Ex-Golden State and San Francisco Warriors small forward Rick Barry is widely recognized as one of the premier players in NBA history, while Alice Tym achieved a notable position as a top professional tennis player in her prime.
Next month, both will be participating in the 2023 Biofreeze USA Pickleball National Championships powered by Invited and the PPA Tour in Farmers Branch, Texas.
However, their focus won’t be on the Celebrity Pickleball Showdown, which will feature luminaries like Basketball Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
Instead, Barry and Tym will be vying for national titles in their respective amateur categories alongside thousands of other pickleball enthusiasts.
The Hansbrough Brothers And Hank Haney
They will be joined by several other distinguished figures from various sports who will also be competing in the amateur matches.
These figures include Tyler Hansbrough, a celebrated figure in college basketball history, as well as his brother and former NBA teammate Ben Hansbrough. Additionally, Hank Haney, renowned as Tiger Woods’ former golf coach, will be among the competitors.
The amateur field is also expected to feature big-wave surfer Kelson Lau and former Rubik’s Cube world record holder Christopher Olson.
Alex Abrams, a freelance contributor to USA Pickleball through Red Line Editorial, Inc., took a closer look at three of the more recognizable amateurs whom spectators should keep an eye on during the tournament, which is set to run from November 5 to 12.
After retiring in 1980 as one of the NBA‘s most prolific scorers, Rick Barry confessed to missing the competitive arena.
A New Challenge
Despite finding success in golf and long-driving competitions in the ensuing years, he sought a new sport to engage in about five years ago. It was his wife who suggested trying out pickleball.
Barry, who was named one of the league’s 75 greatest players by the NBA in 2021, shared that he took a liking to pickleball once he got the hang of it.
“It’s fast-paced. I mean, I played basketball, which is a fast-paced game. We played fastbreak basketball.”
“You know pickleball is a fast-paced game. It’s not something that’s sedentary, and you’re sitting around, taking forever to play it. No, it’s quick.”
With his trademark competitiveness, Barry has committed 2.5 hours per session towards honing his pickleball skills, driven by a burning desire to be a national championship contender.
He has developed a genuine fondness for the sport, describing himself as “hooked.” Even while on a cruise around the British Isles, he was pleased to discover a pickleball court on board, allowing him to keep up with his practice.
Standing at 6-foot-7, Barry’s imposing presence on the court is complemented by the exceptional hand-eye coordination that earned him a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Really Good Hands”
Despite his size, he says people love to take him on: “People keep challenging me all the time when I’m up at the net. I just love it when they whack it at me because I have good hands. I still have really good hands,” he said.
“I’m not obviously as quick as I used to be. I don’t move as fast, but my hands are really good.”
We’ll see how he gets on.
Alice Tym has had to adapt her playing style on the pickleball court after making a name for herself in tennis.
ITA Hall Of Fame
Tym enjoyed a successful stint as a professional tennis player from 1964 to 1970, reaching as high as No. 13 in the world rankings in 1969.
She later received recognition in the form of induction into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame, a testament to her contributions as the head women’s tennis coach at both the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Yale University.
“Chip And Charge”
Tym notes that her proficiency in executing a slice shot in tennis has translated well to her “chip and charge” approach in pickleball.
However, she acknowledges the importance of not carrying over tennis-specific techniques to the pickleball court: “I think the best way to approach a sport or any activity is to accept it on its own terms,” Tym said.
“I mean, yes, I was a professional tennis player, so obviously, pickleball was easy. But you shouldn’t be playing tennis on pickleball court or table tennis on the pickleball court. What you need to do is learn how to play pickleball on the pickleball court.”
A Seamless Transition
At the age of 80, she maintains an active engagement with racket sports, dividing her time between pickleball, badminton, and table tennis. The transition between these sports is seamless for her, with her brain effortlessly adapting to the requirements of each:
“What’s crazy is when you put the paddle in your hand or the racket in your hand, your brain just becomes whatever player that instrument is,” she said.
“And I know a lot of people say that this will hurt your game or that’ll hurt your game, but they’re different games. And I don’t know, my brain sort of works with whatever’s in my hand.”
Kelson Lau is renowned for his breathtaking displays of big wave surfing in Hawaii, a passion he generously shares with his extensive following on Instagram.
Agility And Skill
However, in 2021, Lau surprised his followers by posting videos of himself in pickleball action at the Los Angeles Open, demonstrating agility and skill on the court.
During the winter, Lau dedicates himself to big wave surfing, but as the summer arrives, he assumes the role of head pickleball pro at a country club, making sure he gets in some court time every day.
His responsibilities range from providing pickleball lessons to overseeing the maintenance of the club’s pickleball courts.
Quick-Twitch Muscle Engagement
Lau acknowledges that elements from his surfing background contribute to his performance on the pickleball court:
“There are some little things for sure. Obviously, your quick-twitch muscles help and balance and all that kind of stuff. And just strength in the legs, it kind of ties over.
“I’ve noticed it makes my surfing better if I’m playing a lot of pickleball because my legs are stronger and all those little muscles.”
Introduced to pickleball by his grandparents in 2019, Lau’s competitive spirit fueled his dedication to the sport, culminating in a guaranteed spot at this year’s national championships after winning a Texas tournament in the summer.
While Lau hasn’t played pickleball abroad during his surfing travels, he ensures he’s always got his paddles handy, ready for a spontaneous practice session against a wall.
“Usually, when I travel on a surf trip, I’m pretty surf-driven,” Lau said. “But I usually bring my paddles just in case!”
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