On Top of the World!
The tallest rookie visits NYC’s tallest building.
There was a moment Tuesday afternoon when the Empire State Building was nearly dethroned as the tallest thing standing at 350 Fifth Avenue in the heart of New York City.
The threat to the title? Seven-foot three inch Hasheem Thabeet.
The soon to be top three pick took in the sights at the historic landmark after touching down in the Big Apple for Thursday night’s NBA Draft.
“I gotta Tweet this!” exclaimed the former UConn Husky of his view from atop the building’s 86th Floor Observatory. He wanted all his “Twieoples” to take in the view, too, but couldn’t get service on his iPhone to post the pics. “This is incredible,” he continued, still able to enjoy the view despite the inexplicable lack of phone service 86 stories high. New York was the last stop—or, more likely, second to last—on a tour that’s taken him to several cities for workouts and interviews in preparation for tomorrow’s annual gathering at Madison Square Garden’s Wamu Theater.
“Every city I go to has a different, unique culture,” acknowledged Thabeet in an honest yet politically safe manner that must have been tough, given the unspeakably immense and beautiful landscape over which he was standing. Earlier in the week, while eating out, he got a taste of the Mecca’s basketball culture, too. “I was at the Tao Restaurant and after the meal, I got a fortune cookie that said, ‘Budda says Hasheem will be drafted by the Knicks.’ But I have no idea,” he concluded, laughing off the concept.
As we know, odds are he won’t end up a Knick, but rather somewhere in the top three with Memphis or Oklahoma City. Thabeet made headlines after canceling a workout earlier in the week with the Grizz, initially chalking it up to a sore shoulder. But he said that wasn’t what kept him from traveling to Memphis. “I had an issue with my passport. I had an appointment early Monday morning, and that’s why I flew in on Sunday. I had to come out here as soon as possible because my Visa expired since I left UConn, and my I-20 as well. So I had to get everything taken care of.”
That’s not to say there haven’t been issues with his shoulder in the past, but he says that there’s no real cause for concern. “My shoulder is pretty good, and recovery is going well,” he assured. The rest of his body has been put to the test, too, in recent weeks. “I do a lot of individual workouts and I have a lot of repetition. Since I haven’t taken that many shots and played basketball for that long, I have to work harder than everybody else to catch up,” said the 2008-09 National Defensive Player of the Year. “Now, the drills are getting tougher. It’s a different level—the guys are way stronger than you think, the game pace is faster. It’s a grown man’s game, so I gotta be ready for it.”
Yet, it hasn’t been all work for the Tanzanian-born Thabeet in the weeks leading up to the draft. In addition to his visit to the Empire State building, he’s thrown out the first pitch at a Dodgers game and spent time with a major figure from back home. “The president of Tanzania came over and we got to hang out and exchange ideas. I’ve been doing a lot of charity stuff, too.” His game and work with organizations like Water for Life have brought comparisons to Dikembe Mutombo, something that Thabeet embraces while hoping to be able to make his own name. And he thinks he can do that with hard work.
“I have to go out there and play ball. I believe I always work hard and I gotta go over [to my new team] and be the same guy,” he stated as many tourists and New Yorkers alike shifted their eyes and cameras from looking down at the city to up at Thabeet’s massive frame.
“I don’t wanna go out there and sit around get embarrassed by other guys, so I have to go out there and work even harder,” he continued, as the amount of onlookers marveling at his build may have topped those realizing that they were looking at a future NBA center.
With that mind set, it may not be too long before that changes.