Called For Traveling
Our November issue includes an item on a new book by former Nittany Lion basketball player Tyler Smith, who spent much of his career overseas chasing a professional basketball contract. As you might guess, the extensive traveling involved in such a venture could lend itself to stories, and Smith has some pretty good ones. He detailed most of them in emails home to family and friends—having to take toilet paper to away games, playing on odd surfaces, and 30-hour bus trips one way just to get to games. It all lent itself to a pretty good outline for a book.
And so Smith compiled them all into just that: Called for Traveling: My Nomadic Life Playing Pro Basketball Around the World was released in October by Sports Publishing. “People seemed to get a kick out of the stories,” Smith said when we caught up with him by phone recently. “I loved hearing them kind of laugh through their emails.”
Smith’s LinkedIn profile tells the story. On it is a line: “Pro Basketball Player, 2002–2013.” Under locations it lists Holland, Italy, Uruguay, Argentina, Utah Jazz, NBA G-League, Japan, and Thailand. “It’s such an unorthodox lifestyle—you’re in these foreign countries, you don’t speak the language, sometimes teams don’t pay you, you’re away from everybody and everything you know,” Smith said. “People wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that happens. They think, ‘Ohh, it’s traveling the world, and living this amazing life.’ Sometimes we have some pretty cool experiences and sometimes you’re bringing your own toilet paper to away games.”
He counts playing in Holland and Italy among the better experiences he had. Then there was Argentina: “I took a 30-hour bus ride, one-way, to play a game. They brought two bus drivers because we’d just drive as long as we could until one of them had to pull over and have a smoke.”
“I played in Uruguay three times, and the first time I went down there was the most shocking because there’s 16 teams in the league, and only four of them had wooden-floor courts,” he said. “It was like some kind of concrete or a tile or I don’t even know what you call it—you’re sliding all over the place. One time we were playing a game and my point guard wasn’t running back on defense and our coach is yelling at him and he says he can’t, his shoe is stuck in the floor. There, literally, was a hole in the floor and his shoe got caught in it.”
Still, Smith considers himself lucky to have had the experiences over an 11-year playing career. But the nomadic lifestyle is still in him: Smith has spent the past four years working as a medical device sales representative, still travelling across states to consult on medical equipment and prosthetic implants.
As for the book, “You don’t have to be a hardcore basketball junkie to like this book,” he says. “There’s a little bit of everything in there. I talk about family and bringing my kids with me—that adds a whole new element of challenge to the journey—and talking about my faith. I don’t know if anybody other than the three ladies in my mom’s book club are gonna read it, but if nothing else it’ll be down on paper and I can show it to my daughters.”
B.J. Reyes, associate editor