MBAs: Masters of Baller Ambitions

Basketball is not just my favorite sport or form of exercise.  It’s my favorite… everything.  If I have a chance to watch TV, I’m finding whichever NBA game is on.  If I’m listening to a podcast, it better be one analyzing the previous night’s games that I watched.  And if I’m surfing the internet, my browser history is littered with ESPN, HoopsHype, Basketball Reference, and any other site you haven’t heard of.

I remember as I was preparing for my interview at Booth in November 2014 (wow that was a while ago…), I was reading through the classes and clubs offered, making mental notes of which ones to excitedly bring up.  Sure, there was Quantitative Investment (didn’t take it) and the Analytics Club (didn’t join it), but when I read up a little more about the Booth Basketball Club, I was captivated.

A whole new network of people to play with and talk shop with was one thing, but a particular line caught my attention more than anything I had read thus far:

An opportunity to play at the United Center against the Kellogg Graduate School of Management and to take part in the Georgetown national tournament that gathers together up to 25 other top MBA programs.

That’s really damn cool!! Play on the same court once graced by Michael Jordan?  Wear real uniforms for the first time since high school?  Lace ‘em up vs. Harvard, Wharton, Fuqua, and more?  Sign me up!

Last month, I got a chance to participate in both the Georgetown MBA Tournament as well as the ‘Running With The Bulls’ event vs. Kellogg and it was exactly what I expected; a ton of adrenaline for being back in a competitive environment, a chance to play with the words ‘Chicago Booth’ across my chest, and most of all, abundant fatigue, frequent leg cramps, and the unavoidable march towards the realization that my playing days are well behind me.

So lets break each one down the only way I know how; a photo diary.

Georgetown MBA Tournament
For me personally, as a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. metro region, I was very excited to take on the city with a number of close friends from Booth.  We had great representation at the tournament; one of two schools that had two full rosters of players.  I’ve included the full squad photo below so I can avoid having to admit which team I was placed on.  You can put your coaching hat on and sort this group yourself:  

Day 1 of the tournament was exciting and exhausting.  There were 14 teams in all, and each Booth squad had to navigate its way through pool play in an attempt to qualify for the knockout round the following day.  Because of the exceptional athleticism that is on display above, that was no problem.  We were proud to represent 25% of the eight teams in the quarterfinals.

The mantra throughout the tournament was a commitment to defense, and that really comes through when you see my defensive stance in this picture below (#12).  I’m basically violating all the rules they teach you as a kid, but I think the guy missed his shot anyways:

Booth Team 1 really turned it up a notch when the bright lights came on. Buzzer beaters, comebacks, and all the rest were included in its march to the finals.  Ultimately, our team fell short vs. Harvard but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.  Sometimes, it’s just not your day.

But look how high our star player, Victor Ojeleye (#24) got up on this jump ball!

Running With The Bulls
So to my understanding, Kellogg had beaten us the last few years and if we extend it past recent history, had beaten us the few years before that.  So as second years, we really wanted to go all out to get the win.  As I mentioned above, the game takes place at the United Center and on this night preceded the Chicago Bulls vs. the Denver Nuggets.  Our game is played at a frenetic pace with no refs and no rules, so it’s exactly what you want to be doing in front of 15,000 people who are probably not paying attention.  Nonetheless, we had our fans decked out in maroon and rooting hard for our triumph.

Here’s an in game shot that captures the essence of the competition with the Bulls championship banners hanging in the distance:

A few immediate observations I had when I took the court included:

  1. The court is larger than you can ever imagine.  One trip down and back and I almost had to call for a stretcher.
  2. The seats behind the basket make accurate depth perception an impossibility.  The strategy was just to throw it up and pray.
  3. It’s very hard to concentrate when being heckled by fans.  It’s the main reason I didn’t attempt a dunk in game.

The game was close and competitive and Booth ultimately prevailed by two!  But the important lesson here, kids, is that sportsmanship is key.  I’ve included visuals of a civic handshake line following the game as proof:

Within a span of 10 days, two of my dreams upon arriving at Booth were fulfilled.  As a basketball junkie, I can’t ask for much more than that.  Now excuse me as I go ice both knees.

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