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Nate Ryan | San Antonio Spurs Reporter, KENS 5

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July 10, 2023 5:56 am

Nate Ryan | San Antonio Spurs Reporter, KENS 5

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July 10, 2023 5:56 am

 San Antonio Spurs Reporter Nate Ryan of KENS 5 joins the show fresh from Las Vegas Summer League to recap the debut of Victor Wembanyama, the Spurs moving forward, & even how he covered the incident with Britney Spears.


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That's slash positive. Being a baseball play-by-play broadcaster demands a blend of learned mechanics, intense preparation, and a calm sense of entertainment. How hard is it to do this job?

Let's talk to the ones who do it. This is Matt Spiegel. My new podcast, The PBP Voices of Baseball, will bring those conversations to you as the best working and former broadcasters tell you why and how they do it. New episodes come every Thursday all summer long. Follow The PBP Voices of Baseball on the Odyssey app or wherever you find your podcasts. We're excited to welcome Nate Ryan, who's now back in San Antonio for KENS Channel 5, was on the ground in Las Vegas in the middle of what was a white hot spotlight and a firestorm.

So Nate, I'm going to start with something simple because you speak for a living. This is almost like a what you did on summer break type of a report when you get back to school in August or September. How would you describe your summer league experience in Vegas? Honestly, when you think Las Vegas, I would describe it as just bizarre, first off. For me, when the plane landed, opening up my phone and seeing Britney Spears, Victor Wambunyama incident. I'm going there to cover basketball and I'm going there to cover a rookie sensation's debut, first time on the court. And it was not that for the first 24 hours. I was like, oh, are you kidding me? This is turned into something you could put out of a movie script. I mean, an international basketball sensation and international pop star.

So I would just describe it as bizarre having to chase that down for my first 24 hours. I scratch that off the bingo card for dealing with Britney Spears. Literally, of all NBA teams, like the San Antonio Spurs operate behind like a steel curtain in a way. They're very private.

They're very, you know, by the book and they're very culture oriented. Britney Spears would be the last person that you would think would be involved with the San Antonio Spurs. But for about 36 hours it was. And then it got into bizarre into a point of just honestly, you know, buzz, just going around before this guy even stepped on the floor, because everybody's eyes are just on one player. It really didn't feel like summer league. It felt like before, like in the, in the 10 minutes before he stepped on the court, it felt like we were covering the NBA finals, not a game that, you know, didn't really matter from a standings, you know, perspective because all the hype leading into this guy, because he, that was some of the hype that went around Victor one, but yama, that we had never really seen him in the United States.

Everything that we knew about Victor one, but yama was from an outside perspective, right. Highlights that we saw in grainy Euro league gyms and whatever we had yet to really see him for the most part in person on an NBA court in the United States, it was, it was a spectacle to watch. Well, before we talk about the actual basketball, because it is Vegas and you mentioned bizarre, how exactly does one go about covering an incident between Victor women yama and Britney Spears?

How did you do that? Nate? It was literally like, there's no script for that. I mean, me and my photographer were out of our, we're on our plane from San Antonio to Las Vegas on Thursday morning, we were on the plane and just happened to be also on our same plane was RC Buford, who is the CEO of the Spurs and their communications director. They were also on our plane. Like they were at the same, I'm like, were they aware of everything that was going on when the plane was in the air?

Cause none of us have service obviously. And then the plane lands. And then we are like the communications director. I see when we landed, I'm like, he goes, Oh, Hey Nate, how are you? I'm like, dude, how am I, how are you?

You, your phone is probably blowing up off the hook, man. And like, I have a buddy who works at TMZ and we don't even really talk to each other a whole lot. He's a nice guy, but I knew that when I landed and I got service again and I saw a text from this guy being like, Hey Nate, I've got something for you. I'm like, Oh my God, why does this guy, why does this guy have something for me? I'm like, he's a great dude, but if he's hit me up, like something is totally up.

I just knew my day went from, I had to throw out my playbook that I had for that day. And it was just, it went completely by the wayside, but, uh, you just kind of, you know, go as by the facts as you would for, for anything, because we're there to cover basketball and Victor Wambunyama he's 19 years old, but he's wise beyond his years. I mean, you talk to the guy, he's speaking in metaphors. He's very profound. He's got a great head on his shoulders for being 19 years old. And we think in the last three weeks, he moved countries. He's been herded around three different cities, New York city for the draft and then San Antonio, which is now his new home, you know, welcome and now Las Vegas. And he's got cameras on him at all times.

He right now is what Britney Spears was when Britney Spears was 19 years old, honestly like, and probably Britney's knows the thing or two about it. So it's, it's crazy. It's not something I would have expected to cover. That's all that's before we get to basketball. Oh, it's like a crash course in journalism.

You could teach that at some university somewhere. Now, Nate Ryan makes a good point about Britney Spears and Victor Wambunyama, but that's of course not why people were in Vegas initially. He's with us from San Antonio now, KENS channel five, their sports anchor it's after hours on CBS sports radio. How would you say that Wambunyama handled the actual basketball part once he got on the court in Las Vegas? I mean, he's a smart guy.

