Nine years ago, as a freshman in college, I found out about Michael Jordan’s Flight School, a summer youth basketball camp that took place at UC Santa Barbara, hosted by none other than God himself. Despite being over-age (18 or high school senior), I managed to finagle my way into the camp. My roommate was none other than the hilariously ridiculous Javale McGee. Yeah, he was a riot even back then as a 17 year old kid. I of course rolled my ankle on the first day of camp, and ended up with Michael Jordan giving me a hug and chatting about my pitiable state on crutches. It was the greatest moment of my life. It was while researching this camp though, that I found out about the Michael Jordan Senior Flight School – a fantasy camp that took place in Vegas each year for rich dudes who were 35 and older. You basically spend 4 days at the MGM Grand in Vegas, drinking with Jordan, playing golf, and of course hoopin. The price tag? A cool $15K. At 18, I could never fathom the idea of spending that kind of scratch on 4 days of playing basketball.
If I can get MJ to do his Fantasy Camp 1 more time, I can be the only person to do both the Junior and Senior Flight Schools. Come on MJ!
Fast forward to 2012 and I’m invited to John Calipari’s Fantasy Camp to help film and break down the videos of the games for the campers. I can’t participate of course since I’m 10 years too young, but I get to do all the non-basketball activities, and I am in love. I immediately start bugging the organizers to let me play and of course I get shot down. They don’t want some young kid coming in and running the court they say.
After 2 years of lobbying, the organizers finally hold a vote and a month ago, they agree to let me in to one camp this year to see how it goes. That camp is the Bill Self Fantasy Camp held in Lawrence, KS. I am ecstatic, and immediately call a bunch of my friends to see who else wants to come with me. I manage to get one man interested, but of course his wife needs to approve he says. I assume there’s no way this is happening.
His first attempt is to use reverse psychology. He assumes that by saying he doesn’t want to go, she’s going to feel bad and tell him to go. The conversation goes something like this:
“Babe, I thought about it and fuck it, I’m not gonna even think about going to this fantasy camp dream of mine. We’re thinking about kids and stuff, I just can’t feel good about spending $5K on a basketball camp”.
Wait for it…hoping she comes back with a “really? You should do it, you only get to live once” kind of comment.
She just says “really? I thought you were totally gonna try to go, but okay.”
Attempt number 2 is more complex. This requires an entire presentation followed by a Q&A session. A lot of preparation goes into this. Here is my buddy’s thought process:
- In order for me to go, there are 2 things I need to clear here:
- How I can make this make sense financially
- How I can reason to make sense of spending that much on a basketball camp for myself nonetheless
- #1 is easy – make a deal with the devil essentially
- being the main breadwinner of the household, whilst we split all income evenly, any performance bonuses that we don’t count on I get 20% of straight cash. The 80% goes split back into whatever ventures we have going on together. I have offered to forego this 20% for life, meaning odds are, we pay for the $2500 I am requesting from our joint funds to be donated to me for the camp back within the next bonus.
- The remaining $2500 I decide I will loan from joint funds and pay us back within 12 months. In fact, to show how serious I am, even go to the direct deposit page of my company and add a fourth direct deposit (there are currently 3 – allowance for me, allowance for her, and remaining to go into joint). This fourth direct deposit is taken from my allowance in the amount of $2500 divided by 26 paychecks. Done. By the way, her allowance is more than mine because women cost more and have more hygiene requirements…allegedly.
- #2 is trickier – convince her that it is worth making this deal at all because of the value it will carry.
- not easy to do for someone who doesn’t give a shit about sports.
- not easy to do when you consider what $5K gets you as a couple:
- a trip to Paris we were planning on but had to cancel, yikes.
- a trip to Italy we were planning on but had to push back, ouch.
- furniture: still need a new couch, a new bed, a lot of pictures and frames.
- college: it’s a decent start for a college 529 plan or something for our future kid.
- 2 1/2 months of child chare in the books for when we have a kid
- so I go with the bucket list approach that every guy should pull out in their darkest hour…if your woman loves you, this should work no doubt. Here’s how it works.
- you have to show a literal, actual, physical bucket list
- it has to be handwritten on a notes page so it seems nostalgic, the older and more folded up the better
- if you actually have some things crossed off, it is more convincing because she can see you’re making progress and support you
- let her know this list was created when you were b/w ages 14-20
- reference a couple stories where young people have died or are really sick or something (sorry)
- encourage her to have her own bucket list
- it’s even better if she was there for a couple of those bucket list items
- the list should be well thought out, feasible, and not too long. The more authentic, the more convincing it will be.
