Nick Kyrgios has done dumb things lately and has taken plenty of heat for it—from disappointed fans, from hand-wringing commentators, and from the ATP itself via heavy fines and suspension. They’ll all be tempted to wag their fingers again after Kyrgios’s latest move: pulling out of February’s Rotterdam Open, an ATP 500 tournament, just so he can play in the NBA’s All-Star Celebrity Game, a no-stakes clusterfuck involving quasi-ballers like Justin Bieber and Kevin Hart. But those critics are misguided! Kyrgios’s decision benefits everyone involved.
It’s good for the ATP, because the tournament directors will not have to deal with a disengaged and distracted starlet wishing he was in New Orleans. It’s good for fans because they will finally get to see if Kyrgios can back up his talk about basketball, which he brings up constantly and continues to describe as his true passion even as he cracks the elite ranks of his chosen profession. Footage, though scarce, suggests that he may actually have game. He’s the one in gray swishing all the jumpers here:
And here he is getting pushed around by fellow tennis man Gael Monfils before draining a nice step-back of his own:
Scouting report: Headstrong 2-guard with a smooth jumper; handles not quite as good he suspects. Uncanny ability to finish at the rim with both hands. Prone to hero ball, flamboyant trash talk, and ill-advised fadeaways. An apt playing style for tennis’s spiritual analogue to J.R. Smith.
More seriously, Kyrgios’s tennis may benefit. We’ve seen what an overly demanding touring schedule reduces him to—abject tanking—so he’s probably better off carefully picking his spots, a right he’s earned as the world’s No. 14 ranked player. In a recent Twitter exchange, he said one of his main goals for the upcoming season was “more time off.” This is a wise, entertaining start. I pray Arne Duncan will be dishing him sweet dimes come February.