He was honest. I mean, his first night on Friday night in game one, he had 9.8 rebounds in five blocks, which in the NBA, that's a solid stat line. He played 27 minutes his first night. And that was with the lack of sleep that he's had. And when you think a lot of these college players, they haven't played actual physical contact games in three months for the most part, because their season ends whenever they get knocked out of the NCAA tournament, if they even make the NCAA tournament, and then you're going through workouts.

Victor Wambunyama playing in Europe, he's playing against grown 30 year old men, guys who were the best players on their college team, and now playing in Europe amongst those same guys, but three weeks ago. And I think his last game was like, June 18, or whatever. And five days later, he's getting drafted by the San Antonio Spurs. He knew he was going to be the number one pick. And he wanted to play in summer league. That was something he said on the podium.

And the Spurs, you know, whether or not it was their goal the whole way to have him play in summer league, like, I'm not so sure it was because they want to keep him as fresh and as healthy as possible, while, you know, indoctrinating the playbook and the systems that they run. But just his sheer want and his nature of wanting to be, you know, soaking everything in, just is a total testament to who he is. But he even admitted this first night, he was tired. He said, there was a quote he said at the podium where it was just like, I didn't even know what I was doing out there.

It was in cheek. I mean, because he, you know, he had so much coming out and the cameras were on him at all times. I was in the gym his first, his first game playing. You would have thought that it was game seven of the NBA finals.

Everybody had their cell phones out, you know, taking video of the opening tip off. And like tonight watching from a TV camera perspective, all TV cameras were on him. Like they're talking about like another player, but the cameras are still fixated on him because he's such kind of a transcendent, you know, cultural figure of just, you know, covering two countries and he's a player we haven't seen before. So it's bigger than basketball with him. Why does he fit with the San Antonio Spurs, Nate?

He fits with any team just given his skill set and with how tall he is. But with the San Antonio Spurs, especially because you look at the Spurs track record with international players, Tim Duncan was, you know, a guy from the Virgin, US Virgin Islands. And when you look at Tim Duncan, that's another thing. Tim Duncan, Duncan was the first ever number one pick to ever play in Summer League. And he was relatively schooled in Summer League when he played in 1997. He was dominated by Greg Ostertag at the Utah Jazz in 1997.

He turned out pretty well. I mean, now his jerseys in the rafters that, you know, the AT&T centers, he's in the Hall of Fame, but Tony Parker's a French player just for one reference. I mean, he's going into the Hall of Fame himself and Tony Parker, Victor Wambunyama are very close and they've had a lot of conversations before even getting to San Antonio. There's pictures of Wambunyama wearing Tony Parker's jersey when he was a kid. Boris Diaz was a French player who had a lot of great role minutes through Spurs championship seasons.

Patty Mills was from Australia. He came in, you know, he had no problem fitting into this culture. All these players who were coming from elsewhere, they, you know, come to San Antonio, Duncan, Parker, Manu Ginobili from Argentina, all those guys still live in San Antonio and it's totally by choice. They found a home here and, you know, they're still hanging around the facility. It's very much a melting pot of basketball here. And all those guys have been in Victor Wambunyama's ear, just not from a pressure standpoint, but just, hey man, welcome to San Antonio. It's an easy place for, you know, you to adapt from you get your privacy.

You're not going out. Fans respect you in the sort of sense of, you know, being in the public and it's a great place to fit in from, you know, you're cool with all the assistance. There's continuity with the coaching staff. Greg Popovich is, you know, over the age of 70, just signed a five-year extension. You know, he's not going anywhere.

It's very much a culture fit for Wimby. Obviously, the five championships are the marking point for it. I'm glad you mentioned the contract because I was going to ask you. Obviously, no retirement in Coach Pop's future.

They've had four consecutive losing seasons though and have missed the playoffs and that's how they get to Wimby. And yet, I remember he said that he's really enjoyed coaching. At least it was around the draft, I think, where he talked about how much he enjoyed coaching still this past season.

What is your reaction to his contract extension now? The players, I'm sure, do but when they left the media in their practice facility to shoot practice, we all still see Coach Pop in the facility all the time. Like, we see him on the elliptical.

He's working out. He's just a guy who loves the game. He's a basketball lifer and yeah, the Spurs have not had a couple.

They haven't had, you know, winning seasons the last few years but at the same time, you're like in 2020 or 2022 for the most recent Olympics during the COVID era. I mean, he was coaching a Spurs team that wasn't at the top of the NBA but he was also coaching Team USA to a gold medal in the Olympics. I mean, he has that kind of credibility where he's won five championships. He's the winningest coach in the history of the game of basketball. He's been to the top.

He took this organization from the bottom and saw it all the way through. He's not doing it necessarily, I don't think, for the championships anymore. He does it for the relationships and you look at, you know, the product of the assistants that have coached under him. Half the NBA is essentially former Spurs assistants. Will Hardy from the Utah Jazz. Emay Yudoka who just took the Rockets job. Monty Williams played for the Spurs. Steve Kerr played for the Spurs. Mike Brown coached under Greg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs. His blueprint is everywhere in the NBA and he's at a point now too where in the twilight sort of of his career, it's almost like a Mr. Miyagi and the Karate Kid kind of deal where he's just like, he's this guy who's got all this wealth of knowledge.