- Denver Broncos Home AFC Championship Game (complete)
- Camping in Yosemite with a Hot Girl (complete, with her! double bonus)
- Basketball Fantasy Camp
- Coach High School Basketball
- Golf at Pebble Beach
- Chicago Bulls Finals Home Game
- Trip to Pyramids of Egypt
- Salmon Fishing in Alaska
- Eat Black Bean Sauce Noodles in Korea
- Watch Rachmaninov Concerto No. 3 Live
- Watch Carmina Buran Live (complete, with her! double bonus)
2 weeks before camp he calls me and says he is in.
Holy shit, I can’t believe his shit worked. This is going to be EPIC!
It’s the night before camp and I cannot sleep. I am so excited. The last time I was this excited and couldn’t sleep, this happened. I finally fall asleep around 4am, only to wake up at 5:15 to get ready for my flight from LGA to MCI. My longtime friend and fellow fantasy camper, Garry Munson is on the same flight, and we both get upgraded to first class, and of course we are sitting next to each other. Garry is 70 years old and has about 50 years worth of incredible basketball stories from his lifetime. As a result, instead of sleeping, I end up listening to Garry ramble on about how his Cornell team beat Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange sometime around the Second World War.
We land in Kansas City, and I head to a local restaurant to meet up with a fellow entrepreneur who has developed a virtual reality training platform for football players. It’s my first time wearing an Oculus Rift, and I never in a million years would have imagined it would be in Kansas! Turns out the entrepreneur used to be a student manager for Bill Self at Kansas, and we laugh at what a small world it is.
Lunch goes on for much too long and I have to rush to Lawrence for the start of the camp. I get to the hotel with an hour and a half to spare before check in at Allen Fieldhouse, and so I catch a quick 45 minute nap. I wake up feeling like crap but there’s no time to complain, it’s time to play basketball.
Welcome basket at the hotel. I’m gonna need that gatorade for sure.
Allen Fieldhouse is absolutely magnificent. One of the most beautiful gyms in the country – I can only imagine what it’s like when it’s a packed house for a Big 12 game. I am led to the locker room where I have Tarik Black’s locker for the next couple of days. My jersey is hanging in the locker, along with a bag filled with Kansas gear. Apparently I didn’t need to pack the giant suitcase that I brought with me.
I could get used to this
Camp officially starts tomorrow, but today is a special event for the people who came in via the Captain’s Club package. We are playing a little 3 on 3 tournament with some of the coaching staff, and then going to a private dinner with Coach Self at a restaurant called the Yacht Club. Coach Self comes out and introduces himself to the group. He’s clearly been prepped because he knows my name. You hear Self talk for 2 minutes and you instantly love the guy. I had never met him before, and his personality on TV came across as not very likable to me. 5 minutes into camp I find myself rooting for the guy and screaming “ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK”.
Can’t even imagine how amazing this place is when it’s packed with screaming fans
My team is pretty awful – we have a 76 year old man named “Sweet” Lou who, God bless his soul, really shouldn’t still be playing in a 3 on 3 tournament. But he’s a talker, and I enjoy hearing some of his stories. Not so much his three point shots off one leg that don’t go anywhere near the rim. We lose all 3 of our games and we are eliminated early. Usually I’d be mad, but hey, this is a fantasy camp and it’s just a stupid 3 on 3 contest, so I let it go. Also, I am in awe of Sweet Lou – there’s no way I’m going to be half the player he is when I am 76. Heck I’d be lucky to even make it to 76. I head back to the locker room and drop my gear off – the managers are going to do our laundry for tomorrow. Man, this is the life.
Off we go to the Yacht Club where the entire restaurant has been booked out for us. The waitresses are smoking hot, and the entire Kansas staff is there, along with some guests and the Captains Club campers. Great food, great company, and Coach Self is just a phenomenal guy to be at a bar with. The shots keep coming, the girls are talkative, and I’m having the time of my life. The drink of the night is a “wet pussy”. At about 1:30am, Coach Self is heading back home and he sees me walking towards my car. He goes, “Are you sure you’re okay to drive? I saw you have a couple of wet pussies tonight.” My life is now complete, and I can die in peace.
Never thought I’d say this, but wet pussies are disgusting
The next morning we have an early wake up call as the Captain’s Club challenge is set to begin at 10am. I warm up for an hour, and it turns out the challenge is a speed free throw shooting contest against all the campers, the staff, and Coach Self himself. In my first round, I finished with 22 shots in 60 seconds. I was in first place going into the finals – Coach Self had 18. Dan Feldstein, a long time fantasy camper had 20.
