Interview: Barış Cevahir, TrendBasket
Editing: Kemal Rutkay Özcan, TrendBasket
Prior to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Week 26 showdown between Fenerbahçe Doğuş and CSKA Moscow, CSKA’s experienced center Kyle Hines spoke exclusively with TrendBasket in İstanbul. Below are his thoughts on a variety of topics like playing in İstanbul, his YouTuber-self, his career plans and 2016 EuroLeague Final.
Welcome to Turkey, Kyle. Throughout your career, you’ve played a lot of games here. How does being here feel like?
Istanbul -and Turkey- is definitely a great place to play. I won a EuroLeague here so it’s definitely a special city to me. The fans here, the atmosphere here is always great to play in. I was looking forward to come in and play.
You guys are on top of standings in EuroLeague, like many of the previous seasons. You’re one of the biggest, maybe the biggest title candidate. How do you evaluate CSKA’s season so far?
I think we’ve been doing well. Overall, it’s been positive. We still have many, many goals we need to accomplish. So far, we’re on pace to do what we wanna do. We have a fairly good record; we’ve gotten to the playoffs, clinched the home-court advantage. I think those are definitely the biggest things we wanted to accomplish. We have many more steps and goals but so far, we’re running a good rhythm and good pace.
You’ve played in Germany, Greece and Russia, won a lot of titles and individual accolades at the highest level in Europe. So you have an idea how European basketball is like, how it is to play here. If you have to bring one thing from USA-style basketball to European basketball, what would you bring?
The only thing I would possibly bring is that even though I love the Final Four system, I think it’d be awesome as a fan to see the NBA-style playoff system. I think that would be cool to see -for example- a five-game series between CSKA and Fenerbahçe or a five-game series with Olympiacos, Panathinaikos or Real Madrid… I think it’d be cool to compete in a series for championship. That would be awesome to watch.
If you have to summarize your whole career with one word or one sentence… What would that be?
It’s difficult. I’ve been very fortunate to play with some great teams, teammates and coaches. I think that’s pretty much the biggest [thing] I can say. (Laughs)
Outside of playing ball, you’ve been making your own videos and blogs. You got a YouTube channel and there are some pretty good videos about you there. How did you start doing that? In what ways does being a “YouTuber” contribute to you as a person?
Me and a couple of friends back home started that basically because everytime I went back, people always ask me what it is like to play basketball overseas, what life is like overseas and I wanted to get an opportunity to show people. So we wanted to create a docuseries and get people a different point of view of my life and other people’s lives playing overseas. We think it’s possible that it can be a platform in the future for other athletes playing overseas can possibly use to tell their own stories. I really like telling stories. Hopefully, I’ll have a future like Kobe Bryant. (Laughs)
I watched all your videos. And your daughter is so cute.
Thank you very much. She’s amazing.
I would like us to go back to 2016, when CSKA and Fenerbahçe played the title game in Berlin. A great occasion, historic game and that rebound. How were your feelings that day?
I was like ‘Finally’. It’s almost like never ending. After winning two titles in 2012 and 2013 and losing in 2014 and 2015, you know, I had this question in the back of my mind whether I ever have the opportunity to raise the title again; especially with CSKA because we had so many difficult moments in the history of the Final Four. To have that moment, to bring that championship to Moscow was definitely one of the highlights of my life.
As you know how to win a EuroLeague title, how would you evaluate the fact that Fenerbahçe bounced back from that loss in 2016 to win it all next year?
They had an opportunity, after losing in 2015 and 2016, to bounce back, to come through adversity. They didn’t have the home-court advantage, they kinda had an up-and-down season. Sometimes you have adverse, difficult moments but you rise up to the challenge to play basketball. That’s what they did last season. They came together as a team. Obviously, I wanted us to win but they made the best out of their situation and they came out as champions.
What do you think about them and what are your expectations from tomorrow?
They’re a great team. It’ll be a highly competitive game. They are great-coached, very disciplined and into their system. It’s going to be a good game. All the games we’ve played since 2016 were close games. It’s going to be a great game with a great atmosphere in front of Fenerbahçe fans.
There will be elite centers like Vesely and Thompson tomorrow against you. How do you see them? Who’s the toughest guy you ever faced?
I know Jason very well. He’s my childhood friend. I think he’s come to Fenerbahçe to complement Vesely and find a way to bring his own style. Vesely is having an incredible year this season. Every year, he’s grown and become a better player. I think they’re one of the most difficult frontline duos in all EuroLeague.
Every player and every matchup is difficult. EuroLeague is so competitive that every game is difficult. Every team has some kind of difficult matchup for me. That’s the way I look at it.
Centers are nowadays shooting threes and scoring in different ways, unlike old-school centers. You sometimes shoot from beyond the arc, as well. What are your thoughts about that change?
The game is just evolving. I guess you call it ‘positionless basketball’. When you look at both the NBA and the EuroLeague, there’s no more like point guard, shooting guard and these type of positions. Now, teams put out the best five players on the court. I think the game is evolving. Big guys have more skills; they are shooting the ball, spreading the floor. Guards are more explosive and getting to the lane more. I think this evolution is good for the game. I think it’s good for the fans.
Are you working on your outside shooting?
Yeah, I try. I mean I don’t shoot many threes because we have a lot more great shooters than me. (Laughs) That’s not necessarily my role but if I have opportunity to shoot one or two threes during the season, hopefully I’ll make ’em.
Everybody is talking about how G-League is going to affect Europe badly. 30 teams, a lot more job opportunities for the NBA… But then, there is China. Aaron Jackson went there, so did several high-profile guys. Would you like to go to either the US or China in the future? What are your career plans?
For me, right now, I found my niche here in Europe. I’m playing in EuroLeague right now and I’m gonna stay here and play here as long as possible. I’ve kinda found a home in CSKA, so I’ll hopefully be here as long as possible. But I think it’s good that G-League, China, Australia, South America and all those other leagues are [emerging] because it gives more players more opportunities. It’s only gonna make the game better. The more opportunities the guys have to play, the better the overall brand of basketball. To me, if you’re not in the NBA, EuroLeague is a different level and a very unique league. I’m looking forward to seeing the future of not only EuroLeague, but also basketball.
Check out the video and the questions below to see “THIS OR THAT” featuring Kyle Hines!
- NBA or EuroLeague
- Pireaus or Moscow
- Dunk or Block
- Defense or Offense
- Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors
- Shaq or Charles Barkley
- Twitter or Instagram
- Rap Music or Rock Music
- Work Hard or Play Hard