It's speaking totally from opinion. For him, it probably makes him feel younger and takes him back to his earlier days where he doesn't have to worry about wins and losses and he can just get back to basics and basketball one-on-one and now he's got this great new young player who, you know, is very worldly and, you know, has all these various various profound opinions about a lot of things but also has got the spotlight on him 24-7. Popovich probably sees that as like as a cool challenge. Andy Reid said something similar about Patrick Mahomes when he got into the league and how now Pat and the challenge of working with a generational athlete, generational quarterback makes him feel young as well. Nate Ryan is with us from San Antonio. It's after hours here on CBS Sports Radio. Other than the Wabanama buzz, what else were people buzzing about with so many NBA movers and shakers in Vegas at the same time?

It really is. I mean, like, NBA Summer League has kind of turned into like a who's who. Everybody kind of goes there whether you're a budding assistant coach or like a video coordinator looking for, you know, looking to network. If you're, you know, just a fan of the game looking for, you know, different who to watch for in the upcoming season. Whether you're a current NBA player who's just looking to go and see the next wave of players. You look every single game, it's cool.

Like, they've done this in the past but now more so than ever. Yeah, it's Summer League and people on these NBA rosters, the players don't need to go. It's not mandatory but they're all there sitting court side. I mean, the San Antonio Spurs are playing Summer League games with, you know, 75% of these guys aren't going to be on the NBA roster but you look at the guys who are on the NBA roster, they're all sitting front row court side.

So the Spurs, Devin Decel, Jeremy Sohan, Sandro Mamukheleh-Shvile. I mean, they're all sitting right there cheering on the guys that, you know, they might not even necessarily be playing with. It's turned into like a, you know, summer vacation but also kind of convention sort of deal where you've got fans and players. Like, I saw media members from across the country. I mean, I saw college coaches that I knew from across the country. I was doing, taping a segment for, you know, CBS at the end of the night on Friday night at like 11 p.m. and a college basketball coach, Joe Golding, who's the head men's basketball coach at the University of Texas at El Paso. He's a college hoops coach.

He's walking out. He's the head coach and I knew him from my previous job and I shout out, Nate Ryan, and they turn around. I'm like, Joe Golding, what is up man?

Like, how are you? It's just one of those things where you run into people that, it's just a congregation of basketball fans, minds, people handing out business cards, that sort of thing. It's very, very cool to, very, very cool to see all in the the eyes of Las Vegas, if you will, where when the sun goes down, they all go off and do whatever and then they're back there at noon the next day. So what's the one big thing you learned coming out of Vegas, Nate? That Victor Wambunyama is not just a basketball star, but he's a guy who's gonna, you know, move, you know, shape culture. He's a cultural influence. He's on and off the court. He is going to impact the way people buy clothes, the way people travel, the way people watch the game. You know, he's got kind of the same aura that a LeBron James or that a, you know, Kevin Durant, but not even really Kevin Durant where it's like, because Kevin Durant is, he's played for a lot of different teams. I can very much see Victor Wambunyama, especially being with the team he is. I see Victor Wambunyama being with the Spurs for eight, 10 years, but also, you know, attracting fans from a whole new fear that at the NBA, that never knew they could reach.

And he's got, because he's got the cameras on him at all times and like his jersey, I could tell you, like he, his jersey by far was the most populated out of anybody at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. I'd be walking around and I'd be like, oh, where are you from? And they're wearing a Wambunyama jersey. She's like, I'm from Boston. I'm from Hawaii.

I'm from California. And I would literally be like, are you a Spurs fan? And they'd be like, not really. I just love Wimby. Like, I just want to see what I mean. I'm like, all right.

Yeah, that's cool. You don't even need to be, it's wearing a Wambunyama jersey. It's like, it's not even just being a Spurs fan. It's a fashion statement. Now he's got that kind of aura about him because a, you can't miss him with his size. You know how, the way he talks and the way he carries himself, he, you know, he's very, he doesn't shy away from big questions, but he's also not about, you know, he doesn't say things that, you know, people can sort of run with. I mean, the Britney Spears thing was just, that was, he didn't even recognize what was happening there. It was just, he was, I guess, the wrong place at the wrong time. But the way he plays the game and just how different he is and how mature he is for his age, he's going to be somebody who, you know, he's got that Lebron James sort of effect where it transcends not only basketball, but culture as well.

And Britney Spears is not required actually for that. That just happened to be a bonus incident on the top of everything else in Vegas. So good stuff from Nate, a crash course, and how to cover a cross between basketball and pop culture. You can find him on Twitter at Nate Ryan Sports. He's the anchor for KENS 5 in San Antonio with a lot of excitement and a buzz around Wembe, Wembe fever, if you will. Nate, thank you so much for a couple of minutes. I know it was a crazy few days. Oh no, I have no words anytime.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-10 06:42:40 / 2023-07-10 06:50:50 / 8

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