We go to the final round, and Feldstein and I both tie for 20. Now we have to go to a 30 second tie breaker, and I am on fire. I finish with 16 in 30 seconds and win the Captain’s Club Challenge – Coach Self gives me props and then I receive an actual piece of the Naismith Floor. Unreal. The real camp hasn’t even started yet, and I’m already holding a piece of history in my hands.
A piece of a very historic floor
The rest of the campers arrive that afternoon and the first event of the actual camp is the evaluation game for all freshmen. Unfortunately, I qualify for this game since I’ve never been to a fantasy camp before and nobody knows what to expect. I do my job as a point guard – I push the ball, don’t turn it over, make the right passes, and put in a few points where necessary. It’s also great to get some extra run time on the Naismith Court since I haven’t really played on a regulation sized court in years. All the coaches are watching the evaluation game and making notes, because right after they game is the draft.
While the coaches are in the draft room, we are at the 3 point and dunk contest. Everyone takes part in the 3 point contest and despite high expectations for me given that I won the shooting contest earlier, it turns out that 3 point shooting is about quality, not quantity – unlike my strategy for the free throw contest. I suck and am eliminated immediately. I think about entering the dunk contest since the rim has been lowered to 9 feet, but I see a guy roll his ankle trying a warm up dunk and think better of it. Two of the guys in the dunk contest are actually pretty damn impressive and what I thought would end up being a layup line, actually turns into a fun time.
How cool is it that there’s media that writes up stories?
The draft picks are in, and we head to the auditorium to have Coach Self introduce the teams. It turns out I am a first round pick for Team Piece, coached by Dino Gaudio, the former Wake Forest Head Coach, who took Wake to a #1 ranking at some point in his career. I am stoked – I know Coach Gaudio takes fantasy camp really seriously from watching him at Kentucky camp.
First round pick baby!
Each of the teams gets a couple of current Kansas players as team managers. We have Wayne Selden and Conner Frankamp. Selden is pretty much guaranteed to be a lottery pick next year, and here he is, about to fetch my towels and gatorade in between games. Self gives us a little pep talk about treating our managers like crap so that they understand how badly they treat their managers. I’m looking forward to this more and more.
3 out of the 4 teams are really good. One of them is god awful, and I feel pretty bad for them – they are unlikely to win a single game all weekend after paying a shit load of money. But let’s see how things shake out.
We head to the practice courts to work on some half court sets and out of bounds plays with our team. I’m fairly certain nobody on my team is going to be able to run a single play (myself included). We struggle through practice, but everyone feels good going into the first game. We are up against Ric Elias (a fantasy camp lifer) and Pete Carr (arguably the best guard in the camp). Team Pierce vs Team Chamberlain. They are being coached by the great Jerry Wainwright.
The teams are fairly evenly matched and I am doing a good job holding Pete Carr scoreless, but I’m missing pretty much every shot I take on the offensive end. Still, it’s a good back and forth game, until the second half when they go on a big run and are up 11 with just a few minutes to go. We fight back and hit a big 3 to tie the game with under a minute to go. The game goes to OT, and I finally start playing my style of basketball. I finish with 7 points all in OT, and we pull off a 1 point win. We’re off to a killer start.
Hey mom! I got my picture in the paper!
That night we head to Bill Self’s house (which is freaking enormous) for dinner, drinks, and an all-round good time. Coach Self is the ultimate host – he’s absolutely awesome. Really makes you feel welcome in his house, and on his team. I have a fantastic time watching the NBA Playoffs in his pool house. I’m not gonna lie – I took a dump in Bill Self’s bathroom. That’s a story for the grandkids.
Thanks for the $1000 discount, Citicards!
We have an early start on Saturday morning with a game against Team Manning, led my 2 more fantasy camp lifers, Dan Feldstein and Michael Hawk. Once again, I don’t have a great game, and we end up losing by 2 points. We are disappointed but we feel like we could have won this game easily, if not for a bunch of missed layups and turnovers.
Hey ma! I’m in the paper again!
After lunch we head to film session where Coach Self first walks us through stuff they do at Kansas, and then we break into our own teams to review film from our first couple of games. Coach harps on the fact that I like to stand at the three point line and ball watch instead of getting in the paint and trying to grab a board. I was always taught as a guard to stand back in case the other team decides to get out on a fast break, but I see what he’s saying. I also decide I don’t have the energy to go after every board, which is why I enjoy the view from beyond the arc. We add a couple of new plays to our repertoire and then head to Allen Fieldhouse for our second game of the day, against the winless Team Chalmers.
