Ryan Hollins is a 10-year NBA veteran center currently playing for a Spanish League team in the Canary Islands. It’s his first stint overseas. BJ & Bucher caught up with him to find out how he made the decision to go overseas, how the current U.S. political climate appears from outside the country and how basketball in Spain compares to playing in the NBA.
BJ&B: How different is playing in the Canary Islands vs. the NBA?
Hollins: Now, I step into games a lot more relaxed because the competition isn’t the same. The game (in Spain) isn’t based on athleticism and physicality the way it is in the NBA. Team concepts also override individual performance with my team. There are so many other differences that, I’ve learned it’s best to roll with a lot of things rather than asking a lot of questions or holding onto old expectations. I miss my family, and playing in front of friends and family every game.
BJ&B: What in the international game would you like to see in the NBA?
Hollins: The team aspect, where if a guy is open he gets the ball. Offense over here works like this: whatever coverage the other team is in, the players are supposed to react as a team, rather than one guy working to get his numbers. But, there’s also a fine line because I also believe in the NBA approach where, whenever there’s a favorable matchup, you have to abuse it. I love the passion from the fans here; they are so wild at times it almost looks like a soccer match. They’re blowing horns, screaming and I’ve even heard of fans throwing objects on the court. I also like how hard the players play here, but you have to realize there’s more subbing going on, there are only two games a week and it’s a basketball culture that doesn’t know any better.
— Liga Endesa (@ACBCOM) March 6, 2017
BJ&B: What has the effect of the U.S. travel ban been on teams over there?
Hollins: I think Trump, in general, has scared all of us. The people of the world can see the uncertain future of the United States. It’s very concerning. Everyone knows someone who is an immigrant. The United States was built on immigration.
BJ&B: For a player who has been able to land NBA contracts in part by staying ready stateside, what’s the thought process when it comes to finally going overseas?
Hollins: You take a step back from yourself and really evaluate what’s best for yourself, and your family. I could not lose sight of the ultimate goal, and that is to not just be happy but, to make the most money possible while playing. When November hit and no calls came in from the NBA, I knew it was time to look elsewhere.
BJ&B: How did you wind up playing in the Canary Islands of all places?
Hollins: My agent called and let me know that Gran Canaria needed a center so, I gave him the green light and he negotiated the deal. Everything that I heard about the island and league was positive.
BJ&B: What was it like when you first arrived there and thought, ‘This is where my basketball career has taken me’?
Hollins: I can say that this experience, and leading up to it, has been like no other. I have felt an array of emotions from joy, anxiety, frustration, to pure bliss. There’s nothing like waiting for a new job; or even bigger, a new place to live! It’s like the first day of school on steroids. Coming from the NBA and knowing that I cannot just still play, and (knowing) I have my health and a wealth of knowledge that I didn’t have in my 20’s, kills me. I know I’m better than half the (NBA) centers with jobs right now. All of that, while sitting out on the beach enjoying a full course meal. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this what life is really supposed to be like?”