for it. That's how most of my Aussie jerseys have been able to be made, by buying blanks or stripping other players jerseys. This has been a godsend, as NBA.com is quite a headache (shipping so overpriced/don't ship custom jerseys to AUS/limited range of customisable jerseys). This is more evident now a days when teams have all these commemorative jerseys eg. Christmas Day / Spurs Military/Warr iors Chinese New Year where they only sell the star players jerseys. In the past it wasn't so bad, as I could strip the stitching on a Swingman and get it customised but now the 2015 jerseys are heat pressed and I'm not sure they can be removed with any amount of ease.

4) Have any of the players ever reached out to you about your collection? 
A few have. Mark Bradtke sent me a DM on Twitter, and I've seen plenty of ex NBA guys at NBL arenas or Boomers events (Schenscher/Heal) or (Jawai/Patty Mills/Dave Andersen) and they've all commented on the jerseys and often told a story or two.

5) If you were to start another collection now, i.e collecting jerseys of every NBA player from Lithuania, would it be possible? How crucial is timing and getting a headstart? 
It helps but I have only really been making an effort to collect Australian players the last 5 or 6 years. I think it'll be harder now if you're going for era authenticity as the NBA logo is now on the back of the jersey etc, so current custom swingman jerseys won't be consistent with players prior to this season. But many of the jerseys I've made eg. Longley Timberwolves have had to be customised jerseys (strip name and number off Laettner) and sent to this tailor in the US who does a very good job. So it can still be done but depending how far back you want to go, it obviously gets harder. But using your example it'd be quite easy to find an old Rasheed Wallace Portland swingman and turn it into a Sabonis, a Tim Hardaway or Chris Mullin. A Warriors Hardwood Classics jersey into a Sarunas Marciulionis, so it's not impossible. Just need to know the right place to get the custom name/number sewn on.

6) Talk about the process and rewards. Describe the thrill of the chase to those non-collectors out there. Any "ones that go away"? 
There's always ones that got away. In the last year or so there was a Game-worn Anstey Bulls and a Longley Suns jerseys that went for only a couple of hundred bucks but as with any hobby there's always a thrill in collecting. You learn to recognise the rarer types of jerseys and appreciate someone else's collection. And by posting my pics on Instagram now I see how many other people out there like the same thing.


7) What is your all-time holy grail? What's your prized possession. Any preferences as far as manufacturers and eras?
I love the Patty Mills finals game worn jersey. It has a place in history and it also fits me so I can wear it in public. Also Horace Grant was the first player I began collecting so I have plenty of game worn Orlando/Lakers jerseys as well as some hard to find ones like Authentic Bulls, Authentic '94 All-Star and Authentic Sonics jerseys. But the era I probably like the most is around the '95-99 era, when champion used a lot of the tie-dye or whatever it was to ink the logos in the jersey. Ones like the pistons horse head, Hawks Mutombo style, Sonics finals, Rockets Pippen types. Brings back that nostalgic feeling of when I was younger and never had access to these jerseys.

8) Any Jersey collections you look up to or would like to mention?
The way I began getting them customised was when I bought a Sonics blank jersey off eBay and the seller was able to make it into a Horace. After that I kept in contact and found out he could do it to many jerseys, as he had access to old champion materials and had a good tailor that did a professional job. His name is Jersey Jim and I popped into his place in Fresno California when I was in the States. This dude has one of the most impressive NBA game worn jersey collections in the world. Thousands of jerseys, I could've spent all day there. He obviously has contacts in the league to allow him to get such good gear.

9) Do you have collector peers? Is there a scene, how can someone get involved in it? 
Not really into any scene as such, I'm not aware of any. My friends and I all have an abnormally large amount of jerseys, but that's about it. I've come across some nice collections on Instagram, but I'm very new to the app.

Follow Simon on Instagram - @dongmegatron
Vote on ESPN and send Simon to LA - Australia's Biggest Fan

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Part of the reason I started #30HomeGames was not only to share my love for the game but to find likeminded people who shared the same passion and interest. It's been an ethos that has served me well in my travels, bonding through sport and connecting with fellow fans even when language and being an outsider proved a barrier. This connection has been an example of that, the mutual appreciation and willingness to share tricks of the trade to a fellow fan
Realising @dongmegratron and I had already crossed paths says a lot about the Court Vision #UltimateNBAfans share.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

#30HomeGames in 2015: USA Roadtrip and being the Ultimate NBA fan

<< crossposted on the 'Loz in Translation' blog

One of the primary reasons I created 'Loz in Transit' and its offshoot blogs was because I enjoyed having an undertaking that fostered life experiences. Since becoming a "content seeker" for these projects I feel more connected, inspired and proactive. Even though I've recently returned from a short USA trip, activity on my travel blog has been sparse as nearly all my focus has shifted to my basketball mission. In particular the @30HomeGames Instagram which I update daily and consumes most of my waking thoughts.

We embarked on the maiden #30HGroadtrip to the snowy US East Coast, cruising from New York to Cleveland by SUV. I had a Fairytale in New York as the Knicks graciously hosted @30HomeGames to pregame access at Madison Square Garden aka "The World's Most Famous Arena". We also sat Courtside behind the Player's bench in Philly and capped it off watching this Generation's greatest player, homecoming King LeBron playing in Cleveland.


