Former Collegiate Tennis Hopeful Turns to Virtual World and Earns a Spot on the USA Basketball E-National Team
When playing a little word association with John ‘JBM’ Mascone, he said the athlete he considers to be his GOAT was tennis legend Roger Federer.
His USA teammates tossed out the likes of Olympic gold medalist basketball players LeBron James or Michael Jordan.
As it turns out, JBM grew up a tennis fan who loved going to watch U.S. Open every year.
“I can take the train to Grand Central and then the subway up to Flushing Meadows,” he said. “So, it’s easy. Me and my buddies usually go up, and it’s definitely a good time. Especially the qualifiers. You just sit on the court, and it’s awesome.”
In fact, he was planning on playing tennis in college.
However, the three-sport athlete in high school, who also ran cross country and played basketball, ended up with stress fractures in his shin. He collapsed at the finish line of one of his cross country meets. After being diagnosed, JBM was given a boot and told he had to wear it for three months.
“I felt good after one month, but it was my senior year, so I was playing varsity basketball as well,” he recalled. “I took the boot off too early, and I just never recovered. I could never play tennis the same again.
“I would leave school every day at noon,” he continued. “I’d play tennis from 12-4 p.m., work out from 4-5 p.m., homework from 5-6 p.m. and then tennis from 7-9 p.m. Every day. Five days a week. And then tournaments on the weekends. I stopped doing that for six months and I couldn’t get back into it.”
The native New Yorker headed off to Arizona State University, resigned to the fact he’d not be playing tennis in college.
As the saying goes, however, when one door closes, another one opens. Being injured and unable to run, play tennis or basketball, JBM turned to the virtual side of sports and began playing 2K.
“I didn’t even own a real video game system,” said JBM on his late entry to the gaming world. “I’ve never played Call of Duty. I’ve never actually played a real video game aside from 2K and NHL. I always wanted to play college sports, and this was my escape from that, to still play competitively, play with some incentive, and … it’s crazy.
Once he got to Arizona, he wound up playing 2K in his dorm at ASU, with bad Wi-Fi, on his roommate’s game and that’s how JBM found himself qualifying for the NBA 2K League combine.
“The league kind of hit me like a truck,” said JBM. “It was so fast. I left school, I wanted to try this, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It led to the draft, and eight months later, here I am with USA Basketball. It’s a crazy story.”
From tennis phenom to the NBA 2K League’s No. 1 draft pick in 2020 to the NBA 2K League championship to a spot on the USA Basketball E-National Team: JBM turned his untimely shin fractures to his advantage, and he isn’t looking back.