Ballin’ Like Yamin It
Catching up with WNBA fan Elliott Yamin.
by Ben York
Elliott Yamin is a die-hard basketball fanatic in the truest sense of the word.
Not only does he enjoy watching all levels of competition (high school, college, professional, men, women, etc.), but he gets the game. He’s played it all his life. Lived and breathed it growing up. He knows the ins and outs, how players add value or enhance a team, the purity of the sport, the atmosphere, the love, the dedication, and the jubilation it brings to people across the globe.
Not surprisingly, he’s also an avid WNBA enthusiast and supporter.
You probably know Elliott from his amazing run on American Idol a couple years back where he captured the collective hearts of America. Since then, he’s recorded two albums that have done phenomenally well on the charts (they are both amazing and I’m proud to own both of them). WNBA fans, most recently, may have seen him perform live at the 2009 WNBA All-Star game. But Elliott isn’t like other high-profile celebrities who attend sporting events as a social event rather than actually watching and taking-in the essence of the game.
Talking with Elliott, after just a few minutes, you get the same feeling you do when you’re reconnecting with a long-time friend; he’s gracious, welcoming, kind and classy. Interestingly enough, this is the exact same description one could use to describe many WNBA players and the vast majority of its fan base.
It’s evident, even after a mere few seconds of speaking with him, that Yamin has an undeniable passion and love for the game of basketball, which is extraordinarily refreshing. “I love everything about the game,” says Yamin. “The camaraderie among your teammates, being athletic and using your muscles, the physical aspect of it – just competing in general. I’ve been playing sports my whole life and basketball has always been my favorite. I mean, I love absolutely everything about it. I’m not a very patient person so I love the fast-paced nature of the sport. Even to the smell of the gym and ball – that anxiety you feel before a game whether you’re playing or watching. Anything you can think of, I love it about basketball – the purity of the sport is amazing.”
Elliott’s been a basketball aficionado all his life. Born and raised in California until the age of 10, he became indoctrinated with the Lakers culture and fell head over heals in love. “I’m a life-long Lakers fan, bro,” Yamin told me. “I was born here and left when I was 10 so it was all Magic, all Byron Scott, all Michael Cooper, all Thompson twins, all Pat Riley, AC Green – everyone. I was all about that all the time. Anytime a Lakers game was on you knew where to find me. I was in front of a TV set no matter where I was.”
One of Yamin’s most beloved dreams was to attend a Lakers game courtside and meet Magic Johnson. Through his great success in his musical career, he’s been able to check those dreams off the list. “I never had a chance to go to a Lakers game when I was young and we moved out of California when I was 10,” says Elliott. “But now I can go to a Lakers game whenever I want! If that’s the only thing that comes out of my success as a singer, I’ll be just fine.” And meeting Magic Johnson? “Jermaine Dupri did some work on my recent album and actually invited me to an ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) event where they were honoring him and Magic,” Elliott said. “I got to meet Magic and talk with him on the red carpet for a while, got some pictures, it was amazing.”
Yamin’s knowledge of the game goes far beyond the superficial. Going off topic a bit during our interview we discussed the Lakers acquisition of Ron Artest and how the organization has essentially, grown their talent into what it is today. Elliott talked about how glad he was that the Lakers were able to keep reserve Shannon Brown, how difficult it will be to repeat as champions, and being able to watch the Lakers win the NBA Championship last year from overseas. “I was on tour last year in Japan during the NBA Finals but I did get to watch the last game live. That was awesome.”
Performing at the 2009 WNBA All-Star game, Elliott had a chance to truly take in the purity of the women’s game as well. “I loved how everything was very fan-friendly,” says Yamin. “The players really interacted and appreciated the fans who felt like they were a real part of things. I really dug that. The fans were really into it and you could tell how loyal they were. Plus, seeing Taurasi play was pretty special. Swin [Cash] really stood out to me too. I think other leagues should take note of the atmosphere in a WNBA game.”
Elliott’s enthusiasm for the game is easy to sense, and it’s infectious. Quite frankly, he is a perfect example of what the WNBA needs — an intelligent and open-minded sports fan (who, in this case, happens to be a guy) who understands the intricacies of the game and appreciates the sport all levels. The exhilaration he feels when watching a NBA is the same he feels even when playing basketball himself – his fervor and adoration for the game transcends genders. For Elliott, it’s not a gender thing – it’s a basketball thing.
Having people like Elliott support and encourage others to follow the WNBA will undoubtedly go a long way toward its future success. In fact, it’s absolutely vital. There is a palpable genuineness to Elliott that is unmistakable when he talks about the game of basketball and his appreciation for the WNBA. Yes, it certainly helps that he’s a guy, but it’s deeper than that. He’s a well-respected artist who loves the game and wants the WNBA to thrive and flourish as much as anyone. “First and foremost people have to realize that women are just as worth and just as capable as men,” Elliott said. “More people need to take notice. I want to see the ratings up and I want to see more people in the stands. Blogs like ‘The W’ will certainly help with that.”