What the fuck are you guys doing out there?! #FilmSession
I don’t know what evaluation game the coaches were watching, but they really got screwed in the draft. The team is pretty undermanned and the 10 point loss looks much better for them than it really is. We control the game from the tip and Coach Self comes up to me after to say he was watching and I was on a roll. I tell him I’ve still got 3 years of eligibility left incase he has any scholarships he wants to give out. The best part of winning a game at camp is that you get to do a press conference, where I had some choice words for the refs.
I said even Joey Crawford did a better job in the post season than these refs
Unfortunately, even with our win, we are now in a 3 way tie for first place in the playoffs, and by virtue of the total point tie-breaker rule, we end up with the 2nd seed, while Team Chamberlain who we beat by 1 in OT, has the first seed. They have the option of choosing the early game on Sunday morning or the late game, which means they would be playing back to back if they win for the championship. They pick the latter, which means we have an 8:45am tip the next morning. Goddamn it.
That night, we all head to the salty iguana, a surprisingly good Mexican restaurant, where we have booked out a large section for our group. Coach Self hosts an award ceremony and an auction, where they end up raising about $100K by selling things like courtside seats to an OKC game with Coach Self sitting with you. My friend Garry Munson is honored with a lifetime achievement award – this is his 40th fantasy camp. Must be nice to have a quarter mill to spend on basketball. I get it though – if I make it as big as Garry, this is definitely what I will be spending my money on. Coach Wainwright is chosen to speak on behalf of the coaches and this dude is a straight up comedian. Nobody can stop laughing through his entire speech. I call it an early night since we are playing in the early game and I plan to be up by 6:30 to let me body wake up.
The semi final game at Allen Fieldhouse is nothing like our first game against Team Manning. We take control right from the start, and for the first time all camp, I am assertive on offense. We go up by 15 at one point, and we are feeling pretty good about ourselves. With 2 minutes to go in the game, we are up by 11, and we are starting to take it a little easy. Of course, you can guess what happened next. Slowly they start chipping away at the lead, and we start throwing the ball away. With 4 seconds left, they have the ball under our basket and are down 3. Somehow Andy Orton gets a clean look from about 40 feet out, and of course the minute the ball left his hands, I knew it was going in. It had to go in. 10 seconds later, Andy is running around Allen Fieldhouse with his shirt off, while we are back in the huddle, stunned. Our mood is positive though, and we get back on the court for overtime, resolved to put these showboaters in their place. We come out strong and manage to win the game by 4. I have my best game of the camp, finishing with 16 points, 10 – 10 from the free throw line.
We now have an hour and a half to wait for Team Chamberlain to finish their semi-final game, and meet us for the finals. The bad news is that I rolled my ankle really badly in the first quarter of the semi-finals but kept playing. At this point I am struggling to walk. I head to the training room and get wrapped up so tight, I feel like I have a cast on. By the time the championship game starts, my right leg is hurting like hell, but I tell myself it’ll all be over in 32 minutes.
God bless the training staff. And ice packs. And Motrin.
Clearly both teams are suffering from fatigue and the game starts off slow and sloppy. And it stays that way. I literally cannot get anything to fall – easy shots in the paint that I can make in my sleep are all hitting the inside edge of the rim. One of my free throws actually hits the top of the backboard and goes in. That’s when you know you’re not feeling it. We go down big and fight back, but unlike the first game, we’re unable to put it away. When the final buzzer sounds, we are down 3. Dejected, we head back to the bench, while Team Chamberlain dances around in a circle. One shining moment plays on the loud speaker, and I watch the other team cut down the nets at Allen Fieldhouse.
I’m disappointed, but also excited as it dawns on me that I’ve officially caught the fantasy camp bug – I was apprehensive about whether this camp was going to be fun, and whether the competition was actually going to be good enough, but I was exhausted and exhilarated by the end of it. I realized that if not for the 2 ibuprofens every 4 hours, I probably wouldn’t have even made it this far. This was some pretty good basketball and a weekend that I would remember for the rest of my life.
Next year, I’ll be up on that ladder. Not 1, not 2, not 3 …. well, maybe if I win the lottery.
I’m putting all you fantasy campers on notice – I will be back for a championship. I will cut down nets with one shining moment playing if it’s the last thing I ever do!
Oh, and of course we had all the games broken down on Krossover. Here’s my highlight reel from the weekend: http://www.krossover.com/intelligence/shared/536f9086d2844