At this stage, my growing obsession for Instagram has me viewing the world through a square, basketball-themed prism. The shift largely precipitated by my new life as a Smartphone user, its been 7 months now. A lot of the inspiration and insight which filled these pages came to me during quiet moments of reflection traveling Europe and South America. I didn't have a camera for the majority of my travels but on the occasions I did I realised it made me neglect writing. The Smartphone has made this worse tenfold, conversely Gramming has helped me develop a more economical way of storytelling.

There's a lot in store for '30 Home Games' in 2015 so stay tuned.
I have an interview with a diehard Australian jersey collector coming. I'm also campaigning to be the 'ESPN Ultimate Fan' so please show your support. As its an 'even' year, FIBA basketball returns. I'll be contemplating whether to continue my streak having already attended EuroBasket '11 and FIBA Americas '13. I have a choice between a mid year trip to either Asia or Africa. #AfroBasket2015 hosted by Tunisia between August 19 to 30 or FIBA Asia in Changsha, China from September 23 to October 3.

- FIBA Africa, Tunisia 2015 (August 19-30)
- FIBA Asia, Changsha 2015 (September 23 - October 3)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Coolspotting: 30HG '2015 NBA RoadTrip' Champagne and Campaign spots (2 of 2)

It'll be interesting negotiating the trip with 3 other people with various interests. I'll have a fellow running mate who's also a Hoops and HipHop head, a Buffet enthusiast and a foodie. Personally I enjoy exploring subcultures and supporting local scenes, from wrestling, Punk & HipHop to Comedy. It's something I seek at home and in my travels, in some cases it overlaps with my love for Basketball. We'll be working together to tick off our collective to-do lists as we explore each neighborhood.

The '30 Home Games' Inside/Outside game
We come for the Basketball, we stay for the Culture
Our local contact in New York will be particularly handy, especially for finding local parks to ball in. One of the first things he did after relocating from Sydney was to find a local Hoops league in Manhattan. I'm not a stellar player and haven't had to face tough competition in my travels. Basketball has not been widely played in many Countries I've visited, relative to National Sports like Soccer and certainly its popularity in the States. I'll need to improve my game in the months leading up to the North America trip.
- 30HG NBA Destinations: WrestleMania 29 and Indy Wrestling
- 30HG Destination Spotlight: Finding Comedy in the NBA Cities

- NBA Cities: Eastern Conference
- 30HG mission: Atlantic Division map (Brooklyn, New York, Philadelphia)
- 30HG mission: Central Division map (Chicago, Cleveland)

Below are the many places of interest in the respective NBA cities:

2015 NBA RoadTrip: New York
NEW YORK
New York Knicks
Madison Square Garden 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, 
New York, New York 10001 
Comedy
TimeOut New York Comedy listings:
Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre
Comedy Cellar
Gotham Comedy Club
Carolines on Broadway
- Whiplash [UCB Theatre]
- Cake Shop

Streetwear
- Billionaire Boys Club/BBC Bee Line
- Kith
- ONLY NY
- Staple
- Supreme

Wrestling
2CW Wrestling
- Empire State Wrestling
- Family Wrestling Entertainment
- House of Hardcore
- Warriors of Wrestling

Others
- 'Book of Mormon' on Broadway
I'm New Here--Can You Show Me Around? (Jon Ronson and Maeve Higgins @Union Hall)

BROOKLYN & NEW JERSEY
Brooklyn Nets 
Barclays Center 620 Atlantic Ave, 
Brooklyn New York 11217 

Other 
- Jay & Silent Bob's Secret Stash

2015 NBA RoadTrip: Philadelphia
#NBAPostcards Philly Roadtrip variant
PHILADELPHIA
Philadelphia 76ers
Wachovia Center 3601 S Broad St, 
Philadelphia, PA 19148

Music

Wrestling
- Combat Zone Wrestling
- Dragon Gate USA Pro-Wrestling
- Extreme Rising
- Keystone Championship Wrestling
- Women's Erotic Wrestling

2015 NBA RoadTrip: Cleveland
CLEVELAND
Cleveland Cavaliers
Quicken Loans Arena 1 Center Ct, 
Cleveland, OH 44115

Comedy
- Cleveland Improv
- Pickwick & Frolic Restaurant and Club [Hilarities]

Music
- The Grog Shop
- House of Blues

Wrestling
- Mega Championship Wrestling

Other
- The Flats

2015 NBA RoadTrip: Chicago
#NBAPostcards Chi-Town roadtrip variant
CHICAGO
Chicago Bulls 
United Center 1901 W. Madison St 
Chicago, Illinois 

Eats
- Garrett Popcorn Shops

Comedy
TimeOut Chicago Comedy listings
- iO Improv Olympic
- Chicago Laugh Factory
Second City
- Zanies Comedy Nightclub

Find my Eastern Conference to-do list here:
- Coolspotting: 30HG '2015 NBA RoadTrip' Tip-off and Schedule (1 of 2)
- Coolspotting: 30HG '2015 NBA RoadTrip' Champagne and Campaign spots (2 of 2)
- Champagning and Campaigning in the NBA Cities: Eastern Conference edition
- Find other Coolspotting and Subculture posts here