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Balancing Hoops and Pokémon: The Passion of Cole Anthony

Open Extended Reactions guard may have a deep passion for Pokémon equal to his love for basketball.

On February 27, Orlando’s team engaged various Magic players in a fun challenge to identify different characters from the renowned Nintendo game. One forward noted that Pokémon was a particular favorite of Anthony, and when Anthony took his turn, he astounded everyone by correctly guessing all the characters.

Anthony, at 23 years old, shared with ESPN that his fondness for the game, which was introduced in 1996, has been a lifelong affair.

During his childhood visits to Detroit to see his grandparents, Anthony would frequent a family friend’s home who owned a Game Boy Color—the platform where Anthony first embarked on his gaming journey.

Recalling those early days, Anthony reminisced, “I was engrossed in playing Pokémon Yellow on the Game Boy Color. It was quite an antiquated system with no backlighting, so I had to switch on a light in the car just to see the game.”

For a professional athlete like Anthony, whose world predominantly revolves around basketball, nurturing hobbies and interests outside the sport is crucial to maintaining a healthy balance.

“About 90% of my life is basketball,” Anthony acknowledged. “Of course, I have my family and other commitments, but without Pokémon, I might be entirely consumed by basketball. So, Pokémon represents that other dimension of my persona.”

Despite Pokémon’s widespread popularity globally, Anthony mentioned that he is unaware of any other NBA players who share his enthusiasm for the game, except for his teammate, Magic guard [ppp1]. Additionally, [ppp2] is another player known for openly expressing his love for Pokémon.

Acknowledging [ppp1]’s interest, Anthony shared, “He has a slight inclination towards it. He even contemplated getting a Pokémon-themed tattoo, which I found pretty cool.”

To exhibit his affection for Pokémon, Anthony proudly unveiled a collection of unique Adidas Exhibit A Mid player edition sneakers adorned with various characters from the Nintendo franchise.

Introduced to a custom sneaker designer through mutual contacts, Anthony received several pairs as a gesture of goodwill.

“The designer crafted those kicks, and I was immediately drawn to their uniqueness,” Anthony remarked. “I still possess a pair at home, and I’m certain more will follow in the future. The response from people was overwhelmingly positive.”

While the Pokémon universe boasts over 1,000 creatures, Anthony singled out Dragonite as his personal favorite.

When asked about his preference, Anthony simply stated, “There’s just something undeniably cool about Dragonite. It’s a formidable Pokémon, especially from Generation One.”

The ongoing debate within the Pokémon community regarding old versus new iterations doesn’t sway Anthony’s appreciation for all generations.

“I’ll be honest, I find some of the newer Pokémon really intriguing,” Anthony admitted. “People often get fixated on the idea that Generation One reigns supreme as the original, but I appreciate the diversity across all generations.”

While Anthony doesn’t carry specific Pokémon cards during his travels, he ensures his Nintendo Switch and various handheld consoles are always within reach.

“I always have two Nintendo DS and two 3DS with me, each loaded with every Pokémon game available on the DS platform,” Anthony shared.

Trading Pokémon cards holds significant value in the gaming culture, a practice Anthony actively partakes in.

Although he hasn’t engaged in selling cards personally, Anthony recounted a heartwarming exchange where he swapped game-worn shoes with a young fan for an original fossil Pokémon pack dating back two decades.

Moved by the fan’s dedication to academic excellence, Anthony initially felt compelled to return the pack. However, the fan’s father insisted the shoes were a more fitting trade.

“I’ve decided to surprise the young fan with something special,” Anthony revealed.

The Pokémon franchise’s evolution into diverse platforms like Pokémon Go in 2016 introduced a new wave of interactive gaming experiences, captivating fans worldwide with its augmented reality gameplay.

Anthony credited his younger brother for introducing him to the game, admitting his avid participation in various Pokémon Go activities.

“I’m deeply invested in the Pokémon Go battle league, raid battles, and the thrill of hunting for Pokémon in real-world settings,” Anthony confessed. “It’s a genuine obsession of mine.”

Despite his promising start in the NBA, Anthony expressed a profound interest in pursuing a career related to Pokémon and Nintendo post his basketball tenure, a dream he eagerly hopes to realize.